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Time Management


What is most important to your boss? Do that first. Not what benefits the company, because the company can't help you. Not what benefits the client, because they can't save you if you're about to get canned. Then do what benefits you the most, as long as your boss is happy.

E-mail management

You should make e-mail rules in your e-mail program in order to manage the content that you get each day. Things from your boss should be flagged and come to the top of the heap. Sort incoming messages by project if possible, assigning each to their own separate folder. Go into your sent messages every day and sort them into the appropriate project folders. Finding things later can be made easier now. This way, you only have to deal with the most urgent messages at first, and then you can create planned periods of time to deal with the secondary issues that have arisen throughout your day.

Voice mail management with pager

Not all companies have this feature, but if you do, it's wonderful. Some systems have the ability to buzz your pager if someone leaves you a voice mail message. Others have the ability to create settings to page you only between certain hours, only if the message is marked urgent, or if it's been in your mailbox for over an hour, etc. This is a great feature to exploit. You can get an incredible reputation for returning messages quickly and "being on top of things". It can make all the difference in the morning, knowing that your boss has left you two messages, and you can be alerted as to their existence and do something about them before you come into work. On the other hand, if the pager doesn't go off, then it's probably OK to saunter down to Starbucks and grab that latte before you wander into the office. If you're sick or working from home, you'll know if someone left you a message without having to check every hour. As long as you have that pager and a cell phone, you can be a lot of places other than the office, and still not drop the ball. Create a good reputation in one area, and it can have a nice "spill over" into others.

Managing by due dates

Suppose you're doing routine work. The boss doesn't have any high priority work on your plate at the moment, but you're not sure where to start in the pile. A good way is to figure out the due dates of each piece, and then work from the nearest one of those to the farthest off. If there are conflicts with the due dates, you can always have your boss pick which one she wants done over another (ensuring you send e-mail and get e-mail back in order to document...)

Eliminating busywork

Do you need to do it? Read all mail? Read all e-mail? Deal with company newsletters? Take all phone calls? Be on all committees? Sit in on all project meetings? If your boss is not an absolute control freak about it, try to join meetings by phone. Get a headset and make sure it has a mute setting. You can sit in front of your PC and get a lot done while they yack.

Automating routine tasks

If you have frequently used forms, keep all the blanks in one directory. If you do weekly status reports, make a template of the outline you will follow and just copy it as needed. Instead of using paper planners, use your organizer software (like Outlook) to manage your schedule and recurring meetings. They will pop up reminders before each meeting, so you don't miss them. Use e-mail rules. If your work phone system supports it, attach a Caller ID box. If you have a weekly statistics chart to make, set up an report in Crystal Reports and have it automatically generate the results. Have Excel or Word do your comparisons between figures or documents. Whenever you have a task that repeats, see if there isn't some way you can remove aspects of your manual involvement. But you don't necessarily have to let your boss know that you have all this new free time...

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