We’re worried when we don’t have enough of it. We’re always trying to get more of it. And as planners, we’re constantly tracking it. We are experts at managing time for our meetings and events, but how good are we at planning our personal timelines? The good news is that the same systems we use at the office can be used at home. It’s important to devise a plan that can be adapted to any environment—whether you’re working from home, the office or on the road.
Learning to prioritize
Writing down your goals is the first step to harnessing time. The SMART system of goal setting makes each task more identifiable: Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound are targeted and easier to meet. For example, listing “create budget” as a goal would not meet the SMART system. Instead write: In two weeks, create a budget that is 5 percent lower than last year’s program. This goal has a deadline, is specific and realistically attainable based on your research.
Prioritizing your task list is important. Keep your system simple. For example, label tasks with an “A,” “B” or “C,” the “A” tasks being the first to tackle. There are a number of online systems that can assist in managing your tasks. Toodledo is an online to-do list with a time-tracking feature that helps you identify which tasks you might be spending too much time on and assists those who have to track hours for client-billing purposes. The tool also has a “Hot List” feature, which places priority on certain tasks.
Wunderlist is another online task management tool that works on a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone and Android. Another task management system, Remember the Milk, can be integrated with Outlook and has a task postponement notification feature. While you are able to postpone tasks that need more time to complete, the system also notifies you when you have postponed a task too long.
If your energy level is high in the mornings, schedule challenging tasks and meetings then and leave less difficult work for later in the afternoon. Work on items you dislike first. Once you get them out of the way, it’s easier to move quickly down the list.
Dealing with technology
Probably one of the biggest time consumers is addressing emails. The more organized you are with email correspondence, the less time you will spend searching for messages and weeding through an overly full inbox. Adopt the TRAF method: Toss it, Refer it, Answer it or File it. Determine how each email fits into one of these categories and address it before moving on to the next message.
Schedule a time for updating your social media sites, either before you start work in the morning or when you get home. Keep these pages closed in your browser and turn off e-mails and sounds notifying you of updates. If the sites have a chat function, stay offline during the workday. If your event has a Facebook page or Twitter feed that you must monitor during the day, create a different login from your personal sites so you are not tempted to visit those pages.
Being efficient on the road
If you work from both a main office and a home office, or if you travel a lot, online collaboration platforms allow you and your co-workers to access files from one website, where they can be revised and shared by everyone. iCohere is one platform that also has a webcast feature for online conferences. Onehub is another platform that is useful if different teams need to access and contribute to a proposal; it provides a separate workspace for each proposal, allowing you to keep updates in one place.
Dropbox and Fileshare both allow you to send and store large files that cannot be sent via email. The applications are free up to a certain storage size and the person to whom you’re sending files does not need to have the application downloaded. The system sends an email to the recipient alerting them that they have been invited to view a shared file. Google Docs also has a file share feature that allows you to upload existing files and provides templates to create new files.
If you spend time trying to remember login IDs and passwords to all your online systems, Agile Web Solutions can help. Its 1Password tool stores all your passwords in one online system. All you have to remember is a single master password to gain access to all your passwords. With a quick shortcut key combination, 1Password will fill in the username and password on most sites with most browsers.
Managing online resources
If you spend a lot of time researching on the Web, Delicious can keep track of websites that you want to refer to later. You can save links while you’re bouncing around the Web and stack a collection of links around a common theme. Let’s say you are searching for a hotel in Orlando. You can click the “create stack” tab on your profile page and gather all the potential hotel links, images and information in one place. You can also share your stack with others, allowing decision-makers to see the options with one click.
If your job involves a lot of travel and keeping track of your itineraries is time consuming, try TripIt. The site keeps all your itineraries in one place and notifies you of flight delays, cancellations and gate changes. You can track frequent flyer points and coordinate travel with colleagues who are flying to the same city at the same time.
Evernote is another tool that combines several organizational functions. The system syncs and gives you access to your notes, bookmarked Web pages, pictures, checklists and files through any computer, tablet or mobile device. Search by keyword, tag or even printed and handwritten text inside images.
Creating and tracking goals, and using technology tools to assist in timesaving processes, will put you well on your way to being better organized.
Monica Compton, CMP, is an event specialist with Pinnacle Productions Inc. based in Atlanta. She has 20 years experience as a global meeting planner, managing a variety of programs both domestically and internationally.