Credit professionals, like most other working people, have a difficult time balancing the demands of work and family. Those who attended NACM’s Time Management teleconference on Oct. 12 got an opportunity to explore ways to prioritize daily schedules so that the most important tasks get done first. Abby Marks-Beal, an expert in time management, presented several simple strategies to help manage schedules crammed with too many chores, duties and responsibilities.
"We have to work the time we have," Marks-Beal said. She noted that there are more and more demands on an individual’s time. Things that never existed several years ago, like e-mails, now can take up a significant portion of our time. She also mentioned that the many interruptions to our workday cost us time; studies have found it takes an average of 20 minutes to get back on track on a task that was interrupted. She also noted that modern society offers many more choices, as in the case of television that has grown from a few network channels to hundreds of cable and satellite channels. In a 1998 study, she pointed out that when the average person died they left behind about 200-300 minutes of unaccomplished to-dos. "I would really be curious to see if has gone up."
"There isn’t enough time, so stop trying," Marks-Beal said. "At times you have to say ‘enough is enough’." She recommended that office workers should establish a one to two hour window of time every day where it is established that you can’t be interrupted except for the most urgent reasons. She also advised sitting down and evaluating your life to determine what is and what isn’t working for you. For example, she said when she did that she found out that cooking nutritious meals for her family was taking a lot time out of her day. She found a cost-effective way to order such meals and have them delivered, saving her a significant amount of time to attend to other tasks. Another thing she recommended was to set goals for yourself at the end of the year for the upcoming year. Long-term goals that take several steps to complete should be broken down into individual steps, and a time frame set for each.
As for to-do lists, Marks-Beal warned against just keeping them in our memories. "The brain does not have a way to remind you in a timely fashion. Find ways to write them down then add them to a master list." She then offered three different prioritizing techniques on which teleconference attendees worked using the materials they received beforehand. The techniques involved different methods for taking a list of to-dos and then assigning a value to them based on the most important and urgent down to the least important and non-urgent. "You’ll always have time for the most important things if you don’t fill up your day with unimportant things first." As far as big projects, she said the hardest thing about them is often just getting started. She said to just dive into a big project and once you get going you’ll be on your way to eventually accomplishing it. One of the books she recommended for time management is Time Management From the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern.