During a recent Southwest Central Regional Council conference call, we heard 100% of our State Council Directors say that time management is one of the most challenging issues they and their state council volunteers face with regard to work/life balance.
In response to their comments, I thought it would be interesting and helpful to provide a few time management tips and resources that I’ve found to be particularly effective for me.
I’m sure there are many other ideas that our SHRM volunteer leaders have to maximize time. We’d love to hear how you maintain a healthy work/life balance. I hope you’ll take a moment to reply to this article and share your tips and techniques!
Get organized! These are some of my personal tricks that help me keep organized and save time:
· Checklists – I live by them!! I use checklists for everything! To keep different groups/assignments on track, I develop and keep a running checklist for each of my separate projects (i.e., work responsibilities, family obligations, volunteer commitments, etc.). Checklists do several beneficial things for me; for example, I don’t throw-away my checklists during the year – I keep a running checklist, which has been helpful when I’ve had to go back and look at when and/or to confirm that I’ve taken care of something. This is a great time-saver, particularly when I’m completing my mid-year and annual performance reviews. And, it brings me some satisfaction when I get to check things I’ve completed off the list; it’s rewarding and personally satisfying to see how much I’ve accomplished throughout the year. To help mitigate the feeling of being overwhelmed at times, it’s important to take time to recognize and reward your achievements!
· Outlook – I put reminders on my calendar in Outlook approximately one-week to a few days in advance of project deadlines, due dates, family activities, etc. The lead time I allow myself depends on how long I think I’ll need to complete and submit the project before it is due. This helps me make sure I don’t overlook anything.
· Reminder flags – I use reminder flags in Outlook to make sure I don’t forget to follow-up on any outstanding email messages and/or tasks that I have promised someone I will take care of. I review the flags and/or put reminders on my Outlook calendar to further ensure I stay on track.
· Journal / Notepad – I carry a journal/notepad with me everywhere I go just in case I need to make a note of something to follow-up on later, or if I someone asks me to send them something, etc. I use the same notepad throughout the year – I don’t jump from one to another. This, too, helps keep me on track and frees me from having to rely on my memory. Upon the rare occasion when I may not have my journal with me, I ask the individual to send me an email reminding me to follow-up on their request. When I receive the email, it is flagged and/or put on my calendar accordingly for follow-up.
· Email / Voicemail – I at times will send myself an email or voicemail message to remind myself of something I need to take care of. This is particularly helpful when I am traveling and away from my office and don’t have access to something I need. Again, this helps me make sure I don’t forget to take care of something I may have promised someone during my travels.
· Filing System – I created a color-coded filing system that flows from year to year. This prevents me from starting from scratch each year, if I have a similar project from one year to the next – I can quickly pull the file, see what I did last year, and take off running with the project. A big time saver, and again, this prevents me from having to rely on my memory.
o I also have a filing system in my Outlook similar to the hardcopy (file cabinet) system I use in my office. I file most of my email messages (incoming/outgoing) instead of deleting them. This has been a huge time saver when I’ve had a similar project or question come up – instead of starting an email response from scratch, for example, I can just go back to when I’ve responded to a similar inquiry or completed a similar project and copy/paste a great deal of the information contained in the archived email.
o I don’t procrastinate on filing things away – my filing systems only work if I actually file things away so that I can quickly find them later when needed. Also, I find I’m more efficient when my desk and office are organized and tidy.
· Learning New Knowledge / Preparing for Presentations – I utilize the voice memo application on my iPhone to record the talking points/script for my presentations and/or to record detailed information that I am trying to learn. When I’m traveling and it’s difficult to read, I can put on my headphones and listen to my recordings over and over – after listening to a recording a few times, I virtually have the information memorized. Again, this tactic has been a huge time saver for me and has helped me be thoroughly prepared for presentations.
· SHRM Connect – Occasionally, I am contacted by volunteers for initiative ideas and/or best practices. For example, just this week I was asked if I am aware of any chapters that have a policy for acceptable usage of chapter-owned equipment by chapter volunteers and/or members. I saved time researching by posting the question to a couple of the chapter-by-size groups in SHRM Connect http://community.shrm.org/Home/, SHRM’s social network platform, to solicit best practices from volunteer leaders. Their responses are posted for all group members to see. This is another effective use of technology and resources available through SHRM to help me save time.
· “Time Management Training,” available through the SHRM Store; includes a companion CD-ROM with ready-to-use presentations and electronic copies of all supporting material http://shrmstore.shrm.org/time-management-training.html
· Article available on the SHRM Volunteer Leaders Resource Center (VLRC), “Management Series Part I: Time Management Skills-Optimizing Your Effectiveness”
· Articles on the topic of “work/life balance” available on the SHRM website http://www.shrm.org/searchcenter/Pages/Results.aspx?k=work/life%20balance
· “Workplace Flex Toolkit” recently published on the SHRM Workplace Flexibility Resource Page http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/benefits/Pages/workflex.aspx
· Article by Karin Flagg, the founder of Organize With Purpose!, a professional organizing firm created in 2004 that’s dedicated to helping individuals and small businesses organize their homes, offices and lives. Karin’s article, “15 Things to do Today to Simplify Your Life,” is available on the Flourish over 50 website at