How to manage your time more effectively

Pamal Sharma has just taken up the role of Group CIO for Vertu, a division of Nokia, after more than three and half years as CIO of the United Kindgom and Ireland at General Motors.

At GM Sharma had pan-european responsibilities, finding new ways of using technology to support GM's business units across the continent.

Sharma says people have different levels of organisational skills, and most have tried using to-do lists.

But that's not enough. "People have their to-do lists, but then at the end of the day they look back and realise they've spent all their time working on the wrong things," he says.

"The problem is they don't prioritise. They simply enumerate things to do, but don't filter or order the tasks."

"What I recommend is to maintain no more than seven top priorities. Once you finish the top item, go back and reorder the others. Priorities might have changed, so you need to rethink them before moving on."

"I don't advocate prioritising little things, like whether or not you'll have a cup of tea. Work on getting the big things right, and the smaller tasks will fall into place."

Sharma also stresses the important of focus. "The other thing I think keeps people from getting things done is they succumb to distraction. We all have different personalities, some people are able to maintain focus, others will forget what they were doing as soon as something more interesting comes up."

Those who are best at time management are experts at turning down opportunities and focusing on what's important. That means you will have to refuse most of the things that come your way, says Sharma.

"When somebody comes to you with an opportunity while you're working on a critical task, the first thing to do is assess the impact of what they are bringing. If it's not important to you, but is to the other person, try putting it off. Let the other person know you understand it's of consequence, but that you can't look at it now. Suggest a time to come back to it. It's essential to learn how to refuse things in as polite a manner as possible.

"You want to show them respect. But at the same time, you have to avoid getting distracted from things you need to move forward."

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