Time. It’s the event planner’s most precious commodity and yet it is also one of the main challenges of organizing any type of event. Most of us simply don’t have enough of it, yet somehow, we manage to get it all done. It’s no wonder event planning is ranked as the fifth most stressful job in the world. Working in events is for everyone. Determination, experience, good communications and creativity are all essential skills for success in the job, but good time-management is even more important.
Many planners today use a variety of technology tools to help them save time in planning and managing events. From event management systems like Eventsforce to event apps, engagement tools, marketing automation, analytics and so on, no one can dispute the countless benefits these systems bring in terms of time management. They help us to connect, perform, improve and leverage our resources – a lot faster than what was once imaginable.
But let’s not forget about the human factor. Effective time management is a personal thing too. Most of us don’t get it right all the time. Whether it’s procrastination, personal distractions or tasks that take up a lot more time than they should, there are many things that waste our time every day leading to rushed deadlines, a work-life imbalance and more stress and anxiety.
Have a look at the eight things you need to stop doing now to make better use of your time:
Bad Habit #1: Complaining About Time
We’re all a little bit guilty here. We talk to colleagues, partners and suppliers about how much work we need to do in so little time. If you’re in the habit of complaining about time, it may be time to break the habit. The easiest way of breaking any bad habit is by replacing it with a new positive one. Instead of focusing on your lack of time, be more vocal about what you do have time for. If you value your time, others will do the same. You’ll see that it will not only have a positive impact on your productivity but everyone else’s too.
Bad Habit #2: Quick Internet Breaks
How often do you get the itch to quickly check the news or have a look at your phone to check Twitter or Facebook in the middle of a task? According to Forbes.com, research has shown that it takes 15 consecutive minutes of focus before you can fully engage in a task. After that, you fall into a euphoric state of increased productivity – which apparently makes you five times more productive than you otherwise would be. Taking a mini-break to surf the Internet pulls you out of this state, which means you’ll need another 15 minutes to get back into it. You do this enough times, and you’ll go through a whole day without experiencing the focus you need to get the job done. If these mini surfing breaks are essential, give yourself set times to do them in. You can also use a tool like Pocket, which can save your ‘finds’ to access and read later on at a time that won’t impact your work.
Bad Habit #3: Multi-Tasking!
This may sound like the last thing an event planner should do but multi-tasking is a real productivity killer. According to research at Stanford University, multitasking has been proven to be less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Why? Because our brains lack the capacity to perform more than one task at a time successfully. We may think we’re multi-taskers, but what we’re actually doing is shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as writing an email, then doing a conference call, then back to email and so on. The research also found that people who multi-tasked a lot and believed it boosted their performance, were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. It seems they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information. They were also slower at switching from one task to another.
Bad Habit #4: Responding to Emails as They Arrive
Emails can be the source of constant interruption and this will affect how well you work with the time you’ve got. Put aside specific times for checking your email, such as first thing in the day, right before or after lunch or right at the end of the day. Unless it’s urgent, avoid checking emails outside these set times as it will definitely distract you from your high-priority work, especially when things are busy. You can also use features in your email software that allow you to prioritise messages by sender – so you can set alerts for your important suppliers and vendors and save the rest for your allocated email time. You can even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when you’ll be checking emails again.
Bad Habit #5: Putting Off Harder Tasks
You have to remember that our mental energy has limits. When this energy is exhausted, time-management, productivity and the ability to make good decisions decline rapidly. When you put off tasks till late in the day (because they’re difficult, boring or intimidating), you are saving them for a time when you’re at your worst. Take on these tasks in the morning when your mind is fresh and you’ll spend less time getting them done.
Bad Habit #6: Unrealistic To-Do Lists
Ticking things off your to-do list can feel good because it gives you a sense of accomplishment. But is it really the most productive way of doing things? Apparently not. We regularly underestimate how long something will take us and we forget to factor this in. Setting unrealistic expectations with never-ending to-do lists can lead to frustration, exhaustion and a feeling that you’re not accomplishing anything. Prioritise your tasks from most important to least important and for each task on your list, figure out exactly how much time you need to get it done. If you set a deadline for yourself, then this will help you avoid procrastination and ultimately work more effectively in the time that you have.
Bad Habit #7: Unproductive Meetings
Meetings take up a big part of your time. Well, according to Forbes, ultra-productive people avoid meetings as much as humanly possible. They know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so whenever they have one, they inform everyone from the start that they’ll be sticking to the intended schedule. This sets a clear limit that encourages everyone to be more focused and efficient with their time. When you are running meetings with your colleagues or suppliers, take five minutes beforehand to decide what it is you want to achieve. This will help you stay focused on your goals. Take another five minutes afterwards to check the results. You can also make better use of time by creating boundaries for these meetings, such as keeping laptops closed (unless needed), not checking phones and making sure everyone participates and provides an opinion at the end of the discussion.
Bad Habit #8: Saying ‘Yes’ to Everything
Yes, it is mostly your responsibility and the work does need to be done. But saying yes to everything will load up your plate to a point where it becomes unmanageable because there simply isn’t enough time. Try to take on additional tasks when you know you have free time or that the task at hand will help you meet your goals. Figure out what the task involves before you say ‘yes’ and you’ll avoid neglecting other tasks that may be more important. If you feel it isn’t a priority, don’t be worried about saying ‘no’. People tend to instinctively respect those who can say no. If you don’t like the confrontation, you could try saying something along these lines of ‘I’ll be able to work on it once I finish doing XYZ’ or ‘It would be great if I could do this another time, as I would like to focus my energy on what I’m doing now to get the best results’.
Some of these bad habits may not be such a big deal, but they do add up. As an exercise, track the time you spend doing different tasks using an app like Toggl. Look at the time you and your team spend meeting venues and suppliers, dealing with emails, setting up event websites, managing registrations and attendee inquiries, copying data, reporting and so on. You don’t need to do it all the time – use a set timeframe for your exercise. Knowing how much time you spend working on different tasks will put you in a better position to figure out what you’re doing right and where there’s ways to improve.