As a planner, you have to juggle a great many demands on your time. Chrissie Gibson of training and town planning consultancy Connectivity Associates shares her advice for managing these demands while remaining effective
Planners are frequently juggling the demands on their time, writes Chrissie (below, right). Workload pressures to process applications and deliver local plan work, cuts in resources and changing roles can make the day-to-day job difficult.
We all try to get a good balance of work and personal time. We can't manage time itself, but we can manage ourselves and what we do with our time.
Here's some of my guidance for using your time more productively - which can be good for you, your colleagues and your career.
1. Find a system that suits you
It is a good idea to develop your own ‘system’. Our brain is made for problem-solving and creative thinking, not for holding lots of bits of information. If our heads are full of tasks and random thoughts, we cannot focus on tackling the job in hand.
We are bombarded with an increasing amount of information. In days gone by, professionals would have staff to deal with the minutiae, but now most of this ‘stuff’ lands on our desk – or, rather, in our inbox.
Your system can be a paper notebook, an app or a website. It needs to be complex enough to hold everything you need and simple enough to make sure that you use it.
A small notebook is easy to carry around, but an electronic system can give you reminders at the date and time that you need them. There are many systems available for reminders, such as Outlook, Remember the Milk and Toodledo.
Evernote is also a good system for storing information in an accessible format. You can capture information from websites, photographs and written copy. Evernote is useful for keeping all these things in one place – such as your initial research for a report. You can access everything via the website, on a smartphone or tablet.
2. Tackle the big things first
Identify the most important things to do in a day and in a week. Fit the small, less important things around them - the less urgent phone call, a bit of desk tidying. Make sure that you have to hand the resources to complete the small tasks – for example, phone numbers and background information. You will then have the satisfaction of crossed them off your list.
3. Keep your career in mind
Sorting out your time management can help improve your career. Your superiors will see that you deliver what you promise and your colleagues will know that you can be relied on to meet deadlines.
4. Do as you would be done by
Help your colleagues – think before pressing “reply all”; make sure that your email subject lines are relevant and easy for your co-workers to prioritise’; question whether you need so many meetings.
5. Find some quiet time
If you find it difficult to relax, choose a hobby that requires concentration, such as sport, dancing or singing, and which will block out thoughts about work. Ideally choose something that gives you a commitment to others – for example, a choir or team game to increase your chances of getting out.