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Career development: Time management for planners

Alarm clock

Chrissie Gibson of training and town planning consultancy Connectivity Associates runs time management masterclasses for the RTPI intended to help planners use their time productively. Her next training event - Time Management for Planners - will take place in London on Tuesday, 12 May.

Chrissie GibsonPlanners are frequently juggling the demands on their time, writes Chrissie (left). 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.

Getting the most out of your day

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.

Chrissie's top tips on time management

- De-clutter your mind by capturing the things that make your head busy

- Make lists

- Set reminders, but not too many

- Rocks and gravel - tackle the big things first

- Some interruptions are inevitable, but try not to flit between tasks unnecessarily

- Make some quiet time to let your brain relax.

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.

Rocks and gravel

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.

Improve your career

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.

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.

We all need 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.

Time management for planners - making the most of your time

Alarm clock Date: Tuesday, 12 May 2015 at 9:00am-4:30pm

Venue: The Hatton (etc Venues), 51-53 Hatton Garden, London

Price: £349 for RTPI members (From £199 with a season ticket); £199 for licentiate members and independent consultants; £140 for students, unemployed and retired; £449 for non-members

Find out more at: http://bit.ly/1G7FcMi

If you can't make the May masterclass, Chrissie will also be running a further event at the same venue on Thursday November 12th  2015. Click here for details.