Time-saving tips from the City’s experts

LIFE in the City is pretty special. Its workers are part of a global powerhouse, working harder and faster than most and pushed to the limits to deliver for their firms and customers.

It’s certainly hard work, but it is often the adrenaline and pace that comes with it that makes what the Square Mile does so exciting.

We are producing and consuming more information than we ever have before. Take the fact that the average person in 2007 transmitted the equivalent of six newspapers of information each day and received 174 in return (much of that video and photos, but still). That’s a lot of information that needs to be managed. While this is all part of the game we’re in, at the end of the financial year, many of us feel pretty wiped out.

We find ourselves staring at a backlog of emails, sipping our seventh coffee of the day and thinking there must be a way to better manage our time.

Asking your peers is not a bad place to start. We tracked down a trader, a lawyer, an accountant, a banker and a freelance journalist and asked them for their top time management tips and tricks.

I set myself challenges to get more out of my time. The funny thing about tasks is that they expand to fit the time you give them. If you give yourself 20 minutes to do something, it will take 15 minutes. Whereas if you give yourself 2 hours, it will take that long. I also create a “run sheet” every Sunday evening where I make a list of everything I have to finish before Friday. That way you can see if you’re being productive throughout the week.

The key is letting the machinery do all the work, make sure that you have your BlackBerry or iPhone synchronised with your Outlook diary or task manager, that way you have a clever little toy that tells you exactly what you should be doing. It works even better if you have a brilliant team of clerks, as I do. Don't let a backlog of emails build up. Again, a BlackBerry is the key to getting that done, because you can reply to your emails at any time, in the queue for lunch, waiting for a bus, even on the lavatory. Most people think of those times as dead time, I think of them as email replying time. Sadly, it carries over and I have been to known to wake up in the middle of the night clutching my BlackBerry.

You only have 24 hours in a day, you can’t do everything, so effective time management is a lot to do with accepting that some things will fall off the wagon. It’s just a matter of making sure that the important things never do. The way to do that is to aggressively prioritise the tasks you have to do and effectively delegate the rest. To delegate properly you have to invest the time in training your team. Don’t waste time training staff to do something that is just a one-off though – do it yourself, it will be faster.

A lot of time management techniques don’t work for traders. Our days are dictated by the markets. It’s a reactionary job. The trick is making sure you’re getting stuff done in the quieter periods. I make sure I keep up with my emails and read analyst reports by checking them on my phone on the way into work. You can, of course, predict when things are likely to be busier. I print off the data releases, political speeches and other announcements at the beginning of the week and highlight the things that I think will create the biggest market reactions.

Being a journalist means I’m really well trained in keeping to deadlines. I’ve worked in breakfast TV news for most of my life and work has always been tied to news bullets, so being prepared and on schedule was utterly essential. The biggest problems I have with time management usually happen when I have to work with people who are not journalists, they seem to operate in a different timezone. So for me, effective time management is all about educating those you work with to deliver things absolutely on time.