Wendy Nielsen is intentional about how she spends her time at work, blocking off time for different tasks, like reading local news, following up on projects and responding to emails.
“It’s a way of honoring the time,” Nielsen said.
As first vice president of marketing and public relations at Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, Nielsen, has seen her position grow and evolve over the past 18 years.
A few years ago, Nielsen realized that she needed a new approach to keep her workflow under control. At the time, she was a one-woman department (CRBT recently hired a second marketing staff member), and the small tasks she did each day were getting in the way of her bigger goals.
“I was letting the day control me instead of controlling it. I had to take a step back and make sure I was working on the things that truly move the bank forward,” she said.
After seeking the advice of a business coach, Nielsen took steps to improve her focus. She turned off her email notifications — something that might seem radical to some.
“People can get held hostage to emails, and hours can go by before you get to the projects you really need to focus on,” she said. Instead of answering messages all day, she checks her email at set times of the day.
She also made an effort to limit the informal meetings that tended to pop up when co-workers would stop by with a request. Although she recognizes that drop-ins can be necessary, she now asks people to follow-up with an email with the details of their marketing request. This way, she doesn’t have to shift gears and lose focus.
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Nielsen designed a spreadsheet to prioritize her tasks that has now become popular with other staff at CRBT, many of whom have adapted it to fit their jobs. The spreadsheet includes details like deadlines, project status and a priority level for each task. Nielsen uses the spreadsheet to break down larger projects and add self-imposed deadlines so she can mark her progress. “My business coach helped me realize I thrive on deadlines. I can draw on that sense of urgency by breaking a big project down into parts,” she said.
Nielsen also has a time management system in place at home, although she says it’s a bit less formal than at work.
“If it’s not on the big whiteboard in our mudroom, it doesn’t exist,” she said. With two school-aged kids, an important aspect of her time management is putting work aside when she’s at home — something she said CRBT fully supports. “The bank promotes work/life balance and recognizes that it improves performance,” she said.
By actively working to improve her time management skills over the last few years, Nielsen said that becoming more aware of how she spends her time has helped her work toward her goals. “It’s something I’m continually working on. I think it’s an important part of growing professionally.”
Quotes on time management
“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?” — Henry David Thoreau
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” — Stephen R. Covey
“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” — Golda Meir
Books on time management
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and James Fallows
15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs by Kevin Kruse
Time Management in 20 Minutes a Day: Simple Strategies to Increase Productivity, Enhance Creativity, and Make Your Time Your Own by Holly Reisem Hanna