10 Time Management Techniques that will Make You Highly Productive

10 Time Management Techniques

  • Efficient time management not only increases productivity, but also reduces stress levels and increases our happiness quotient.
  • We share some time management techniques that are a combination of age old (and still effective) methods and latest technological applications, aimed at helping you make the most of your time and helping you become highly productive.

Time waits for none. This age old adage is probably more relevant now than ever.

Between running for meetings and completing other “important” tasks on a given day, do you often find yourself wondering why does a day have only 24 hours? And does the thought of a never ending to-do list stress you out? Also, does it happen that despite your best efforts, critical tasks are still left incomplete at the end of what seems like a long day? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you – like most of us – need to change your time management techniques, because efficient time management not only increases productivity at work, but also reduces stress levels and increases our happiness quotient.

The suggestions that follow are a combination of age old time management techniques and latest technological applications, aimed at helping you make the most of your time and helping you become highly productive.

1. Maintain a calendar and plan your day (and week) in advance

While going to work, if you are unsure of what you want to achieve on that particular day, then you are more likely to miss your targets than achieve them. Hence, it is advisable to spend a few minutes to plan your day and working week in advance.

The quintessential diary/notebook is one way of planning your calendar. And for those that have already embraced or want to embrace technology to plan their calendar, you can consider using Doodle, an online tool which simplifies the process of scheduling events, whether they’re board or team meetings, dinners with friends, reunions, weekend trips, or anything else.

Make sure that you demarcate between on-going tasks and one-time tasks, and update your planner periodically to ensure that it reflects the evolving list of things that need your attention. Creating and maintaining a planner may seem tedious to start with, but once this activity starts giving results (higher productivity and effectiveness), it will become an inevitable part of your life.

2. Prepare a to-do list

One of the ways to ensure that you remain focused on completing the most important tasks on a given day, is to have a list of to-do’s with all the tasks you intend to do in the day.

The to-do list is intended to help you remain organized, by breaking larger tasks into smaller ones, thereby making them more manageable and easier to track and achieve. These tasks may be classified under different heads such as work, home, and personal.

You can consider using WorkFlowy for making and managing your to-do lists. WorkFlowy is an organizational tool that can help you organize to-dos, by making a list of high level ideas and tasks and then breaking them into smaller pieces. You can subdivide lists like this almost infinitely. Apart from managing to-do’s, this tool can be used to collaborate on large team projects, take notes, write research papers, keep a journal, and much more.

3. Prioritize and focus

Once you have prepared the to-do list, the next challenge is to prioritize the tasks and focus on completing them.

You need to ensure that you are focused on important things, and not just urgent things. Some tasks may be urgent but have lower strategic value, and completion of such tasks will give lower returns. It is important that such tasks are not prioritized over important tasks – which you should be reflective of your long-term goals and priorities. You can use a 1-5 coding system for prioritizing tasks – 1 for high priority items, 5 for low priorities, depending whether the task is high-yield and high-priority, or low-value, fill-in.

Most importantly, once you have a prioritized to-do list defined, make sure that you set a realistic timeline to complete it, and stick to it! Within each day, you can focus on the most important and challenging tasks in the morning, when you are fresh and have most energy. You can move towards some of the less important tasks in the second half of the day, when your energy and attention levels are relatively lower. To start with, incentivize timely task completion by rewarding yourself for meeting timelines. Once you fall into the habit of timely completion, such rewards won’t be required.

4. Delegate

We all tend to make a common mistake of biting off more than we can chew, i.e. we tend to take on more work than what we can realistically complete, which ultimately leads to stress, frustration and exhaustion. Therefore, it is important to delegate work to peers and subordinates as per their skills and abilities.

Ask yourself a simple question – am I doing something that someone else within the organization could do? If the answer is a yes, then you need to delegate. When another person who is fit to do a job takes over, it is like getting twice the work done in same timeframe.

Also, administrative tasks like photocopying, filing, etc. take lot of time, but do not yield high returns. You may be doing these things yourself right now to save cost, but if training a person on it can save your time in the long run, then it is worth it as the time that you will save can be focused on innovation, skill building, and other value added tasks that will help you grow as professional.

Remember, ‘delegation’ is not running away from responsibilities; rather, it is an important management skill that separates successful leaders from the not-so-successful ones.

5. Learn to say “No”

Most of the times, our inability to say ‘no’ leads to confusion. When instead of saying a ‘no’, we say ‘maybe’ or ‘I will do that’ or ‘let me see’, it sets wrong expectations for others and puts pressure for us.  So, make sure that you do no leave a conversation hanging by saying ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ to something you can’t do. Also, don’t always feel a need to give reasons for refusing a task. A simple ‘no’ is enough in most cases.

Remember, most people appreciate honesty, and will not feel hurt if you set the right expectations at the outset. Instead, the heartburn (and loss) will be much higher – for you and for the other party – if you are unable to deliver and live up to your commitment.

6. Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination affects productivity and may result in loss of time and energy. It occurs when we put off tasks that we should be focusing on right now. It may give a temporary relief, but soon you will start feeling guilty of not having started the task and become more anxious to complete it, which may eventually lead to inability to complete the task on time or in the proper manner.

So, try to take decisions immediately when possible as the best time to do anything is NOW.

7. Prefer sequential-tasking over multitasking

You may feel that that if you multitask, you will gain more efficiency. However, we are usually better off when we focus on one thing at a time. For example, writing e-mails while speaking on the phone may seem like an efficient use of time, but the reality is that we may take up to 20-40 percent more time to finish our tasks when we multitask than if we do it in a sequence. Also, such an e-mail could be full of errors due to lack of attention paid while drafting it.

Therefore, it is better stay focused on one thing at a time, and after the first task is complete, move on to the next task.  Multitasking may sound fancy and it sure creates a lot of activity, but it reduces productivity levels and should be avoided to improve time management.

Bottom line, move from multitasking to sequential-tasking.

8. Avoid unnecessary appointments

Controlling appointments can play an important role in time management as unnecessary appointments can lead to wastage of time and energy. Also, we tend to attend meetings without having clarity on the agenda/end objective and without reading the documentation beforehand. These meetings end up being unproductive. Therefore, it is important to avoid unnecessary meetings; and for those that you do attend, make sure that you are well prepared so that those meeting result in concrete next steps and results.

9. Keep distractions under control

We lose about two hours a day to distractions – which is quite a lot time. These distractions can come from emails, colleagues, phone calls from customers. To manage time effectively, you must minimize distractions and manage the interruptions effectively. For example, you may put a busy message on IM chats when you want to concentrate and let people know that they will be disturbing. You can also consider blocking Facebook and other social media platforms if they are not meant to be used for business, and end up being distractions rather than enablers. Instead, you can have dedicated computer terminals/cyber café within the office premises, where employees can spend their break time tending to personal e-mails and visiting social media sites.

10. Take Breaks

Ensure that you take 10-15 minutes break from work after regular intervals, as long sittings increase stress and reduce productivity levels. We may think that we are capable of working 8-10 hours on a stretch, but it is impractical to concentrate and be productive and efficient without relaxing and recharging ourselves.

So take a walk, listen to music or do whatever you like to make sure that your breaks help you recharge. It is, however, helpful if you can plan your breaks to ensure that your colleagues know when you are away and don’t end up expecting anything urgent in that time frame. Also, take some time off from work, plan vacations and spend time with your friends and family. It will refresh you and also increase your productivity.

The above are but some tips on how to improve our time management, and ultimately it is for each one of us to design- and stick to- a plan that meets our needs.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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Case Studies: Corporate Governance in the Middle East

Case Studies-Corporate Governance in the Middle East

  • Numerous companies in the Middle East improved their governance practices in ways that boosted their performance and growth, highlighting that corporate governance is not a one-size-fits-all concept, but a customized approach.
  • The Nuqul Group case study highlights the role played by corporate governance in the decentralization of power and creation of higher level of accountability among all layers of management.
  • On the other hand, adoption of corporate governance by the Sorouh Group helped improve the credibility of its Sukuk issuance in the eyes of credit rating agencies, thereby resulting in one of the largest and most successful debt issuance in the region.

In part one of our corporate governance article series, we had talked about the meaning of corporate governance and the factors driving the implementing of corporate governance reforms in the Middle East. In the second part, analyzed the progress made on corporate governance implementation by various Middle East nations. And in this third and final part, we share two specific case studies of Middle East-based companies that implemented corporate governance practices to boost business performance and growth.

Case Study 1: Nuqul Group | Jordan   

Founded: 1952 | Conglomerate of over 30 companies                                           

Company Overview: Nuqul Group is a Jordan-based producer of manufactured goods. In 1985, Ghassan Nuqul, the vice chairman of Nuqul Group, took a leading role 33 years after his father founded the company.

Situation: After taking over the leading role, Ghassan Nuqul realized that the firm’s head office had to process all purchase orders, as well as account and audit documents from its four plants. As a result, little accountability existed outside the head office. Also, such a strong concentration of power in one office made the Nuqul Group unattractive to investors. To correct the situation, Ghasan Nuqul took a series of corporate governance steps to institutionalize processes, allocate tasks, and develop accountability mechanisms.  The steps were aimed at increasing accountability at all levels, and also to ensure that all family members understood their roles, responsibilities, and rights within the organization.

Corporate Governance Measures Taken:

  • Over a period of five years, Nuqul headed the firm’s decentralization process. He separated and delegated tasks, created job descriptions, measures of accountability for managers and employees, established key performance indicators (KPIs), balanced performance scorecards and evaluated the company against competitors in the industry.
  • The firm established a strong board composed of both family and non-family members. It now includes board members who are employed by the firm, board members from outside the firm, and board members with relevant specializations.
  • Being a private, non-listed, family-owned company, Nuqul Group is not required by the government to publish financial statements. However, the company publishes an internal annual report voluntarily disclosing information including staff turnover, corporate social responsibility indicators, community service participation, and philanthropy operations in the family foundation.

Impact: Nuqul Group has expanded from four subsidiaries in 1985 to 30 today, and as per vice chairman Ghassan Nuqul, this level of growth would not have been possible without the improved corporate governance practices.

  • As a result of the corporate governance measures taken, Nuqul Group increased accountability among managers, employees, and the family, which ensures the company’s sustainability.
  • By implementing a 10-year business plan, with forecasted budgets for every year, the company was able to create benchmarks and measure itself against global best practices.
  • Since the implementation of these practices, Nuqul Group has continued to grow in terms of size and level of profits.

SOROUH | U.A.E   

Founded: 2003 | Real Estate company                                           

Company Overview: Located in Abu Dhabi, Sorouh Real Estate PJSC is one of the largest real estate developers in the UAE, and currently has over AED 70 billion worth of projects under development.

Situation Faced: From 2006 to H1 2008, Sorouh did not make any major borrowings; however, it wanted to finance its growth. For this, it issued Sukuks to help finance the development of 170 hectares on Al Reem Island and the Saraya development in Abu Dhabi’s central business district. However, as part of this process, Sorouh’s corporate governance practices had to be assessed by external credit agencies responsible for rating the Asset Backed Securities (ABS) transactions that Sorouh used to raise the money.

Corporate Governance Measures Taken: The company’s successful Sukuk issuance is rooted in the improvements it made in its corporate governance framework, in compliance with the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority’s standards. Sorouh had adopted these regulations and implemented all its material requirements in 2007, two years ahead of the compliance deadline.

  • Sorouh developed an Employee Disclosure Policy to ensure that employees are able to “blow the whistle” whenever and wherever they have adequate reasons to believe that ethical conduct has been breached.
  • The company has developed an Insider Share Dealing Policy in order to ensure that directors and employees do not misuse their possession of the company’s stock price-sensitive information.
  • In 2007, the company implemented an enterprise-wide risk management system, which has been initiated to structure and formalize existing risk management practices.

Impact: According to Sorouh’s Chief Corporate Officer, Afshar Monsef, “The actions we took for our corporate governance had a direct impact on the rating we received for our Sukuk and ultimately the interest rate premium, which resulted in paying a lower premium compared with other companies in the region.”

  • Sorouh’s corporate governance practices allowed it to issue more than US$ 1 billion worth of securitized Islamic certificates (or Sukuks), to be used for growth and expansion purpose
  • Moody’s rated the majority of the notes “AA3” while S&P rated them “A”.
  • The high ratings helped Sorouh to gain market acceptance for the Sukuks, resulting in millions in savings for the company.
  • The debt issuance was the first of its kind and size for a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region corporation.
  • In 2009, Sorouh was ranked 1st in Abu Dhabi and 3rd regionally by the BASIC2 GCC-wide study of corporate governance.

We hope you have enjoyed our coverage on Corporate Governance in the region. Please free to comment and share your views and other relevant examples on this increasingly important issue for businesses in the Middle East.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Opening-up of Saudi Stock Exchange to Foreign Investors

Opening-up of Saudi Stock Exchange to Foreign Investors

  • The decision of the Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) to open the Saudi stock exchange to foreign investors has induced a lot of excitement and optimism in the market. In this article, we discuss what the change is all about, why it is important, how it is likely to be implemented, and what will be its impact on various stakeholders.

What? Why? How?

So what exactly is going to happen? On July 22, 2014, the Saudi government announced that the Tadawul All Shares Index (TASI) will be open to direct foreign institutional investment from the first half of 2015. This would mark a welcome departure from the current state of affairs, where foreigners can purchase Saudi stocks only via trades conducted through international banks and by making a small number of costly and time-consuming exchange-traded funds (ETFs). As a result of these restrictions, foreign investors currently own less than five percent of the Saudi market, and account for a meagre one percent of the volumes traded on the TASI, which is dominated completely by local retail investors. But once these restrictions are eased in 2015, foreign investors will be able to participate much more freely in the Saudi market, and own and trade stocks of public companies in the kingdom.

Why is the change important? With a capitalization of $530 billion, the Saudi capital market is much bigger than its regional peers (Dubai and Abu Dhabi combined have a market cap of about $235 billion, Qatari listed companies are worth $196 billion and Egypt’s market is about $69 billion), and also boasts of superior liquidity – the daily average turnover at TASI is $2 billion, which is once again much ahead of the trading volume in other Arab nations. And to add to these points is the fact that the Tadawul is home to the some of the largest companies & IPOs in the region, belonging to diverse sectors ranging from petrochemicals to banking to telecommunications to retail and real estate. Therefore, from an investor standpoint, the TASI is one the biggest market which is currently closed to foreign money; therefore, its proposed opening to foreign investors is perhaps the most significant investor-friendly step taken by a Middle East or GCC nation in many years.

However, the Saudi government is not taking this step simply to appease investors. Instead, this move is a part of the kingdom’s long-term strategy to reduce dependence on oil revenues, and strengthen the non-oil sector of the largest economy in the Middle East. The decision also comes close on the heels of Qatar and the UAE getting included in the MSCI emerging market index, and Saudi authorities surely don’t want to be left behind on this front, so an indirect aim would be to get the TASI listed on the MSCI frontier or emerging market index.

The importance attached by the market to this move can be gauged from the fact that the TASI jumped 2.8 percent to a six-year high on the day the announcement was made. Also, the IMF boosted its 2015 GDP growth forecast for KSA from 4.1% to 4.6%, based on expectations of strong private sector performance.

How will the change be implemented? The CMA is yet to come out with a definite plan, but it is obvious that the roll-out to foreign investors will a slow and gradual process to avoid volatility in the market, and also to test waters in a phased-out manner.

One of the reasons that this change has taken so long to come is that Saudi authorities have been very protective of the companies in the kingdom, and have been averse to foreign investors taking control of key listed companies. Therefore, we can expect the CMA to impose caps on the amount being invested. While official numbers are yet to be announced, the market expects that foreign institutions will not be allowed to own more than 10% of the Saudi market and more than 20% of a Saudi company.

Further, to start with, a limited number of investment licenses are likely to be granted to qualified investors only, in order to avoid a sudden influx of foreign money into the Saudi companies. Such investors likely to be chosen based on the size of their assets under management (AUM) and global investment management experience, with most expectations pointing to an AUM bar of at least $5 billion. Retail investors are unlikely to be given licenses for buying and trading in the first phase of the roll-out.

Finally, most experts believe that the KSA is likely to follow the route adopted by emerging markets like China and Taiwan, where a free and open market is regulated by government officials. Also, oil and gas companies may be kept out of the purview of the initial roll-out to ensure that the Saudi government retains control over firms currently generating majority of the national revenue.

What are the implications of opening-up of the market to foreign investors?

  • On the KSA economy: Saudi Arabia’s economy is likely to get a double boost from this move. First, the influx of foreign capital will boost the overall GDP, and push along the diversification to non-oil revenues that will ensure sustenance of growth. Secondly, a well-diversified and growing economy will help tackle the high level of unemployment, especially among the youth, in the country. As cited earlier, the IMF has already increased its 2015 growth forecast from 4.1% to 4.6%, expecting economic diversification to drive growth.
  • On the Tadawul Index (TASI) and the overall capital market in the kingdom: The index will become the gateway to foreign fund inflow worth ~$50 billion into the country, strengthening its case for inclusion into MSCI’s emerging market index. Even though such an inclusion unlikely to take place before 2016, the TASI will account for three to five percent of the index, when eventually included. The move will also boost trading and IPO activity on the TASI, and will also result in production of higher quality equity research in the region.
  • On Saudi Companies: Most large Saudi companies are cash rich, so obtaining additional funding will not be the biggest gain for them. Instead, such companies will benefit from shareholder activism and improved corporate governance and accounting standards that are likely to be implemented to meet the high standards expected by foreign investors. These companies will also benefit from receiving guidance and expertise from globally experienced investors, on operational as well as strategic issues. For medium-sized companies, influx of foreign capital will lead to lower financing costs and improved valuation. Further, working with global investors will allow companies in the KSA to think global, and will help them execute their international expansion plans (regional or global) in a better manner.
  • On Investors: The move will give investors much awaited access to the largest economy in the GCC and in the Middle East. Huge foreign reserves, a low-risk sovereign credit quality, and an emerging-market like growth potential make the KSA an especially attractive destination for foreign investors.  Additionally, through the TASI, it will give them access to leading firms across industries, such as Samba Bank, Saudi Basic Industries, Saudi Industrial Investment Group, and Yanbu National Petrochemical Company. Not only do these companies have a huge “upside” potential, most Saudi companies also have better corporate governance standards as compared their peers in the Middle East.
  • On Other Asset Classes: The current move is aimed at opening-up of the equity market. However, if the move is successful, it could prompt the government to open even the bond (or Sukuk) market to such investors. Even though such a follow-up move will take a long time before being implemented, the opening-up of the local Sukuk market would give foreign investors access to companies that sold 42 billion riyals ($11.2 billion) through a dozen sales in the past year, according to Bloomberg.

Overall, if implemented well, this move has huge positive implications not just for the KSA, but also for all other countries in the GCC and the Middle East, as discussed above. However, investors are keeping a close eye on the announcement since policymakers in the kingdom have put off such plans in the past. Therefore, it is important that the CMA comes out with a well-defined roll-out plan with actual dates and timelines to alleviate investor concerns, and implement what will be a landmark change in the way capital markets operate in the Arab World.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review