To be an effective manager, it is important to recognise the good habits that belong to the areas of personal effectiveness and priority management. It is equally as important to recognise that the opposite of these good habits are the bad habits that can sneak up on us all sometimes, and start to make us ineffective almost without us realising!

Here are five steps towards being an effective manager:

1. Use a diary, and plan your work schedule

It may sound simple and obvious, but using a diary effectively can have a massive impact on how you utilise your time. It is no help to your effectiveness to complete one task and then spend the next half hour deciding what to do next! A diary is not just for out of office appointments, but can be used to plan the tasks of each day and week to use your time to maximum effect, and to help you keep clear time for priorities, including those which sometimes crop up unexpectedly. It also helps to ensure that your “important but not urgent” tasks still see the light of day. Remember – If you don’t have a plan for where you want to be … don’t be surprised if you arrive somewhere you don’t want to be!

2. Maintain a clear environment

An effective manager operates a “clear desk” policy. Make sure that everything you need regularly is easy to find and close to hand, and that things which are not needed so often are towards the back of your desk or filed away in draws. Have an In Tray, an Out Tray, and ensure that your Out Tray is empty at the end of each day. Do not leave your desk covered in papers at the end of each day, as you will find it surprisingly unattractive to return to the next morning, and you will waste valuable time in sorting out yesterday’s work today. Efficient administration and filing systems are invaluable.

3. Delegate efficiently

Delegation does not simply mean “ordering someone else to do it”. When used effectively, it is a key tool for an effective manager. Delegation is about entrusting responsibility and authority to others, who then become responsible to you for their results. It gives more time for you to spend on important priorities, increases your own effectiveness and impact, develops others and equips them to solve their own problems, enables decisions to be made nearer the “front line”, and promotes involvement and motivation amongst your staff. Management is about getting things done through others – it is not about doing everything yourself!

4. Remove all interruptions

The two biggest distractions preventing people from getting immersed in their work are emails and the telephone. Turn off the “ding” sound when you receive an email so that you are not tempted to look straight away and break your concentration – set aside time at the beginning, middle and end of each day for reading and replying to emails, and do not look at them at any other point. Likewise with the telephone – batch outgoing calls together rather than making them randomly throughout the day, and where possible, turn your telephone to voicemail and collect messages at stipulated points throughout the day. Operate a “stand up” policy when colleagues enter your workspace – if you remain standing whilst they are talking, they will get the message that you mean to be brisk and brief so that you can get back to the task you were completing.

5. Do not accept responsibility for the problems of your staff

For a kind and caring manager, this can be a tricky one, but you do yourself and your staff no favours by taking over responsibility of their problems. Help your staff by all means, but the moment you let their problem become your problem, you will have one more problem than you had before – if you do this for ten staff every week, you will have gained over 100 problems in the space of three months! Instead, meet with them at an appointed time, and help them to resolve the issues themselves – you will be one problem lighter, and they will feel a sense of achievement for having ultimately dealt with things themselves.