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Saturday, 12 January 2013

30 Smart Time Management Tips and Tricks

Yes, yes, yes, you are very busy. That’s why you meet deadlines at the last minute. Or after. That’s why you cruise into meetings 15 minutes late. It’s why you forget details or schedule two tasks for the same time or have 500 unanswered emails in your inbox. It’s why you can never take a vacation, or even a full weekend off.
Or is it? Maybe poor time management is simply a bad habit. Maybe you can learn to organize and control your time better. Because let’s face it, time management is really self management.
Consider taking a look at these classic time management tips. One, or two, or three, may work for you:
1. Obvious tip one: Make a to-do list (electronic or paper). Put the most important item first and work down from there.
2. Obvious tip two: At the end of your day, review what you’ve done and make a new list for the next day. In order of importance.
3. Be ruthless about setting priorities. Make sure that what you think is important is really important.
4. Learn to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important.
5. Carry your to-do list with you at all times.
6. All things being equal, do the hardest, least fun thing first. Just get it over with!
7. If a task takes less than five minutes, do it right away. If it takes longer, put it on the list.
8. Deal with E-mail at set times each day, if possible. If you need to check messages as they arrive, limit your sessions to less than five minutes.
9. Schedule some uninterrupted time each day when you can concentrate on important tasks, even if you have to take refuge in a conference room or at the library.
10. Another approach: Before you check your E-mail or voicemail or get involved in the minutiae of the day, devote a solid hour to your most important project.
11. For a couple of days, take an inventory of how you spend your time to find out where and how you’re wasting it.
12. Eliminate the time wasters (e.g., if personal phone calls are taking up too much space in your workday, turn off your cell).
13. Cut big jobs into small chunks. Order the chunks by importance. Work on one chunk at a time.
14. For big, complex tasks, schedule wiggle room. Projects tend to take longer than you think/hope. Give yourself a buffer.
15. If part of your day involves routine repetitive tasks, keep records of how long they take and then try to do them faster.
16. Go one step further and set specific time limits for routine tasks. Work tends to fill whatever amount of time you happen to have.
17. Establish smart efficient systems for all your tasks, big and small, and stick to them.
18. Value your time. People who wander into your workspace to chat do not respect you or your schedule. Set boundaries.
19. When and where you can, say no. Trying to do everything everyone asks you to do is a recipe for failure.
20. In general, guard against overscheduling yourself.
21. Bottom line to items 19 and 20: Learn to delegate, wherever and whenever you can.
22. Aim to handle pieces of paper only once. Same for E-mails. Read them and deal with them.
23. Reward yourself for completing tasks on time. No fun stuff until the work stuff is done.
24. Organize and declutter your workspace so you don’t waste time looking for things.
25. Schedule demanding tasks for that part of your day when you’re at your peak.
26. Group related tasks (e.g., sort papers on your desk and then file them). It’s more efficient.
27. Use down time (e.g., waiting for meetings to begin) to, for example, update your to-do list or answer E-mails.
28. This advice applies to life outside work, too. It’s better to be excellent at a few things than average at many.
29. Don’t be afraid to get projects done early. It takes them off your mind, and it doesn’t mean you’ll just be given more to do.
30. Create the business environment that works for you. Adjust the lighting, turn off your E-mail pinger, get that cup of tea. Set the stage and get to work.
(by Karen Burns, an author)

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UAE: Dewa Sukuk sets bullish tone to Gulf markets

Dubai: One of the first big bond issues from a state-owned company in the Gulf this year is likely to set a bullish tone for the market — so bullish, some market participants believe, that it might price inside the sovereign.
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) plans to issue up to $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) of sukuk in the first quarter, using the proceeds to refinance existing debt and invest in its projects, Chief Executive Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer said on Tuesday.
Dewa last tapped the bond market in October 2010, when it priced a $2 billion, dual-tranche conventional bond. The improvement in Dubai’s image among investors since then will help it win better pricing relative to the rest of the market.
“With benchmark interest rates low and Dubai CDS (credit default swaps) also close to all-time low levels of around 200 basis points, we think this is a good time for Dewa to tap into the markets to raise long-term capital,” said Biswajit Dasgupta, head of treasury and trading at Invest AD in Abu Dhabi.
With Dubai perception extremely positive in the international community and global investors increasingly adding Dubai risk into their portfolios, the Dubai in Dewa will be seen positively by investors.”
Early-mover advantage
If Dewa conducts the issue in the next few weeks, it is likely to be one of the first major issuers from the region this year, which would give it an early-mover advantage as investors start to build their holdings in the new year.
It may also benefit from its choice of a sukuk rather than a conventional bond, since a supply/demand imbalance in Islamic bonds has often pushed their yields below those of equivalent conventional bonds since last year.
These factors could conceivably help Dewa price its sukuk at a yield below Dubai’s outstanding sovereign bond — a very rare event in any bond market, and unheard-of in the Gulf’s recent history. Last October, Turkish brewer Anadolu Efes issued a $500 million, 10-year bond at a yield almost 10 basis points inside the Turkish sovereign curve.
“Dewa is one of the most defensive credits in the Middle East and we believe that its bonds are cheap relative to regional and EM (emerging market) comparables,” JP Morgan said in a research note this week.
“Diverging from our earlier view, we now believe that Dubai government bond spreads should not define the floor for Dewa.”
Record lows
Yields on Dewa’s outstanding bonds have been falling for over a year and are at record lows, thanks to a general rally in Dubai bonds and upgrades by rating agencies. Last November, Standard & Poor’s raised its long-term rating of Dewa to BBB from BBB-, citing an improved financial performance and its plan to refinance upcoming maturities.
Dewa’s $500 million, 6.375 per cent bond maturing in 2016 was yielding 2.72 per cent on Thursday, down about 300 bps from a year ago.
The yield on its 2020 maturity has tightened even more. The $1.5 billion bond yielded 3.66 per cent on Thursday, down 348 bps.
Dubai’s $750 million, 7.75 per cent conventional bond maturing in 2020 is yielding 3.63 per cent, down 340 bps. It is benefitting from a sense that Dubai has largely put its 2009-2010 debt crisis behind it, as its economy grows robustly and real estate prices start to recover.
The sovereign bond has continued to perform well since the release at the end of last month of Dubai’s 2013 budget plan, which would raise state spending moderately while cutting the size of the budget deficit by 18 per cent, to below 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product.
International investors
But Dewa has one advantage over the Dubai sovereign; Dewa has a credit rating, which could make international investors more comfortable buying the bond. Dubai remains unrated, and has not indicated it will seek one in the near term.
“The investment grade rating of Dewa in the context of Dubai being “unrated” gives more comfort to the global EM fund managers and gives an extra kicker in terms of money flowing into Dewa debt,” said Invest AD’s Dasgupta.
Dewa’s rating may encourage investors to look at its individual corporate profile, rather than viewing it merely as an arm of the Dubai government. Its corporate strengths include its monopoly status, the government’s “accommodating” stand on price increases, and its state-of-the art transmission and distribution networks, JP Morgan said.
Another argument for Dewa possibly pricing inside Dubai is that even a private company, Majid Al Futtaim Holding, has come very close to the sovereign in the secondary market.
The $500 million, 5.25 per cent, 2019 bond issued by MAF Holding last year yielded 3.60 per cent on Thursday, for a z-spread — an expression of relative value — of 242 bps. The Dubai sovereign had a z-spread of 226 bps, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Regardless of their relative pricings, yields on the debt of both Dubai and Dewa may have further to fall, Dasgupta said.
“With the momentum still strong on the Dubai complex, we feel that there is room for a further squeeze of 20-25 bps on the Dubai and Dewa names.

(Gulfnews.Com / 10 Jan 2013)

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Oman: Regulating Islamic finance

The recently released Islamic Banking Regulatory Framework (IBRF), a 500-page document setting out the regulations that will govern Oman’s financial sector, is set to open the door for both conventional and Islamic banks to market sharia-compliant products. In a statement accompanying the regulations, the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) described the IBRF as “a detailed and comprehensive document covering all aspects of Islamic banking”.
While conventional lenders will be allowed to conduct Islamic banking operations, the IBRF requires them to open separate branches for the two different products and make clear the sources of their funds and what they are used for. The requirement for individual branches for both conventional and Islamic operations will impose additional costs on banks seeking to operate in both segments, although the strict reporting requirements should limit any concerns regarding crossover of funds from non-accepted sources.
The regulations do not put in place a centralised body to supervise and vet Islamic products, allowing each bank to have its own sharia board to oversee products. Each board is required to have a minimum of three scholars – each with a proven knowledge of legal and financial matters and a minimum of 10 years of experience.
All such scholars will be subject to performance assessments throughout their terms of office and will be limited to serving two consecutive three-year terms. These requirements are tighter than many applied in other Gulf countries, as is the restriction on board members being allowed to work for two competing Islamic financial institutions.
Another area where the regulations are more stringent than those in other markets is tawarruq or commodity murabaha, the buying of an item or product from a bank through a deferred payment arrangement by a person or entity, who then sells the item to a third party for cash. The IBRF rules out this instrument, saying, “Commodity murabaha or tawarruq, by whatever name called, is not allowed for the licensees in the sultanate as a general rule”. Tawarruq has come under criticism by some scholars for not being fully compliant with Islamic financial requirements.
Oman’s banking sector has long been awaiting the CBO’s regulatory framework, after Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said issued a decree in May 2011 authorising the establishment of Islamic banking. Currently, seven conventional lenders – Ahli Bank, Bank Dhofar, Bank Muscat, Bank Sohar, the National Bank of Oman, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and the Oman Arab Bank – are planning to offer services in the sharia-compliant segment, along with the two dedicated Islamic banks in the market, Bank Nizwa and Alizz Islamic Bank. With the IBRF now in place, most will be looking to open their Islamic windows early this year.
Though banks have been lining up to enter the market, Oman’s new sharia-compliant banking sector will face a number of challenges and potential pitfalls in its early stages, according to Khalid Yousaf, the director of Islamic finance advisory services at KPMG in Oman, a financial services firm.
“The biggest challenge will be for the industry to educate their customers and general public about the essential, basic facts about Islamic finance, and the biggest threats may be the shortage of skilled resources as well as the shortage of available products for banks to place their surplus liquidity,” Yousaf told media in December.
As Oman does not have a history of formal sharia-compliant banking, it has a shallow pool of experienced staff and Islamic scholars well versed in financial matters. However, banks will be able to tap experts from other Gulf states for rulings on regulatory issues, and many lenders have already begun training courses for staff in anticipation of opening their Islamic banking windows.
The Fitch ratings agency has also suggested it may not be plain sailing for the Islamic banking sector, saying in a note issued in October that it will be some time before stand-alone Islamic banks in Oman will be able to compete effectively with their conventional rivals, which will have their established networks, brand names and operational scales of efficiency to back up their own Islamic windows.
“Newly created Islamic banks in Oman will face competition from incumbents such as Bank Muscat and HSBC Bank Oman, which are setting up Islamic banking arms in preparation for the upcoming rule changes,” Fitch’s note said. “While the established banks will need to keep their existing and Islamic operations separate at the point of contact with the customer, there will be plenty of opportunities for cost savings at the operational level.”
While the report identifies that there is a market for dedicated Islamic banks, with higher government spending and economic growth opening doors in the retail banking segment, the agency said many clients would chose to remain with their existing lenders, even if they shift to sharia-compliant accounts.
Oman already has a competitive banking sector and the opening of the Islamic segment of the market will only serve to make it more so. The success of the two dedicated sharia-compliant banks, and that of the segment as a whole, will likely depend on how well new products are promoted and services are provided.

(Oxford Business Group / 11 Jan 2013)

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