How many times have you heard people say “I don’t have enough time to do …” or “If only I could find the time to do …” Or “I am too busy to do …” Perhaps the person you heard saying these or similar things is the same person who stares back at you every morning in the bathroom mirror. Well, it is time to stop blaming time! Time is an absolute-there are 24 hours (1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds) in a day and that will never change. We cannot “manage” time. What we can manage is what we do during the next 60 minutes.
How we use time is one of the great determinants of how successful we are both as business owners and as individuals. Everyone from Bill Gates to the small business owner is given the same amount of time each day, 24 hours. Think of it like the auto races where they make all the drivers drive identically built and tuned race cars. The winner is then determined not by who has the fastest car but who can drive that identical car the best. Similarly in life the “winners” are those who learn how to drive their use of time the best.
So how do you take control of your time?
1. Accept that there is no such thing as too much or too little time. There is enough time available for you to be successful-others have been successful and they had no more access to time than you do. Take ownership of your situation. Be accountable for your results and responsible for your actions.
2. Decide what you want to accomplish. What do you want to be “successful” at? To some it may mean making a million dollars, to others it may mean being healthier while others may be looking to have better relationships with their family and friends. This is your goal. You must also understand the benefits to you of achieving the goal -how will it make you feel when you achieve it. Both the goal and your “why” must be written down with a timeframe.
3. Once you have decided the goal and your “why”, you must now determine the activities that will be necessary for you to accomplish that goal. What do I have to do? What time commitment will I make? What will I need to adjust/sacrifice/reduce/delegate in order to have the time to do the activities identified? Remember if it was easy everyone, including you would have already done it. What separates the successful users of time from the unsuccessful ones is the discipline and determination to obtain their goals no matter what. Winners never give up and they never quit on themselves.
4. Understand that life and business are about choices. You choose how you will spend your time- on what activities and how much on each. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Being successful in many different areas takes effort and time. Success comes from laser-like focus on one or two goals. Once they are accomplished you move on to the next set of goals and focus on those.
5. Prepare your calendar each week by creating “appointments” to do the activities that you have identified. These are defaulted into your calendar before anything else. Treat these as if the appointment was with your most important customer. Would you easily change your Monday 2-3pm “meeting” just because someone asked for that time slot? No, you would negotiate- “I am booked at that time. I can see you at either 1pm or after 3pm, which would work for you?”
6. Be militant about your schedule. If you don’t care how your time is being spent, why should anyone else? Learn to say “No”. In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he breaks activities into 4 categories- Not Important/Not Urgent, Urgent/Not Important, Urgent/Important and Not Urgent/Important. The danger for most people is the Urgent/Not Important category. This is when we are responding to other people’s urgencies, however the activity does not move us toward OUR goal- by definition it is Not Important. Beware of the time and effort devoted to those tasks. Conduct your own time usage study. Every minute that you can divert from not important categories to the important categories will move you closer to your goal.
7. Review your successes/challenges in meeting your schedule each week and adjust where necessary. Be honest with yourself and continually reinforce your “Why” – what are you trying to accomplish and how important is that to you.
8. Find an accountability partner or mentor to help keep you on track. We can all use help every now and then- it is a strength to admit this, not a weakness.
In summary, stop blaming time, take ownership of your time and commit to the discipline necessary to win the race by being the best “driver” of time you can possibly be.
Time is a limited resource for most business owners, so it must be “managed” if you want to achieve your goals within the timeframe you set. Time management (or SELF-management) is all about setting priorities and sticking with them.
When it comes to managing your time (or self) consider this: There is a big difference between activity-tasks that keep us “busy,” and productivity tasks that take us closer to our goals. Most business owners are busy, but are they busy doing the right things?
Self-management requires discipline (no doubt about that). And at the end of the day, you need to find what works best for you. Here are some tips to improve your productivity:
1. Know How You Spend Your Time. Begin to track your tasks for a two-week period and be specific. Then build a list of tasks and people that wasted your time (or money) each day. Make a special note of the interruptions. Most people find this eye-opening. Once you recognise the time and people wasters, you can take actions to fix the problems.
2. Get Organised. It is easier to perform tasks when everything is where you need it and out of the way. This means clearing off your desk so you have room to work and eliminate distractions. Everything should be in a file or binder (in a drawer, cabinet or bookshelf). If you need help organising your space, check out “Organising for Dummies” or get help (there are people who do this).
3. Create a “To Do List” and Use It. When you identify a task that needs to be completed, put it on the list and give it a priority (low, medium high). When you plan your weekly work, pull tasks from the list and always do the high priority tasks first. Don’t forget to continuously evaluate the priority levels you have assigned; time can change some of these.
4. Plan Your Work. At the end of the week, plan your next week AND at the end of each day, plan the next day. According to Brian Tracy, every minute spent in planning saves as many as 10 minutes in execution. In other words, 10-12 minutes planning can save you two hours in wasted time and effort throughout the day. What would you do with an extra two hours per day?
5. Block Off Time to Work on Tasks. The tasks on your “To Do List” will remain there unless you block off time to work on them. When planning your week, block off chunks of time and assign tasks to them. Don’t work on anything not on your list and don’t try to accomplish everything in one week.
6. Break Down Big Tasks. Big tasks can appear overwhelming (so they quickly get put aside). Break them into smaller chunks that are more manageable. Then schedule time to work on them.
7. Delegate or Outsource. Always look for opportunities to delegate or outsource recurring tasks or low-value activities. Did you know that 50 percent of time wasted in business is due to lack of trust? This is because the owner doesn’t think others can do it as well or micro-manages the team. Give your team the tools and processes; then watch them shine (and see how much time you gain for more valuable activities).
8. Use a Tickler File or Follow Up System. Lose the out of sight, out of mind mentality that drives many business owners to keep files visible. Rely on a tickler or reminder system to insure important deadlines are met.
9. Don’t Procrastinate. Work on the tasks you dislike (or those that are more complex) first. Then, they won’t be hanging over your head or causing your mind to wander. Plus, you’ll feel great when you check tasks off the “To Do List.”
10. Hold Calls (Or Send to Voicemail). If you block time to work on important tasks hold that time sacred and don’t permit interruptions except from a handful of VIP’s. Block off time to return calls each day at your convenience. You may also find that when you are not so accessible, others will handle the “issues” and some problems will actually resolve themselves.
11. Handle Mail (or Email) Once. When you go through the mail apply the following formula: Delegate, Action (add to ‘To Do List’), File or Trash. Do not put aside to handle later or you simply end up with multiple piles of unaccomplished tasks.
12. Strive For Excellence, Not Perfection. Results come from taking action. By striving for perfection, you delay taking action or delegating tasks to others.
13. Learn to say NO. Those two letters are the best time-management tools there are.
A wise man once said, “When you spend your money, you can earn more. But, when you spend your time, it’s gone forever.”
Time is your most valuable asset. Invest it wisely!
If you would like to speak with one of our business coaches on how you can use your time more effectively contact us on 01 891 6220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org