If your answer to “How are you?” seems to always be “BUSY”, this may be a good time to take a closer look at your most valuable resource. How can you make sure that “busy” also means productive? How can you take control of your time? First make the decision that now is the time and commit to the following:
Your time audit
When it comes to planning, there is only one thing worse than not knowing where you are going, and that is to not know where you are. The same is true of your time. All the time management tips in the world will not help you if at first you don’t identify where your time is currently spent. Here is one way to take care of this:
The tool to use is a “time inventory sheet”. Nothing too sophisticated – there is no time for that.
On the left side of a sheet of paper, make a column and list items you spend (or invest) your time such as: phone calls, meetings, reports, planning, sales calls, email, social media, etc. Remember to include idle time, personal calls, interruptions, waiting, travel time, etc.
Make columns representing 15-minute increments across the top of the page, i.e. 7:00 a.m., 7:15 a.m., 7:30 a.m., etc.
For one week, keep track of where your time goes by checking the appropriate box representing your dominant activity for each 15-minute increment. Take 15 or 30 minutes and study the worksheets. Be prepared, the results will amaze you.
Although your results may be different, some of the most common time wasters identified by the time inventory process are: attempting too much, interruptions, incomplete tasks (start/stop), lack of priorities, disorganization, socializing (including social media), and unproductive meetings.
Based on these findings, here are some strategies to help you manage your time better.
Plan your day
First thing in the morning or the night before, make a list of tasks, assign each a priority and estimate how long each will take to complete. Be flexible and expect the unexpected by scheduling no more than 70% or 80% of your day.
Choose the five most important tasks and begin your day by tackling No.1, then No.2, and so on. You may still go through the day and only get two or three projects done, but they will be the most important ones. What a feeling!
Here is an easy to remember and great rule to follow: Plan your day every day, your week every week, your month every month, your quarter every quarter and your year every year.
Use a day planner
Smart phones make this very easy, so if you have one, take advantage of it. If not, choose the planner you’ll use carefully by considering its size, accessories, etc. so it will be convenient to carry with you most if not all the time.
Having your schedule on your work computer alone is not a substitute for this, as you’ll not have it with you when you need it.
Use the same planner or device for both personal and business activities to avoid conflicts arising from over commitment or double bookings. Make sure it covers your daily appointments, to-do list, notes, etc.
If you are not well organized, a good portion of your day goes into locating misplaced items and being reminded of commitments you made but forgot. Both of these disrupt your day, increase your anxiety level and, as a result, slow you down.
Schedule a portion of the day to work uninterrupted. You will most likely get a lot more done during this time than the rest of the day. You can find this block of time by starting an hour earlier, leaving and hour later, using your lunchtime, or scheduling an appointment with yourself.
Concentrate on the project at hand. Don’t work on the report thinking about your game while trying to answer your child’s question on why frogs are green all at once. Whether working on a report, talking to your child, or playing your favorite game, focus on one and enjoy the moment. The quality of your work, your game and your relationships will improve dramatically and you’ll be surprised at how much more efficient you will be.
As a good friend once said, “When you are there, be there.”
Do It Now
If you suffer from “analysis paralysis,” you are wasting precious time and you will lose out on great opportunities. Avoid procrastination and indecision. Although it is good to have all the facts before making a decision, it rarely happens.
Make it a habit to decide quickly, especially on small things. This prepares you for making quicker decisions overall and it gives you extra time to spend where it really counts.
And one more thing…
One item that falls outside the scope of this article but is a critical prerequisite to any serious time-management program is “goal setting”.
Before beginning your time management commitment, or shortly afterwards, take the time to identify your long-term goals and plan the necessary steps to achieve each of them.
Clear goals will help you resolve possible conflicts. Your time-management program will ensure that your daily tasks are prioritized in a way that will help you achieve your long-term goals.
Our quest for success presents each of us with a unique set of challenges. Take action to ensure that lack of time is not one of them. You can do it, so do it now.
John Kypriotakis is the President of Lysis International,
a Tampa based Sales and Management consulting firm,
specializing in B2B Sales, Management and Leadership.