Time – it’s our greatest asset. If you spend (or lose) money you can always make more money. But once you’ve spent your time it’s gone forever! This is why it’s critical to use your time wisely.
However, the fundamental problem is that you cannot manage. Time continues on minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and is the same for everyone. We cannot stop time, reverse time, or jump to another time. Successful entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson, have the same time available to them as you do – they just use it more effectively.
So, if we can’t manage time what can we manage? Time management is really SELF MANAGEMENT. It means changing your habits and using tools that will help you to make better use of the time that is available to you.
Here are some simple and practical tips and tools to make better use of your greatest asset …
Use To-Do Lists and a Diary
What I’ve found when working with business owners is that many feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks and ideas floating around in their heads. The first thing to try is getting all of those tasks out of your head and onto paper (or into Outlook Tasks). This will reduce the “mental energy” you have been wasting trying to remember everything, which you can now use on more worthwhile thoughts.
Once you have listed down ALL of your tasks and ideas, you can then scan this list and prioritise them. I normally recommend the Merc principle:
A Class: These are really important tasks which should be completed by you before anything else is done.
B Class: These are not so important and should only be completed when the A Class list has been completed.
C Class: These are tasks that are more a “nice to do” – there’s no real urgency but you’d like to keep a track of these potential improvements.
D Class: These are tasks YOU do not need to complete but which are important. These tasks should be Delegated to your team.
E Class: These are tasks which are not important at all and therefore you should Eliminate them!
At the end of every day work out which of the tasks on your Master To-Do List you want to do tomorrow and write these into your diary. It’s also a good habit to take notes during the day in your diary to keep track of people you’ve met, discussions you’ve had and any major learnings from the day.
Keep a Time Log for a Fortnight
This simple exercise will really highlight where you spend your time everyday. You’ll be able to sit back and evaluate where the time went, and I know that many of my clients have been surprised at what they actually do each day. It’ll be there on paper in front of you – the interruptions, the phone calls, the time wasted surfing the Net!
It’s always better to know than to stick your head in the sand and pretend that you’ve been more productive than you really are.
Click on the link below for a simple template that you can start using RIGHT NOW. Use a new sheet for each day and do this for 2 weeks …
My Time Log [link]
Create an Ideal Week Diary
This is basically a Time Budget for the week. What would your ideal week look like?
Firstly write down all of your regular tasks (e.g. sales calls, reviewing results, chasing debtors, banking, team meetings, etc) and then use the template below to block out time for each of these regular tasks. Remember to leave more time than normal for each task to cater for interruptions and phone calls.
This will give you much more structure and direction for the week. Setting aside a block of time for each major task means that you can focus on getting things done instead of wasting time chopping and changing from one thing to another. You could also try not taking phone calls or reading emails except for 2-3 times a day – it’s amazing what an interruption the phone and email can be when you’re in “the zone” getting things done.
You may not be able to stick to your Ideal Week Diary all of the time but if you aim for 70-80% of the time then you’ll be doing pretty well.
Ideal Week Diary [link]
Use The Time Management Grid
This is an excellent exercise that follows on from your Time Log. It will help you to evaluate which of your tasks require low/high skill and which tasks add low/high value to your business. Based on this you can work out which tasks to delegate or outsource to free up your time to spend on the higher value and higher skilled tasks.
The link below has step-by-step instructions on how to use the Time Management Grid.
Time Management Grid [link]
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
- Getting Things Done – David Allen
- Eat That Frog – Brian Tracy
I hope you find these practical tips and tools useful. If you need any help in applying these to your business then feel free to contact us. Take action NOW and use these techniques to improve the way that you are managing your time (and your self).