Everybody wastes time but effective people waste less of it.
Time is equally distributed to all – but the ability to use it is not.
Good time managers never say “I haven’t got the time!” They know that they have the same number of hours per day as Shakespeare, Marie Curie, Bill Gates and Mother Theresa!
How do you pack your suitcase?
They know that days are like identical suitcases – all the same size – but somehow they manage to pack more into their suitcase than others.
They understand that time is their most perishable resource and that the things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least. They are brilliant at “planning the work” then “working the plan.” They are governed by the compass not the clock. They do not confuse motion with progress – a rocking horse keeps moving but makes no progress!
“There is one kind of robber who the law does not strike at and who steals what is most precious…………time!” Napoleon
The good news is that time management is “learned behaviour” so let’s see what we can learn from exceptional time managers:-
1. THE MAIN THING ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE MAIN THING REMAINS THE MAIN THING!
To achieve more you have to do less! Stay focused on the one thing (or few things) that actually make a difference. Ask yourself “What’s the one thing I can do which, by doing it, will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there!
“My job is to sing the songs……not to move the *x%$*x* piano!”
2. SCRAP YOUR “THINGS TO DO” LIST
“The key to success is not the masses of things we do…… but the small handful of things we do well”
The very language “daily things to do list” focuses on the urgent and the “now”. According to writer Gary Keller “things to do lists are the product of the time-management industry and, although they serve as a useful collection of our best intentions, too often they tyrannise us with trivial, unimportant, urgent “stuff” and other peoples’ work and demands. We feel obligated to get things done because they are on our list, but long hours ticking off the list, filling the waste bin with bits of paper and ending the day with a nice clean desk have little to do with success. The key to success is not the masses of things we do…… but the small handful of things we do well!” We need to focus on “business” not busyness. We need to focus on a small number of high-impact items not (as often happens) a high number of trivial small items.
3. WORK WITH S.M.A.R.T. OBJECTIVES
Yes S.M.A.R.T. has been around for years but it does work! If you have ever muttered the words “I’m going to lose weight” or “I want to get fitter” then wondered why you have made little progress it may be because your objectives were never “objectives” they were nothing more than dreams! For an “objective” to be exactly that, it needs to be S…specific M…measurable A…achievable R…relevant T…timed. So maybe a SMARTER version of the comment above would be to say “I am going to lose 20lbs by the end of March, as a result of going to the gym three times per week, not snacking and walking the dog each day for 45 minutes.”
4. BACKWARD PLAN
Start with the end in mind then plan “backwards” to work out how you are going to achieve your SMART objectives. For example, if you have to achieve £100k of sales in 22 working days your backward plan might look like this.
Use a backward plan to achieve your SMART objectives
From the look of this backward plan you can see that the target of £100,000 can be achieved with 2 days spare
Delegate, delegate, delegate
Sometimes we ask ourselves the wrong question when a task hits our desk or appears on the screen. We ask ourselves “Can I do this task better or quicker than anyone else?” Often the answer is “Yes!” so guess what……..we go ahead and do it!
Yes, we can probably do it better and quicker than anyone else. We have the experience and we have the skills to do it. And, of course, we like to help people ……..so we go ahead and help them!
The right question we should ask ourselves is “Is this task the best use of my time bearing in mind my objectives?” Now the answer will probably be “No!” so we need to delegate the task and stay focused on what we should be doing. Never tell people how to do things – tell them what outcome you are looking for and why and they will surprise you with their creativity. If they help plan the battle they won’t battle the plan!
“If I give a hungry man a fish I feed him for a day If I teach him to fish I feed him for life!”
6. THROW AWAY YOUR IN-TRAY
If you have an in-tray you will put things in it. Years later, as your career develops and you reach the dizzy heights of the boardroom you will probably have a five-tiered in-tray with nice gold rods in between each layer (!) Throw it away and adopt the 4D approach to life:-
- Do it now! (don’t carry it around with you or re-read it later)
- Delegate it (covered earlier)
- Delay it (probably because it is important but not urgent)
- Dump it
7. MANAGE YOUR DIARY
There are a number of things we can do here:-
- The most effective time managers use a “month at a glance” diary. They can see the big picture.
- At the end of a meeting book the next appointment whilst you are there
- Build in quality thinking time…… “ a rested field gives a beautiful crop!” Maybe a couple of 90 minute slots are needed each month where you switch off the mobile and switch on your ability to see how things are going.
Think of the military mnemonic O.P.E.R.A. – objective, plan, execute, review and amend. Quality thinking time allows you to “review and amend”. So where are you going to do this quality thinking time? It doesn’t really matter.
For some it is at home, for others it is during a proper lunch break or when you stop the car and set up camp in a hotel reception area with a pot of tea. It is probably not when you are driving. Invest time in this under-rated thoughtful activity and don’t feel guilty if you are caught “thinking!”
“If I had six hours to chop down a tree I would spend five hours sharpening my axe!”
8. FOCUS ON ONE TIME-STEALER OF THE WEEK
Don’t try and improve all aspects of time management in one week. If you focus on one “time stealer” each week you will probably get a much better result. For example:-
- Week one – delegation
- Week two – improving journey planning
- Week three – more effective meetings
- Week four – handling interruptions at work
9. GET TO THE POINT
You don’t need to be rude here but if you want to be a good time manager there are some occasions when you need to encourage people to get to the point:-
- If the phone rings and you say “How are you Pete?” don’t be surprised if Pete talks for 20 minutes about his work pressures, life at home, his football team and his poorly cat. Try “How can I help you Pete?” Now Pete will get to the point.
- If Sue comes into your office and says “Have you got a minute” don’t say “Yes Sue, have a seat” then wonder why she is still there 25 minutes later. Try standing up to greet Sue and say “Yes, literally that……one minute……how can I help you Sue?”
10. BECOME A GOOD TIME MANAGER AT HOME
Keep on top of family life
Sometimes we forget that time management is not a work skill, it is a life skill. Try being a great time manager around the clock. Remember and manage the important things at home:-
- Being there on sports day
- Parent-teacher evenings
- School plays
Don’t fool yourself. When you are away on business (again) it is tempting to think or say “I’m doing all of this for you, kids!”
They know you are making the years of their young lives better and happier, but sometimes all that really matters to them is a small number of important days!
Phil Jesson is a speaker, consultant, coach and author in all aspects of key account management. You can contact Phil here: firstname.lastname@example.org, 0116 259 7744
07774 241207 www.kamguru.com
- Phil Jesson is a leading expert and professional speaker in key account management and employee engagement
- He has worked with many blue-chip organisations and is equally at home with SMEs.
- He introduces amusing, thought-provoking insights that stimulate the actions needed to produce sustainable changes in behaviour and results.
- He is the author of the recently published “Piranhas In The Bidet” which has received many five-star reviews from its inspired and happy readers.
- Phil believes that the most important part of his keynotes and workshops are the days that follow and is therefore committed to helping clients during the implementation phase of any assignment. As Phil puts it “a good plan actioned today is better than a perfect plan actioned in three months time!”
- He lives in Leicestershire with his wife, Joanna, who is also his business partner. Together they run their management consultancy, Business Pulse, and they are also licensees for The Academy for Chief Executives in the Peterborough, Northampton, Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Stevenage area.
- In his spare time Phil enjoys walking and playing the drums. He watches Aston Villa on Saturdays but often “seeks counselling on Mondays!”