By Adrian Pepper
Why is everyone so busy nowadays? When I negotiate a meeting time with a new client, we rarely find that gaps in our diaries overlap in the next two weeks and we usually have to find time more than 15 days away. In business, I think that time is more important than money because it appears that time is the only resource that is truly constrained. In fact, I believe that as your diary or calendar fills up, your business slows down.
This makes management of your time a vital business skill (and habit) that you need to learn. I teach my clients to manage their diaries and work plans in four simple steps that they can choose to implement on a daily, weekly or monthly cycle as suits their industry and personality.
Decide what not to do
Firstly, sit down and list the 20 things you are doing. Remembering to give yourself permission ‘not to be perfect’, read down your list and eliminate the 10 activities that deliver the least value to your business.
Depending on their nature, either delegate these low-value activities or stop doing them altogether. Having chopped out your "To-Don'ts", you now have time for the remaining "To-Dos" and you can focus on adding value to your business.
Bite off sufficient to chew
Where you have a big task to do, don’t treat it as an elephant to be eaten in one meal. Instead break your elephantine task into five, smaller components, each with a defined end-point or deliverable outcome.
Now you can set a priority on each part and estimate the resources and time you need to digest that component of the elephant. As you achieve each milestone, you can reward yourself and be encouraged by your visible progress.
Sweep the small stuff together
If you have a morass of small daily actions that drown you, manage them as clustered items. Try to do your photocopying in 20-minute chunks, to make your phone calls in half-hour sessions, read your mail in 40-minute slots and to file your papers in 15-minute intervals. Set your own durations for these clustered items long enough to achieve satisfaction but not so long as to get jaded.
When you deal with your mail and email, make your actions immediate: delete dead files, mark your decision on short papers, pile up longer papers for a future reading period, relay decisions for other to act, and mark appointments and future notes in your diary.
Some activities can be condensed into specific times of the day that match your body clock: have a quiet time for reading major documents, fix a "go for" time to do errands, get stationery and make small purchases and agree a 'walk about' schedule when you can visit your staff.
Get your priorities right
Of course how you plan to spend your time will always be upset by the reality of customers calling, staff needing help and stuff happening. The value of a good plan is in your ability to re-plan. I suggest that a major element in successfully managing your time is to know the priority that you place on your activities now. So on that list of "to do" activities, rank them from first priority down to tenth priority. Then as new items come in, you can decide where they fit into your ranking.
I have yet to hear of anyone who on their deathbed has said, "I wish I had spent more time at work". So I coach my clients using the 'wheel of life' to help them balance their efforts on what they value: business, family, friends, self-development, sport and other passions.
For those clients who run profitable businesses, I also remind them to plan time to work on the business: they should not restrict their time management to work in their business.
Adrian Pepper coaches people through business and personal difficulties, helping companies figure out what to do, how to move forward and what to get organised. You can contact him through Help4You Ltd, through his website at http://www.help4you.ltd.uk or by phone +44-7773-380133. At http://feeds.feedburner.com/help4you, you can listen to his podcast for small businesses.