So you think you’re organized? Maybe that’s true of your dusty, messy desk that you cleaned up just the other day. Windex, Pledge, a few file folders and a shredder can work wonders, it’s true. However, have you given the same degree of thought to organizing your time?
Getting added value out of the oh-so-limited time you have at work can be critical to your success. Why not add to your list of New Year’s resolutions the commitment to manage your time more effectively in 2011?
If you’re anything like most other home-based or other small business owners, wearing different hats and jumping from job to job and task to task during the course of a single day or even a single hour is commonplace. Running so fast and furious all the time, you may feel like a bit more focus on maximizing your efficiency and productivity is in order.
As we all know too well, there are only 24 hours in a day. Given this tremendously inconvenient limitation, I submit that this whole concept of “time management” is actually a misnomer. After all, you can’t ever really manage time…it just marches on and waits for no man (or woman), right? What you really need to focus on is how to more aptly manage yourself.
Managing yourself requires dedication, a plan and focus, which then pay off in the form of greater productivity and hopefully more revenue. Increased profitability is often a great, potential side effect of better self-management.
So, how do you “manage yourself” more effectively, and what steps can you take in this direction? Here are my tips to better self-management in 2011:
- First, you’ll need to have a realistic understanding and appreciation for exactly what it is you do in a typical one-week cycle, what activities you make a priority and why. If you haven’t ever taken the time to map out your work week, you may be in for a shock. Oftentimes the things that take up the most time in our day are the ones we think about the least. Take five work days (or more) to write down everything that you do, as well as when and how long you do it. Keep detailed notes. Commit to doing this for one week without changing your normal routine. You’ll soon start to see patterns. Despite the fact that you may become aware of where you can begin to make improvements, you must resist the urge to change anything at this early stage. Just keep doing everything you would normally do in an “average” week until this exercise has been completed. Use your smart phone, a piece of paper or whatever you need to that’s quick and easy, so that the task of keeping a record is as simple as possible. Whatever note-taking approach you use, make sure it’s accessible and with you at all times, or you won’t follow through. Do not try and use your memory. Only by writing everything down with start and completion times will you be able to review everything the way you need to later. Make note of even the shortest and slightest tasks, like phone calls and even a coffee or food break. Consider using iCal if you use a MAC or even Outlook; and if you want to invest in some task/time-tracking software, here are a few ideas for you: https://www.cyber-matrix.com/project_clock.html; https://www.timewriter.com/; https://www.spudcity.com/traxtime/; https://www.dovico.com/dovico_timesheet/timesheet_management_features.aspx
- Now that you have spent a week detailing what you typically do, it’s time for you to analyze the “data.” The best way to get started is to break the week down into days and hours, if you haven’t already done so. Next, you need to analyze your findings to figure out where you’re wasting the most time in the most unfocused ways. More often than not, these kinds of things will jump out at you pretty readily.
- The next step is to design a new self-management plan. Changing your behavior means being honest with yourself. Where are you wasting time the most? Do you really need to take every phone call that comes in right that minute, especially when it detracts you from getting a deadline met? Are you spending too much time chatting with current customers, when you need to be drumming up new ones? If you can make the conscious decision to stay away from tasks that are less important, your newfound focus on what is most critical for success might allow you to take some risks for a change. Who knows, you might even find you can bite off more than you ever thought you could chew and feel good about it for a change. Be careful not to over schedule yourself or assign yourself too many tasks at first. Keep in mind that good self-evaluation and any subsequent and meaningful change is always conscious and starts out slowly. Becoming more focused and productive is a process, one that may take weeks or even months. Get started by setting aside a minimum of ten minutes each day at a specific time of day to focus and articulate to yourself what it is you need/want to get accomplished before the day, week or month is out. It takes a fair degree of discipline to do this in a regimented way, but it’s worth it when you start to see results.
- Once you’ve mastered the planning process for focusing your energies and doing things differently, it is time take action. Start by cutting out the small things that you identified as “time-suckers,” as I like to call them. Taking personal calls from friends or even family during scheduled work time is just one example of something that can easily be reprioritized, unless there is an emergency of course. Managing yourself and how you spend your precious time means dealing with the smaller issues before delving deeper into the larger challenges. Remember to always assign time limits to your tasks, no matter what their size. Then do your best to stick to it.
The key to focusing your energies so that you can maximize your productivity and contentment at work is consciousness. Be conscious of what it is you’re spending your time doing. Be conscious of what it is your employees are spending the most time on. Stop and make a plan for how to refocus your and their energies and then take the steps to change the way you get things done in 2011 ― one day, one week, one month at a time.
A toast to you and your newly focused self, as well as your team, in the New Year!
Carpe Diem My Friends!