“Time management strategies? Most of the time I’m too busy for any time management strategies!”
“Time management strategies? Oh! my favourite one is: love at first sight!“
These were 2 of the answers that had me cracking up at a recent time management workshop I conducted. Serve me right for asking…right?
But if you’re an entrepreneur or a small business CEO (as in Chief Everything Officer) I know you believe that time management strategies have to be your keys to success.
And perhaps you’re right. But here’s the bottom line…
Whatever you do, whatever techniques you use, however you measure it, time flows unaffectedly on. Completely oblivious to your efforts.
A day is 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. And not even the greatest time management strategies can help you change that.
And forgetting this is where you run into trouble.
If you could just devise your time management strategies around understanding how time works and how to organize yourself to take advantage of this, you would reach your goals faster.
So here are 7 easy, unusual approaches you can use to manage yourself in the time available to you and reach your goals.
As a matter of fact, you can also think of it as part of your professional development.
So if you’re ready, let’s dive right in…
1. Understand the true nature of time
If you ask for a definition of time management, you would get something like:
It is the process of organizing and planning how to allocate your time between different tasks and activities…(according to mindtools)
Many people expound on time management, but do they understand the true nature of time? I doubt it.
First of all, time is neutral – it favours nobody. Both you and I have equal access to it. How you access and how you use it when you get some, is entirely up to you.
Then it is also a good “blamer”. When you meet a deadline you pat yourself on the back and declare yourself an awesome time manager. When you miss a deadline, of course time was against you.
I bet you know it’s also an “emotion”. When you’re spending time with a loved one, it’s such a wonderful thing and it sure as hell flies!
But when you’re sitting in an exam room and you’re not prepared, it’s an excruciating wait.
Time is also a commodity. You can exchange it for anything including money, learning, fun and of course, sex.
When you understand the nature of time, you are in a better position to know how you feel about it, how you will spend it and how you will save it.
2. Know the difference between activity and productivity in time management
I don’t mean to confuse you but I believe you know what I’m talking about.
You have a proposal to write and it has a deadline too but for some reason, you’re not “feeling” it. (time is an emotion, remember?)
So guilt sets in and forces you to tell yourself you must do better at this “time management” thing. You cannot waste the two hours you have. You have to do something…
So what do you do?
You tidy your desk, shred lots of paper after reading them, and place some loose documents in folders and file them away. Oh! you’ve been so busy…
Yes, the ACTIVITY was great but what about the PRODUCTIVITY? What have you done about actually writing your proposal?
What should you have done with the 2 hours?
Well, before you started, you should have determined some definite objective you wanted to achieve.
In this case it could’ve been to write the outline, research the technical areas, write the first 4 pages or anything to move the project along.
In that way your activity would’ve resulted in productivity.
3. Avoid being sucked into non-productive black holes
Is this familiar to you?
You are writing a business plan that’s fairly urgent and fairly important and it’s really flowing.
But then your phone rings and you notice it’s your friend you haven’t heard in ages and ages. So you will talk to him for just 5 minutes…and you need the break anyway…
The minute you answer the phone, you are sucked into a non-productive black hole.
You will “catch up” for an hour. Then kick yourself for half an hour after you hang up. And become really irate when you can’t remember the point you were about to make when the phone rang.
What can you do instead?
Design an “attention space” of at least 90 minutes. Yeah…90 minutes. In this space, concentrate on being productive.
I say “design” because before you enter this space, you would have determined a goal for the space.
Turn off you phone, refuse to turn on the TV and do whatever else it takes to help you to avoid the black holes that can suck in your productivity.
I want you to note this is not about time management but about your self- control.
4. Understand and use your circadian rhythm effectively
Don’t let the word “circadian” frighten you.
I’m sure you would have heard someone claim “I’m a morning person” and you might have immediately replied “Not me! I’m a nighttime person!” Well, what you’re talking about is your circadian rhythms.
Knowing those times of day when you are most alert and those times when you’re not, should be key to how you schedule your workflow.
Remember, you’re controlling you so you can get the most out out of the time available to you.
So here’s what to do…
If you don’t already know your circadian rhythm, observe yourself over the course of about a week and note the times in a day when your energy is at a high and when it is at its lowest.
For example mine is highest in the morning between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again at night between 6 p.m. and 12 midnight.
Now make your circadian rhythm work for you.
Schedule difficult tasks, those requiring a high degree of concentration or those you don’t like doing, when your energy is likely to be high.
On the other hand, plan to do things that you like to do or things that don’t require much thought when your energy is likely to be low.
Simple as it may seem, this approach can help you turn small business failure into success.
5. Determine completion criteria for your important tasks
“Completion what?” I can hear you saying…But wait! Hear me out!
Completion Criteria is a signal or an indication that you establish for important things you have to do, that lets you know that those tasks are complete.
No, I’m not crazy and this approach will increase your productivity more than the others combined.
For example, you have to prepare and send a document to a client and you’re facing a tight deadline. Just as you finished typing the client called and you promised you will email it shortly.
But you didn’t factor in the editing and this takes another hour and a half.
If you had criteria for completing a document, it would be something like “documents are complete only when they are edited and corrected”.
In this way, you would have been able to give your client a better estimate of when you could send the document.
How to make this work for you?
Determine completion criteria for any important activity or project you have to do and refuse to move to the next activity or the next level until you have satisfied that criteria.
Big tip: Establishing completion criteria for “ready” when you’re leaving home, helps you get out of the house faster!
6. Cut yourself some “Time Management” slack
Listen, you can just admit it. The very thought of time management creates stress.
You start thinking that you have to be in control of every minute in a day. Then you have to do this when…you allocate time for something and you set the timer…
Say what? Really? To me that is a load of bovine feces.
When I teach my clients to prepare personal budgets, I show them how to include “lickout” money.
And when I show them how to get more done in available time, I insist that they just cut themselves some slack and breathe out.
Everyday should have some “breathe out” time in it otherwise your “stress out” time increases.
How does it work?
Well, you create a little time in every day, a space I call it, in which you do nothing on your agendas or your lists.
How much time is up to you but start with a minimum of 15 minutes and don’t make it so long that you start to feel guilty. This happens when you go past an hour.
In your “breathe out” time, you can do what you want as long as it’s relaxing and takes your thoughts away from work during that time.
So go on, cut yourself some slack, breathe out, and give your time management efforts a big boost!
7. Be aware of the emotion you bring to a task
I never thought this mattered.
But one day, I was ironing some clothes and chatting with my friend who was watching me with this strange expression on her face. Then she said:
Lorna! You like ironing?
I don’t know…why you ask?
You don’t know? You mad? How could you not know and doing it so easily?
I didn’t know if I like ironing or not but I knew that outsourcing it was very frustrating and ironing every time I had to leave home was equally frustrating.
But more importantly, I know that if you have to do something, adding a whole lot of negative emotions on top of the thing itself, leads to procrastination. And procrastination they say, is the thief of time.
So what do you need to know?
Know that there’s usually some distance between what must be done and what you like doing.
Also know that successful people reduce that distance by not allowing negative emotions to control their approach to doing what they have to do.
And you can too. Start practicing now. It will be challenging at first but when you can swing it, you will give your time management efforts a big boost!
Your next “time management” step
I know you’re busy and you want to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of the time available to you.
And now you can.
I’ve given you 7 of my time management. Yes they’re unusual but they’re the easiest of all those I have in my “Peak Performance” trunk.
I’ve chosen to give them to you right now, when I know you really want to reach your goals for yourself and your business.
You’re not just going to read them and prevent them from even even entering your consciousness, are you?
Ahh…I thought not.
Whatever happened before, however much you have struggled before…your time is now.
Implement just 2 or 3 right of these strategies now and watch your business and your success grow!
To your “time management” success!