Why optimize your time?
Imagine the following: Getting up at dawn to catch up on work and prepare for the family’s day, reading 50-to-75 e-mails, searching the Web for relevant data, working on the deliverables for the client, marketing the business, doing bookkeeping and other routine chores.
An Orwellian nightmare? No, this is a typical day for an entrepreneur.
Over 2000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “The life of busy people is terribly brief. That is what people lose when they are too busy. They do not take the time to look at the past, and when they do, the memory of that for which they blame themselves is unpleasant…”
What entrepreneurs complain about most:
- Having too much work
- Frequently disrupted by the phone or other people
- Unclear mandates from clients
- Being called to last-minute meetings that take longer than expected · Unrealistic deadlines imposed
- Never having enough time to finish an important project that’s already been postponed 10 times
- Not having enough time to screen press releases · Limited time to conduct Web searches properly
Why there are time-management problems:
The first reason is personal. People lack awareness of the value and brevity of time.
“You live as if you shall live forever, never considering your own fragility, never seeing how much time has already passed, and losing time as if you had more and more forever…” (Seneca)
The busier you are, the more overworked and overwhelmed, the less you take time to stop. You accelerate the pace, push to work longer hours, slave away and exhaust yourself-when you should be doing the opposite. Analyze your use of time, the problems you encounter, their causes and the solutions to take. This is a well-known process in Total Quality Management.
The second reason is organizational. The problem lies in the dysfunctional organization of work:
- vague objectives
- changing priorities
- imposed deadlines
- unclear responsibilities
- blind rationalizations
- personality conflicts
- poor use of tools
Can you really save time?
Much more time than you think! Do you know how much time you waste every day doing the four Rs: repairing, repeating, reacting, redoing and ranting? Think of how much time is lost searching for misfiled documents, bothering coworkers for information, squandering time in unproductive meetings, repeating searches, writing analysis which no one reads, and so on.
With a little discipline, you can easily save half an hour a day-that’s three weeks a year!
How can you stop running?
By walking calmly and not being in a hurry. Working feverishly causes mistakes, and that means having to redo work. Move ahead with PAF-Preparation, Action and Follow-up. To do something well the first time, you have to hurry slowly. Before putting your head down and charging ahead, ask yourself the following questions.
- Why am I running? What is the result to produce or the goal to reach?
- Who am I running for? Is this work up to me?
- Why run? It’s often unnecessary. Suggest a realistic deadline. If you are valued, your boss or client will accept it happily.
Why are so many people running around so frantically? Because:
- Everybody else is
- They don’t have proper time-management techniques
- To get brownie points or pity
- They are hooked on the adrenaline generated by excitement.
How to avoid disruptions and still be available
What disrupts you the most? You will no doubt list the phone, other people (such as your colleagues, other clients, and visitors without appointments) and your work environment (open concept cubicles, noise, heat, comings and goings, etc.).
To deal with the phone:
Inform people when and where you can be easily reached, have your calls screened, and use voice mail to record and send messages. If you have access to such features, plan the forwarding of messages between your office, pager, cell phone and home.
To deal with disruptions:
Why are people bothering you? For information, for approval or to socialize? Don’t eliminate all disruptions, because meeting needs is part of your work, but you can reduce the frequency and duration. Have visitors screened, have someone else say, “He (she) is busy, may I help you?” Make known when you are available. Delegate clear mandates. Empower others to take initiative. Plan follow-up. Isolate yourself when you need to concentrate. Meet team members periodically for updates and listen to them. Set ground rules that facilitate concentration and cooperation. Follow the rules and make sure others do the same.
To deal with the work environment:
Change the direction of your workspace. Post a sign on your divider that says, “For information, contact ext. 295.” Politely ask your colleagues to not hold their hallway meetings beside your cubicle, or to not talk so loudly on the phone.
The biggest cause of distraction that most people forget to mention are themselves! Jot down a quick note when something comes to mind rather than interrupting what you’re doing. Work on one thing at a time. Gather everything you need before you start. Take breaks. Reschedule a complex task when you’re too tired.
When there are only 24 hours in a day, how can you do it all?
Believing you can do an unlimited number of things in a limited amount of time is an illusion. There are always more things to do than there is time. Your time and energy are limited. Others make requests, you must set your limits.
What’s important is not “doing it all” but rather “doing what’s most important.”
This is one of the secrets of very effective people-knowing how to concentrate on the essential. Prioritize and negotiate your commitments, taking into account your limits. This is how the proactive realist behaves, not according to what other people want (reacting naively).
How to say “No” without hurting the relationship.
In 80 percent of cases, you don’t have to say no to a competitive intelligence mandate. Suggest a “conditional yes” and the person asking will often be satisfied. Here is a list of possible replies.
- Yes, I can do what you’re asking, but only in part
- Yes, but delegated to someone else
- Yes, but I will need some assistance from a colleague
Do you want to give good service? Suggest two options and then let the person asking decide what’s best.
Do you truly have to say no? Say “Yes” to the asker, adding “I’d like to be able to help you.” Politely decline the request by explaining why, “But I have to complete a deliverable first.” Don’t let the asker go away empty-handed; end your conversation with, “I suggest…did you think of…next time…”
Which risk would you prefer to take, to always say yes and risk losing your reputation, or to negotiate when you say yes to maintain your reliability? Other people are like you, they respect people who respect themselves.
How to stick to your priorities The process is simple: make a list, assess the time required, schedule it in your planner, start with the top priority, tick it off your list when you’re done, then go on to the next priority.
Are there too many things on the list? Next time, make the list more realistic.
Following through on your priorities is tough because it means:
- Making choices
- Concentrating on one thing at a time
- Refusing requests from others
- Negotiating, and renegotiating new priorities with your clients Prioritizing means making choices. That takes courage. Sticking to your priorities means being persistent and that takes determination.
How to accomplish projects you never have time for?
“After I get my regular work done, after I get the extra assignments done, after I’ve taken care of the emergencies, I’ll start that project so dear to my heart.” Your heart may have to wait a long time.
Your project will get done only if you make it a real objective. Draw up a plan and prioritize the things you like to do as you would the other priorities at work, blocking the time you need in your planner. And when the time comes to do it, don’t decide to do something else!
How to get what you want from others:
There are two typical situations.
- You delegate a task. You want quality work, done on time
- You need someone else’s work to be able to do yours.
But that person doesn’t work for you. How can you get other people to meet their commitments? Begin by delegating clear assignments. Remember RDI (Results, Deadlines, Instructions).
- What results do you want from the other person?
- When do you need the work and what deadline is the person ready to commit to? · What information, documents or resources does that person need to do the work properly?
When you delegate a task, you don’t get what you asked for but rather what the person understood. Check their understanding before ending the meeting or the call. Agree to follow up, making note of it in your planner. Whenever you have a doubt, check on progress a few days before the deadline, to prevent unpleasant surprises.
Tips : How to discipline yourself.
Some people keep searching for new techniques instead of applying those they already know. Why? To avoid the effort and fear involved in modifying any behavior.
There are three steps to turning a dream into reality: to desire it (imagination), to will it (determination) and to do it (action).
- Disciplining yourself means being strict with yourself, punctual, focused and flexible.
- Concentrate on making one change at a time. You will get great results by making small changes every day.
- Respect your personality, pace and needs. What suits your neighbor may not suit you.
- Reward your progress, don’t force yourself to do the impossible. You don’t have to suffer to succeed.
- Get organized. Tidy your papers, files and office regularly. Learn to use your tools-your planner, telephone, fax machine, computer, etc.-and use them well. You manage your time for yourself, not for other people. Your time is your life. Doesn’t it deserve a little effort?
How to master your time.
Mastering your time-and therefore yourself-is the result of long practice. It’s never too late to start.
Recommended Books on Time Management:
- Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule — and Your Life
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Time Management In an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day (In an Instant (Career Press))
- Successful Time Management For Dummies
Article written by Francois Gamonnet.