The fallacy of “time management” is something business owners have been pursuing since the beginning of time. But it’s really difficult to manage your time. So you have to reframe your view of time.
You’ve probably heard the money management and budgeting phrase – “you’ve got to tell your money where to go”. The same thing applies to time. You have to tell your time where to go.
How do you do this?
Step one is to have a plan for the following day or following week. What do you want to accomplish? What are the steps you need to take tomorrow to move your business forward? And you have to be honest with yourself. You have to understand yourself well enough to know what you actually WILL do … not what you think you SHOULD do. Tony Robbins is famous for the quote “shoulding all over yourself”. The premise of this is that you should focus on what you will do, not what you should do. Otherwise, you end up shoulding all over yourself.
The second step, after creating your plan for the next day, is to assign each task to a specific time. For example, you will make cold calls between 9:00 am and 10:00 am. From 10:00 am to 11:00 am, you will follow up with prospects. From 11:00 to 12:00, you will work on a marketing piece for your business. From 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, you will return any missed calls. You get the idea. Tell your time where to go for each hour of the day.
The third step is to turn off your cell phone when you are working on a task to avoid interruptions. This is a hard one for most people. But it is actually a courtesy to anyone who calls. By having a set time every day for returning phone calls, you can give whoever is calling your undivided attention without distractions when you return their call. Click here to check out a related article in Fast Company magazine about task switching.
Also, consider this … if you are working on Project A and you take a call concerning Project B, it takes time to get your mind focused on Project A again. So you lose that time. Over a period of a full 10-hour day, that could mean another hour or more of unproductive time that you can’t get back. And as I mentioned earlier, you can give your prospect or client your undivided attention when you return their call.
Oh and one more thing. Avoid falling into a “digital hole”. We’ve all done this. You are working on a task that requires you to do some research online. You open your browser and there is a news story you are interested in. You click the link for a quick read and then before you know it, you are reading another related article, then another. An hour later, you are asking yourself where your time went. This is what I mean by falling into the “digital hole”.
I hope you will consider the steps above to take control of your time. Think about it this way. If you lose an hour a day fielding calls during a 5 day workweek and allowing people to interrupt your day, it could add up to five hours per week or 260 hours per year. That is 6.5 weeks. This is over a month and a half of wasted, unproductive time.
Almost everyone struggles with having enough time. Think about what you could do with an extra month per year.