Avoiding Distractions and 9 Other Keys to Effective Time Management
Hello small business owners. Have you ever had a bunch of things to do in a day or you feel like things are piling up on you and you feel like you are just going to be snowed under?
I do from time-to-time and a great principle that I work with or a great way to keep the piling in from happening is a process called time capsules.
My friend Howard Partridge, who happens to be the exclusive small business coach for the Zig Ziglar Corporation which I think is pretty cool, is also my business coach and he introduced me to the idea of time capsuling.
Time capsules are where you have a certain set apart time to work on different projects. Let’s say you have 3 different projects. You need to get these things done at a certain time and it is an ongoing process.
A time capsule is when you decide that from 8 o’clock to 10 o’clock you will be working on this project.
During that time you will not allow anything to penetrate that time capsule, not even a phone call, email, television, radio, staff members, or your spouse if that is what it takes.
Howard Partridge is one of the best examples of that I have ever seen. It is not a surprising fact that he gets the most done.
He is very effective with his time and so I would like to spend a short amount of time kind of going through his schedule the best I know it, and I’m not here to say that I know his schedule.
He gets up early in the morning for his personal time with the Lord and I think it is 4 o’clock to about 6 o’clock. He is reading the bible. He is praying. He is meditating. He is thinking about the Lord and starting the day off right, which I think is very, very important and I’m trying to do the same thing, just not at 4 o’clock.
From 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock he has another time capsule and that is the time for him to spend time with his wife, cook breakfast, drink coffee, read the paper, and kind of get started in the day, but it is a process of time capsuling.
I challenge you to try time capsules to make time management work for you, but if that doesn’t work I have 10 steps to make time management work for you.
In the quest for better time management we have all been flooded with a large variety of gizmos, tools, and programs invented to help us more effectively manage our time. These tools and programs make big claims. They say “We’ll help you do this,” but most fail to help us achieve that ultimate nirvana of time management that we desire.
We all want to be efficient. We all want to produce. We all want to have the results that we want, but what is it that keeps us from achieving that? I would submit that it is ourselves, that a lack of discipline is probably the biggest reason why we struggle in making time management work for us.
Here are 10 steps that if followed will ensure time management works for you.
1.Kick the habit.
Kick the habit. There again it comes right back to discipline. Like many poor habits, poor time management is a behavior that has been developed over time. The first step in kicking the habit is to recognize that you have a problem and then to make a firm commitment to do something about it.
I have also heard before that if you have a problem it is over 50% solved when you admit that hey, “I have a problem.” If you are a poor time manager, I want you to raise your hand right now and say “I am a poor time manager.”
Effective planning. Similar to the other disciplines, effective time management is a discipline that can be learned and mastered over time. You are not going to get it right the first time. I am reminded of the quote, I’m not sure who coined it, but “anything that is worth doing is worth doing poorly until you have figured out how to do it properly.”
The key principle to effective time management is planning. It has been shown that for every minute you spend in planning 10 minutes is saved in execution.
3.Plan each day in advance.
Plan each day in advance. The first step is to plan each day in advance, whether you use a day planner, PDA device, or an electronic calendar. Find the tools that work best for you.
Sit down each night and carefully plan out your next day. Ask yourself, what is the most important use of my time and where do I bring the greatest value to my organization.
4.Develop your daily plan by ranking your tasks.
Develop your daily plan by ranking your tasks with the key tasks that must be accomplished based on the answers to the two questions above. Once you have listed these vital tasks, then rank them accordingly using the ABCD method.
Basically, what that means is that once you plan out your day in advance, once you accomplish step 3, then you need to develop your daily plan by ranking the tasks. Decide what the most important things to do are and rank them. Usually what I do is use the ABCs, A being the most important thing that needs to get done right away.
Planning your day the night before has some other benefits as well. One key benefit is that you will sleep better as your conscious mind can rest because you have written down what must be accomplished and you don’t have to worry about remembering every task.
Your subconscious mind can then go to work on these issues while you sleep. I know that for a fact because whenever I do feel like things are caving in and there is just not enough time in the day to do what I want to do, I use this simple process. I know it works and I sleep very well at night.
5.Block the scheduling.
Block the scheduling. After you develop your daily plan by ranking the tasks, block the scheduling. Look at your day as a block of time put together. We call this block scheduling. Start with the hour blocks and then as you get more practice and become more proficient at budgeting your time you will look at 30 minute blocks of time.
If you look at my calendar you will see that I view my time in hour increments. Eventually, once I need more time in the day I will look at the 30 minute blocks, but right now it is an hour at a time. I plan my day by the hour.
6.Mark your calendar.
Mark your calendar with these blocks of time. Some of the most effective time managers look at their day in 15 minute increments. Take the ranked tasks from your list and insert them into the blocks of time in your calendar, starting with the most important task first.
There are several different variations of that. If you don’t use a digital calendar you can rank them and block them out with a day planner or whatever you use, but definitely you want to set up a block structure for your time.
7.Determine what time in the day you will set aside for each task.
Determine what time in the day you will set aside for each task. Morning time is usually the best time to tackle your most difficult and your highest priority tasks or the ones that you really don’t want to handle.
Do those right away because then as the day goes on and you get tired you also will become less energetic to handle the bigger projects. I always try to handle the big projects in the morning and then I can follow up on the small things in the evening.
8.Prioritize and focus to reach completion.
Prioritize and focus to reach completion. Jump right in and begin on the most important, highest value task immediately. Focus single-mindedly on starting and finishing this task and do not deviate from your plan. One of the biggest enemies of time management that I have found is the practice of starting several tasks, but never finishing any of them.
People that know me know that I’m always looking for different opportunities and I kind of have to focus, focus, focus. A great prompting question that I have learned to ask myself is this… Is this the most important thing I should be doing right here, right now? Another key to successful block scheduling is not getting derailed from your plan.
Minimize distraction. Distractions like the phone, the internet, Facebook, email, coworkers, even internal distractions such as daydreaming can and will work to thwart your plan. Make the necessary arrangements to keep these distractions to a minimum.
One thing that I do when I’m on a call or when I’m on a conference call is I turn off all of my computers where they do not get any email notifications. My phone usually goes out into the big office out front so we don’t hear the phone. Make the necessary arrangements to keep all distractions to a minimum and you will get a lot more done.
10. Take the appropriate time to speak with employees and coworkers.
Make sure you take the appropriate time to speak with employees and coworkers as well as time for returning phone calls, emails, etc. The key is to do these tasks when they are scheduled. Much easier said than done of course. An example of how I do this is I schedule several breaks during the day.
Take 5 minute vacations where you can walk outside, around the office, stretch and clear your mind to recharge your mental batteries and allow yourself to get refocused on your work. I can tell you from personal experience, that it is key that you take a little vacation, 5 minutes every once in a while.
I remember one morning I was wearing a sports jacket and dressed up pretty good because I had a sales call to go on that morning. I took a little vacation. There is a little pond right behind my office and so I went fishing and actually caught a nice bass dressed up in my sports jacket and I took a picture and posted it on Facebook.
I had fun with it, but it was such a great little stress reliever for me and it just took 20 minutes of my time just to relax and get another point of view because things were getting a little stressful in the office. Life is too short to be stressed out all of the time. Take 5 to 10 minute vacations. Walk outside or around the office and stretch and clear your mind to recharge your mental battery.
I challenge you
I challenge you to start today by implementing these techniques. If you learn to do them and do them well, you will be able to use some of that new found time for some much needed personal and family enjoyment.
I believe, like my friend Howard Partridge says, that your business exists for one reason and one reason alone and that is to serve as a vehicle to take you to your life goals. Your life goals should have your personal and your family enjoyment in it.
I have 3 more quotes here. The first one is from my friend Tom Ziglar, proud son of American legend Zig Ziglar. Tom says that “dreams are the edge of the puzzle of your life. When you start a puzzle you always start with the edges. Put your edges together first. Know what your dreams are and then the rest of the puzzle comes together a lot easier. Dreams are the edge of the puzzles of your life.”
Two more quotes from Zig Ziglar that I absolutely love are “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” Last but not least, “A big shot is nothing more than a little shot who kept on shooting.”
Thank you. Please leave your comments below.