Top time management and productivity tips
What's the difference between mere mortals and supremely successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million and multi-billion companies? Well, there are a number of differences in all honesty, such as the books they read, the people they spend their time with, their mindset and the quality of the actions they take. Underlying all of these differences is a theme and that theme is how they chose to spend their time. I've used the word chose carefully, because most business owners don't choose how they spend their time. Their time just somehow passes by without deliberate thought and this has a massive impact on the results that most business owners achieve. So, in this blog I'll cover how to figure out where your time is going and how to focus your time on the things that will make the biggest impact on you and your business.
What Just Happened?!....
We've all had those days where we've got to the end of it and thought â€˜what have I done today that's actually made a difference'? If you're like me, you'll also have gotten to that place despite the best intentions to make the day a productive one. We must therefore become time guardians and eliminate all time suckers! In the words of Jim Rohn:
â€˜Either run the day or the day runs you!'
We are therefore left with two questions:
- Where is my time going?
- What do I do about it?
Firstly, lets look at how we can understand what's happening with our time. Steven Covey's time matrix is a useful framework to help us think differently about the activities that we're filling our time with. His framework is as follows:
1) Fire Fighting
Â· Pressing problems
Â· Deadline driven projects
2) Quality Time
Â· Prevention, capability improvement
Â· Relationship building
Â· Recognising new opportunities
Â· Some emails, meetings & calls
Â· Proximate pressing matters
Â· Some social media
4) Time Wasting
Â· Trivia, busy work
Â· Some mail & phone calls
Â· Time wasters
Â· Pleasant activities
This model challenges the conventional wisdom that being busy means being productive. The things that will make the biggest difference to you and your business are important but not urgent and are therefore easy to delay in favour of the latest fire to p*$$ on. What's more, is that we tend to value people in organisations who are known to be able to handle crises. This makes it even more tempting to become the knight in shining armour in your business and be seen at the go to person when the s@%t hits the fan. As tempting as this may, it's a habit you will need to break to be a more effective business owner.
Step number one in braking our addition to urgent and important tasks and ditching the unimportant stuff is to understand how much â€˜stupid' we're doing. As boring as it sounds, simply tracking where your time is currently going is the first step to spending your time much more wisely. In a similar way, I lost over 6 stone in weight just by tracking what I was eating. No diet, no fad, no magic trick, just understanding how much I was eating was enough to change the behaviour. Similarly, simply understanding where your time is being spent will inevitably lead to change. As Peter Drucker said:
â€˜What gets measured gets managed'
What Do I Do About It? Run the Day!
From understanding what's currently going on we must move our attention to deliberately crafting productive time. There are a couple of steps to this:
- Systematise and delegate low value activities identified through tracking where your time is going
- Set yourself up for productivity
Step 1 - Systematise and Delegate
In my other blog I've covered extensive ground on how to systematise and delegate and the article can be found here XXXX. So for this article I'll cover the strategy for each segment of Covey's time matrix:
- Fire Fighting - activities that you've identified in this section should be systematised and delegated. These are still important activities and as such need to be done to a high standard and consistently, which is why systematisation is important here. It may feel difficult to put activities into this section and to delegate them as they appear vital. For example, creating quotes or proposals may fit here and these are obviously important for a successful business. However, they are still prime candidates for the business owner to systematise and delegate.
- Quality Time - do more of these activities, do them well and be ruthless in your focus on them. This is what we'll cover in step 2.
- Distractions - delegate these activities. I would always recommend a level of systematisation of anything you plan to delegate. The difference here is the systematisation would be light touch because the activities are not that important. Examples may include email and diary management or review and approval of mileage claims.
- Time Wasting - stop, that's itâ€¦..
Step 2 - Set Yourself Up for Productivity
Now that you know which are the quality tasks you must make sure that you get the most out of your day. In order to do this, here are some productivity tips:
- Plan the day - the end of each day should include planning for the next day. You should identify and write down the top three goals to achieve the following day. The first item on your list should fit into Gary Keller's definition of your one priority goal:
â€˜What's the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or unnecessary'
This question will drive you to identify the one most important thing to get done that fits into the quality time box. Try to identify things that you can start and finish within the day. Not only should you do this each evening but so should your team.
- Create a default diary - be ruthless with your time as it's precious. Block out times in your day to focus on the quality work that's your identified and written priority. A default diary will allow you to set expectations of your team that at regular times you will not be available. You can then fit your priority actions into these default blocks of time.
- Remove all distractions - when you are working on the important and non-urgent work, remove all distractions. That means turn off your phone, turn off email unless you really need it, block access to the internet (there are productivity apps that allow you to do this) and focus on starting and finishing what you intended to do for that day. The cost of distractions and task switching is massive in lost productivity as you need to stop, refocus and start again. Remaining in flow until the task is done is optimal.
- Pat yourself on the back - celebrate small wins along the way. Celebrate starting and finishing something that will make a long lasting difference to your business.
To get your time back from your business and to be really productive you need to first identify how you are spending your time and delegate low value activities. Secondly, you need to become productive with the time you have by focussing on quality tasks, planning your day and by being ruthless with your time. Follow these simple tips and you will transform your performance, the performance of your teams and your business.