Anyone who tells you there’s a productivity tool that can “fix” your time management problems is pedaling “fake news”! Never confuse gadgets with getting things done.
Go ahead and make your to-do lists, colorize your favorite calendars and set your smartphone alarms. But do it all in service to these five time management commandments:
I. Act with Intention
People who get results know where they’re headed. You wouldn’t drive to a new location without setting your GPS. Every today is one more milestone on your way to business success, career progress, and lifetime achievement. It’s worth 30 minutes every morning to chart your course!
To that end, on days you can, build in time for yourself. Be intentional about the what, why and how of your longer term goals by making it possible to think them through and strategize. That time should also include some purposeful learning.
II. Create Systems
Systems save you time and build your professional credibility. Automate all of the periodic, predictable tasks you do by reflex – like updating, responding or initiating. Write out simple procedures for those tasks. When appropriate, planning with others involved builds buy-in and makes implementation and follow-through easier. This investment alone will “buy” you tons of future time. It’ll also get you noticed by colleagues and corporate leadership.
III. Turn Key Tasks into Habits.
Habits are for champions! You might love your job, but you’ll never love everything you have to do. And the more you delay the things you despise, the less stuff gets done and the more you waste time worrying.
Habit # 1: Do the hard things FIRST! The first task you plan; first task on your list; first thing in the morning. Because it’s something you can do every day and the mental reward is so strong, it’ll become a habit the fastest.
All Other Habits: Make a list of the key tasks you need to get done – good and bad. Put them on your calendar with reminders. Use every ounce of discipline you have to make them happen as planned. Discipline is key if you follow James Clear’s insightful take on habit forming. Hint: It’s okay if you mess up. Just get back on track when you do.
IV. Learn to Say “No”
Any entrepreneur will tell you that success depends on focus. And focus depends on being strong enough to say “No” to things that take your time and don’t offer a meaningful return. Don’t be a jerk, just be judicious when making promises. It’s still important to remember that returns in time invested come in many forms…some that can’t be quantified.
Consider delegating tasks. If you have staff, make reasonable requests for help whenever possible so you can stay focused on what you do best. No staff to help? Think about bringing on more services with PCMSI and others. Given the right partners, the cost/benefit analysis in time savings alone will surprise you!
21st Century Note: Saying “No” nowadays also includes putting your phone on airplane mode or at least silencing your social media notifications. Set aside time to check your postings or politics after you’ve gotten some serious work done. While you’re at it, think about the information you want and need to take in and how you want to do it. Be intentional about the applications you use, the platforms you use them on and the time you make to get updates or to learn new things.
V. Get Physical
Speaking of making key tasks into habits: Taking care of your physical health should be one of your top priorities. Your habits should include getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods and getting reasonable sleep. Nothing will happen without an actual YOU. Enough said?!
Take these as your time management commandments, but know that there is only one thing truly written in stone: Practicing gratitude for the gift of another day!