Do you have more to-dos than time in your day? Is lack of time preventing you from reaching more of your goals? No one is given more than 24 hours a day. How then do some people accomplish so much while others drown in incomplete to-do lists, missed deadlines and unmet objectives?
Effective time management is the process of ensuring that all of your time is spent in activities that move you closer to your goals. What you do is far more important than how quickly you do it.
The bottom line how you spend your time determines your success. The most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs invest their time very carefully. Those who develop effective habits for time management create a competitive advantage. The secret is understanding where that time is best invested and developing systems, processes, behaviors, and habits for effective use of time and priority management.
Change Your Attitude To change results it is necessary to change behavior. Significant behavior change requires a change in perspective or attitude; in other words, how you think. Effective time habits require effective time attitudes. Think about your time as a limited resource to be invested rather than spent.
Through the lens of this new time attitude, consider the following tips for increasing your return on investment.
Know What You Want Make a list of your top priorities, both personal and professional. This process helps clarify where to focus your energy and speeds decision-making when events arise that are not top priorities. Daily, weekly, monthly and annual prioritization is a powerful time management habit.
Establish Your Personal 80/20 Rule Typically 80 percent of success comes from 20 percent of your effort. Determine what your most profitable 20 percent is and spend the majority of your time in those activities.
Eliminate Unproductive Activity One of the most practical exercises for better time use is a personal time study. Track activities in 15-minute increments for 3-5 days. Look for opportunities to eliminate unproductive behaviors that do not pertain to top priorities. Often the greatest gains in productivity are the result of eliminating bad habits and non-value added activity.
Use technology to your advantage. Automation is a great way to multiply your efforts. Review your time study for opportunities to memorize transactions, create automatic activity series, sort e-mail, auto-complete fields, etc. While it takes time to set up, it is always a wise investment.
Delegate If the return on your time investment is less than the cost, yet the task is too important to eliminate and cannot be automated, consider delegating it. Opportunities abound to use staff, virtual assistance, contract professionals, temporary help, family members, etc. Eliminate dependency on specific individuals by creating checklists and procedures for each delegated task. This helps bridge the gap if you have to do the task again and improves training effectiveness with new people.
Simplify Look for every opportunity to simplify processes, decision-making, communications, proposals, customer tracking, etc.
Leverage This concept refers to multiplying the return you get from every effort. Perhaps creative work can be repurposed or meetings can serve multiple functions. Look for every place to consolidate your efforts and get greater return on your time investment.
Vision Take time to create a clear, succinct vision for both yourself and your organization. Don’t stop at the words; create pictures of what it will look like once you accomplish your vision. Imagine what it will feel like once you get there. The more emotionally tied you are to your vision, the easier it is to remember the success habits you are trying to create.
Time Blocking Complete similar types of work all at the same time. Opportunities for blocking include client visits, telephone work, computer work, writing, e-mail correspondence and completing personal tasks. This strategy maximizes your time investment far better than moving from one unrelated task to another throughout the day.
Analyze Keep track of what’s working really well, both personally and for the business. Also track opportunities for improvement. Review your list regularly and implement new habits, processes and systems at every opportunity.
If time management is actually effective priority management, then creating habits for better self-management is critical to your success. Think about the impact that one or two new time habits and/or attitudes could have on your business over the next year.
Allison Darling is president and founder of ManagementConcepts Inc.