If you are like me, the number one struggle you face each day is finding enough time to finish all of the projects that you have waiting for (or assigned to) you. I have a secret: Much of my life I've often wondered if I have what it takes to keep up with the pace of modern living. There are times I've been envious of those who’ve simply given up the struggle, walked away, and now live in a cardboard box under some interstate highway somewhere.
But I have to be realistic. A cardboard box has its space limitations, and getting three meals a day down at the local mission isn't my idea of fine dining…... So, I've had to come up with an alternative plan. There are a number of strategies that I've implemented that allow me to maximize the time I have each day:
1. I Have to Set a Schedule -
Let’s be honest, neither you nor I have more hours per week than anyone else. We just have different agendas and commitments making demands on our time.
We must take control when it comes to setting agendas and making commitments. We don’t create or find additional time: we make it. It’s not accidental. It takes determination, and the realization that if you commit to one thing; the tradeoff is that you have less time for something else.
That means I have to take responsibility for my time. If I don’t set the priorities in my life -someone else will.
2. I Have to Set My Schedule -
Knowing that I have to set the priorities in my life, I begin by setting my schedule. There is a simple rule in all of this: What gets scheduled gets done. You cannot rely on trying to fit things into bits and pieces of the hours of the week; the reality is that you have to carve out dedicated time to the job at hand. Many people find it best to work in blocks of time: (see 3 below).
3. I Use a Timer -
I own what may be one of the world’s ugliest kitchen timers. It is a monstrosity, with huge digital numbers that countdown hours, minutes and seconds. It serves as both friend and enemy!
It is my friend in that it helps me to set a deadline, one of the world’s greatest productivity tools. If I have sixty minutes in which to finish a payroll report, I set that timer and work as consistently as possible toward that goal.
As a helpful ‘enemy’, a timer forces me to stay focused (periodically I look at the dreaded numbers), refuse to be distracted, and keep the schedule I’ve set for myself.
4. I close the ‘door to distraction’ -
One of the greatest things that slow people down when they try to accomplish a project on schedule is constant number of distractions that come our way. That incredible source of communication, e-mail, can be one of the biggest time wasters and distractions known to man. Here are three great ways I know of to protect your scheduled time:
a. Turn off alerts on email.
If you get an alert every time somebody sends you an email, your first instinct is to check the email. This is allowing others to control your time. You should only check, and respond to, your email when it is convenient for you to do so.
b. Check your email at predetermined times.
Select the best times for you to check your email and check it as few times as necessary for your business. I find that it is best to check my email 4 times each day, starting at 10 A.M. (see #3 below), 1 P.M., 3 P. M., and I do a final check at approximately 5 P.M. Because we are a client-centered business, in a real business ‘emergency’ I can always be contacted by phone.
c. Never check your email first thing in the morning.
If you check your email first thing, you can easily become distracted from your priorities. You start responding to every email and before you know it, you have wasted a few hours of your day without completing anything important. Instead, identify your most important task for each day and schedule it for first thing in the morning. Get it done before you open your email. That way, even if all manner of emergencies occur when you open your email, you have already completed your most important task and therefore have had a productive day.
5. I Schedule My Regular Projects -
There is a saying that ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. In business, as in life, that regularly holds true. For me there will always be payroll reports, marketing materials to produce, invoices to be mailed, etc. These things are part of my business life, I know that is part of the routine, and if I don't allow time in my schedule I will be under stress at the last minute. Never let ‘routine’ catch you off guard.
6. I Keep a legal pad handy -
One of my clients is a multimillionaire. He owns multiple businesses, a beautiful home in the continental U.S. and a lovely condominium in Hawaii. He could easily have some sort of scheduler/planner on a mobile device but he likes his legal pad. Here is why:
Dave Ramsey, in his book EntreLeadership talks about controlling your time with a To Do list (paraphrased), “A very simple but time honored method to manage your day before it begins is the prioritized to do list. Each morning make a list of activities that need to be done today.
Then and ask yourself which items must be done today. Put an “A” beside each one.
Then ask yourself what should be done very soon and today would be nice. Put a “B” beside those.
The remaining activities get a “C” and are great ideas that have not moved up to a work be within a couple of weeks should be delegated or put in an idea file. Now look at all the “A” items and ask what is the most important single item or activity that must be done today.”
He suggests going through the A, B, and C, items numbering them in order of their importance, and then readjusting your list to be as productive as possible.
While I’m sure you can do this in a variety of ways, but seeing it on a sheet of paper makes it more ‘immediate’ to me.
These are the 6 strategies I've been forced to use on some occassions.Life is always finding ways to interrupt my best laid plans - SO I fight back with these - and win!