Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed, with far too much to do and having too little time to do it in. In fact, “time poverty” is the biggest single problem facing most professionals today. You simply do not have enough time to fulfil all your responsibilities. Because of budget limitations, staff cutbacks, downsizing, and competitive pressures, you are forced to take on more and more work, all of which appears to be indispensable to the smooth functioning of your company and department.
The solution to this problem of work overload is for you to become an expert on time management. There is probably no other skill that you can learn that will give you a ‘bigger bang for your buck’ than to become extremely knowledgeable and experienced in managing your time. But we are going to take a different slant on this skill, as there is a fundamental problem in the term ‘time management’.
The thing is, you cannot manage time itself. It whistles along merrily, doing its own thing, whether you like it or not. And the problem with all the books, planners and diaries is that they often don’t work and leave you with less time than before.
The key, then, is to forget managing ‘time’ and start manage ‘self’ This basically means managing your actions, and is the secret to getting all your work done, achieving your goals and doubling your output in the same time. Success guru, Tony Robbins, puts it simply; ‘Action is destiny’. So now when you talk about Time Management, talk about Self-Management. And that means self-discipline. Success in any area requires lots of discipline. Self-discipline, self-mastery and self-control are the basic building blocks of character and high performance.
“Self discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not." Elbert Hubbard
Here are Rob’s Top 10 Time and Self Management Tips that have helped make me and my clients more productive, and helped me increase my business by a factor of ten in the last year!
1. Decide What Is Important. Write down a master list of 5 to 7 actions that are your highest return on your time investment. For many, this would be fee or income generating tasks such as prospecting, client relationships, phone time, face to face time and proposals. Call these your Top Tasks, or Action Tasks, or Prime Goals.
2. Schedule the Time. Set aside some core time every day where all you do is those Top Tasks. I call this Prime Time. Instead of crossing each one off, try a highlighter pen. During your Prime Time, you should not...take phone calls, check your email, break for meetings, do routine filing and admin, chat with colleagues or read the mail. You need to get rid of current outside distractions to support your new routine. If you run a home office, get agreement from your family to only interrupt you in an emergency during Prime Time. Anywhere between one and four hours of Prime Time is realistic, as you’ll still need to do the other necessaries like meetings, managing staff, emails and phone calls.
3. Focus Clearly on Your Number One Task. By focusing clearly on your most valuable task and concentrating single-mindedly until it is 100% complete, you actually shape and mold your own character. You become a stronger, more competent, confident and happier person. You feel more powerful and productive. Your actions shape your destiny!
4. Be Disciplined. Do what you say you’re going to do, how you're going to do it and when you're going to do it. See it as a “test” to determine whether you are the kind of person who can make a decision to complete something and then carry it out. Once you begin, refuse to stop until the job is finished.
5. Get A Timer. Set it to 50 or 55 minutes This works in three ways. One, you work intensively for a short burst, and will probably get more done than if you’d gone for a full hour. Two, it gives you some time to break and refresh. And three, that length of time is natural for the brain to work at full concentration.
6. Capture Your Ideas. If you carry a pen and small notepad or a voice recorder with you during your breaks, new ideas, thoughts and strategies will surface in your mind. The brain often makes new connections as you relax after a very focused session. Make sure you jot them down to record them. You'll find them invaluable. Neglect this and risk all of your unrecorded great ideas forever!
7. Reward Yourself. Set yourself some income (financial) or activity (result) targets that trigger a reward when you nail them. Incentives are a big part of reinforcing good habits and creating long term change over short term impact. As you get better, push the bar upwards with your goals.
8. Educate Yourself. Continually look at ways of freeing up your time, seeking good ideas from others and trying them out for yourself.
9. Let Go. Examine your old habits and search for ways to change or eliminate them. Often there are things you need to let go of to make the time to do important stuff.
10. Use Dead Time. Whenever you’re waiting in line, sat around killing time or travelling (safely), can you review notes, catch up on reading, reply to messages? Squeezing tasks like that into the nooks and crannies of your day give you more quality Print Time.
So, there you have it. Ten top tips to give you great time management skills. Keep an eye out for other interesting and exciting articles in this ‘Time Management’ series.
Written by Rob Brown who can help you network more effectively, build your personal brand and Turn Relationships Into Profits. For a host of great articles and resources on networking, personal branding, and referral generation, visit http://www.rob-brown.com.