In my Time Management seminars which I have conducted for more than 100,000 people from around the globe, I show people how to get more done in less time, with less stress; to help them have more time for the things they want to do in their work and business lives.
If you can recapture a wasted hour here and there and redirect it to a more productive use, you can make great increases in your daily productivity.
Here are ten of the techniques I share in our Time Management seminars, each one of which will help you to get at least one more hour out of your day of additional productive time.
1. Maintain Balance. Your life consists of Seven Vital Areas: Health, Family, Financial, Intellectual, Social, Professional, and Spiritual. You will not spend equal amounts of time in each area or time every day in each area. But, if in the long run, you are spending a sufficient quantity and quality of time in each area, then your life will be balanced. But ignore any one of your areas, (never mind two or three!) and you will get out of balance and potentially sabotage your success. Fail to take time now for your health and you will have to take time for illness later on. Ignore your family and then may leave you and cost you a lot of time to re-establish relationships. It is especially challenging for self-employed people to maintain balance, isn't it?
2. Get the Power of the Pen. A faint pen has more power than the keenest mind. Get into the habit of writing things to do down using one tool (a Day-Timer, pad of paper, Palm Pilot, etc.) Your mind is best used for the big picture rather than all the details. The details are important, but manage them with the pen. If you want to manage it you have to measure it first. Writing all things down, no just incoming orders, helps you to more easily remember all that you need to accomplish.
3. Do Daily Planning. It is said that people do not plan to fail but a lot of people fail to plan. Take the time each night to take control of the most precious resource at your command, the next twenty-four hours. Plan your work and then work your plan each day. Write up a To Do list with all you "have to's" and all of your "want to's" for your next day. Without a plan for the day, you can easily get distracted, spending your time serving the loudest voice, the noisiest customer, rather than attending to the most important things for your day that will enhance your productivity.
4. Prioritize It. Your To Do list will have crucial and not crucial items on it. Despite the fact most people want to be productive, when given the choice between crucial and not crucial items, we will most often end up doing the not crucial items. They are generally easier and quicker than crucial items. Prioritize your To Do list each night. Put the #1 next to the most important item on your list. Place the #2 next to the second most important item on your list, etc. Then tackle the items on your list in order of their importance. You may not get everything done on your list, but you will get the most important things done. This is working smarter, not harder, and getting more done in less time.
5. Control Procrastination. The most effective planning in the world does not substitute for doing what needs to be done. We procrastinate and put off important things because we don't sense enough pain for not doing it or enough pleasure to do it. To get going on something you have been putting off, create in your mind enough pain for not doing it or enough pleasure to do it. I prefer the pleasure approach. Take a procrastinated item and turn it into to a game. Work with one thing in front of you at a time so other things won't distract you. ("Out of sight, out of mind.") Break it down to little bite-sized, manageable pieces. Get it started, take the first step and you will likely continue it to completion.
6. Run an Interruptions Log. The average person gets 50 interruptions a day. The average interruption takes five minutes. Some four hours each day, on average, are spent dealing with interruptions. Many are crucial and important, like new orders, and are what we get paid to do but many have little or no value. Run an Interruptions Log to identify and eliminate the wasteful interruptions. Just use a pad of paper and label it "Interruptions Log" Create six columns: Date, Time, Who, What, Length, Rating. After each interruption is dealt with, log in the date and time it occurred, who brought it to you, a word or two about what it related to, the length of time it took, and finally the rating of its importance: A=crucial, B=important, C=little value, and D=no value. Run it for a week or more to get a good measure of what is happening in your life. Then evaluate the results and take action to eliminate some of the C and D interruptions that have little or no value.
7. Delegate It. We all have 168 hours each week and when you subtract 56 hours for sleep and another 10 hours for personal care, that doesn't leave a whole lot of time to get done what needs to be done. Delegation permits you to leverage your time through others and thereby increase your own results. The hardest part of delegation though, is simply letting go. We take great pride in doing things ourselves. "If you want a job done well, you better do it yourself". Every night in Daily Planning, look at all that you have to do and want to do the next day and with each item ask yourself, "Is this the best use of my time?" If it is, do it. If it isn't, try to arrange a way to delegate it to someone else. There is a lot of difference between "I do it" and "It gets done".
8. Manage Meeting Time. A meeting is when two or more people get together to exchange common information. What could be simpler? Yet, it can be one of the biggest time wasters we must endure. Before a meeting ask, "Is it necessary?" and "Am I necessary?" If the answers to either are "no", consider not having the meeting or excusing yourself from attending. Then prepare a written agenda for the meeting with times assigned for each item along with a starting time and ending time. Circulate the written agenda among those who will be attending. There is no sense in holding a meeting by ambush. Let people know in advance what is to be discussed.
9. Handle Paper. It's easy to get buried today in the blizzard of paperwork around us. The average person receives around 150 communications each day via email, telephone, hard mail, memos, circulars, faxes, etc. A lot of time is wasted going through the same pile of paper day after day and correcting mistakes when things slip through the cracks. Try to handle the paper once and be done with it. If it is something that can be done in a minute or two, do it and be done. If it is not the best use of your time, delegate it. If it is going to take some time to complete, schedule ahead in your day calendar on the day you think you might get to it and then put it away.
10. Run a Time Log. If you want to manage it, you have to measure it. A Time Log is a simple yet powerful tool to create a photo album sort of overview of how your time is actually being spent during the day. Simply make an ongoing record of your time as you spend it. Record the activity, the time spent on it, and then the rating using A, B, C, and D as described in #1 above. Some examples of how your time might be spent: Made telephone calls, 35 minutes, A; Made baskets, 48 minutes, A; Attended meeting, 55 minutes, C: Telephone call from Janis, D. Run this for a few days to get a good picture of how your time is being spent. Then analyze the information. Add up all the A, B, C, and D time. Most discover a lot of their time is being spent on C and D items that have little or no value. Finally, take action steps to reduce the C and D items to give you more time for the really important things in your life.