It seems like the world is running at such an accelerated speed that we barely have any time to catch our breath. We start the day running out the door at full tilt; only keep going until we crash into bed from exhaustion. Then we get up and do it all over again day after day. The weekends don’t seem to offer much relief either, because we have soccer practice, ballet recitals and business social events. While most of us would consider ourselves effective time managers, few of us actually are.
We’re constantly on the go and can accomplish a lot in one day, so we must be effective time managers, right? Wrong.
In the ever increasing rat race that we run to impress our boss and maintain job security (or turn business profits so we can pay ourselves), all the while making time for our family; we find ourselves suffering from sheer exhaustion trying to create more hours in the day so we can get everything done we need to do. At some point, you have to concentrate on only what’s important to your success and sanity. It’s a process that all successful business owners and professionals find themselves having to learn, in order to focus their energy on the most important things. All the miscellaneous stuff that consumes your time with little or no return eventually must be eliminated from your schedule.
The bottom line is that anyone who has a demanding career or runs their own business has to practice excellent time management, effective delegation and learning to say the word, “No.” It’s just not possible to maintain the simple life while achieving a high level of success. And with today’s technology, it’s harder to hide when you need a break. Your email inbox is dinging, your cell phone is ringing and your spouse is trying to call you on the car phone because your cell line is busy. It is at this point that you have to filter the input so you can begin to regain control over your life. As good as you think you may be with your time management; there are always “time-wasters” that can be eliminated from your daily life. Let’s review some practical tips:
Time-Wasters Tip #1
Regarding your work email - how much time do you spend typing and replying to emails each day? More than an hour? Two? Four or more? Now, ask yourself how much of your time is spent on essential emails? And by essential emails I mean, emails that are directly related to the execution and completion of your job. Think about how many emails you receive that do not require your response and think about the percentage of non-essential emails you could eliminate from your inbox each day. It is estimated that only 10% to 20% of emails that most people get at work each day require their attention and are essential to their job. Even if you estimate that 50% of the emails you receive are considered essential that stills leaves 50% that are time-wasters.
If you are spending the majority of your time on non-essential email, do whatever you can do to either delegate or eliminate needless email. You could have an assistant filter your emails to eliminate time spent on non-essential emails or you send a polite request to your email contacts to be removed from non-essential bulk emails lists. The goal is to spend as close to 100% of your time devoted to essential email only.
This goes for personal email as well. If you are spending valuable time scanning chain, spam and video of the week emails - it’s time to re-prioritize. Your time would be better spent in the gym - working - or with your family. It’s OK to ask your friends to remove you from their bulk email list, and a courteous request will go a long way.
Time-Wasters Tip #2
Another popular time-waster is watching TV. This is one of the hardest habits to break - but there is simply much more effective ways to spend your time. Unless you’re on vacation, turn the TV off. Besides, removing the exposure to devastating and negative news will greatly benefit your outlook on life and help you sleep better at night. Don’t believe me?
Try it for a week and see if you notice improved sleep and reduced nightmares.
Think about things that you would prefer to do during the time that you would normally spend watching TV. Maybe it's playing a board game with your family, sharing the hot tub with your spouse, reading a ‘fun’ book, getting a massage, or doing yoga. Make a list of the things you would like to do if you had some of that TV time back and arrange them in order of importance. The ones that make you feel the best should go at the top of the list and should be the first thing you do when you create the time.
Time-Wasters Tip #3
Reduce time-wasters by creating a To-Do List for the following day the night before. Writing a To-Do List before you go to sleep every night will help your mind run through the day and organize it. While you’re sleeping, your brain is organizing how to create successful outcomes for the next day‘s tasks. If you give it a task, it will figure out a way to complete it successfully - and be more focused on success supporting actions instead of time-wasters. Prioritize everything on the list so if you don’t have time for everything, you at least get the most important items done (I didn’t say the easiest to do).
Time-Wasters Tip #4
If you have an assistant at work, evaluate if there are additional tasks you can delegate to them. Have your assistant look through your email, screen phone calls or walk-ins, schedule all appointments, or research something you need more information about. When working with my clients, I’m amazed and how each one of them doesn't utilize their assistants or team to the fullest extent - whatever you can delegate to free up some time - do it.
If you are self-employed, find an assistant! For non-essential delegation, you can hire a college student at a reasonable rate. For vital tasks, stick with professionals. What you don’t want is to suffer the negative consequences of trying to hire an inexperienced worker for a professional’s job - it will end up costing you more time and energy in the end. If you have young adults in the house, offer a part-time job to one or more of your kids; just be sure to establish firm ground rules and expectations. Hire an experienced virtual assistant to help you part-time or full-time. There are many good people out there if you can live with them not being physically located in your office. Again, the goal is to minimize and reduce the time-wasters that are demanding your attention, but not delivering big payoffs.
Time-Wasters Tip #5
Last, but not least you have to learn to say “No.” You cannot always take care of everyone else and if you spend more than half your day on the phone, you’ve got to figure out a way to scale back. Sure, many of us go to the store, make dinner, drive and dress our kids while we’re talking on our cell phone, but spending more than 4 hours a day on the phone is taking away from other valuable opportunities. It is literally impossible to be focused 100% on more than one task simultaneously and if you’re multi-tasking while talking on your phone - someone or something is missing your full attention.
If you feel compelled to give back and want to be involved in good causes and volunteer projects that make you feel good, you can always do this at a later time. However, if you are short on time and still in the process of building your business or career, you can still contribute money and save your time for when you have the improved leverage to do so. Many of us just don’t know how to say “No” when someone asks because we care. You can still care and say “No” and find another way to contribute without sacrificing your success.
The goal is to slow down and be focused on the highest pay-off activities that will produce the results you desire in the timeframe you want – personally and professionally. The goal is not to figure out how to move faster. It’s impossible to create more hours in the day and it’s simply not healthy to run at full tilt constantly. Learn how to eliminate the time-wasters in your life to improve your quality of life and success.
He who stops being better stops being good.
British politician and soldier (1599 - 1658)