Without vital time management skills, it would be impossible to juggle my business, team and speaking career, let alone run a home and meet commitments to my family, friends and three children.
The key is to have self-discipline and strive to work smarter, not harder. The sad thing is, very few people (even those reading this article) will take positive steps towards doing so. It’s not often you meet ‘super-efficient’ people, and ‘super-positive’ people can be just as rare. Instead, you should beware of the plentiful time wasters and energy suckers – as a mentor said to me early on, “there is no time like the present, which is why it’s a gift.”
It helps, of course, if you are naturally organised, unhappy to settle for second best, and passionate about where you are going. We can all identify with some of these traits, and all of us have the potential to expand on the others.
The good news is it’s not down to anyone else – the buck stops with you. One of the best pieces of advice I received was that “we are all the CEO of our own existence”. If you are constantly late for meetings, if you forget or lose things, if you are always feeling ‘too busy’, there is no one else to blame but you.
You need to take responsibility for your own time and get organised. But how does that work?
1. Planning is crucial
Plan your day before you start or, as I do, plan the night before. Make a list of all the things you need to do, whether on a mobile, ipad or in a notebook – that way you can sleep peacefully and hit the ground running the next day.
I make quarterly lists (90 day plans work!) as well as daily ones, so I can strategically track my broader goals. Having those little tasks and problems down in concrete form will help you tackle them.
2. Next, prioritise your list
Break things down into what must be done the next day, what you would like to get to done, and what could wait. People to tend write long lists, with no structure, crossing things off at random. While it can make you feel better, sometimes that can get chaotic.
Use the ‘80% – 20%’ rule to divide your tasks according to their importance. Write the imperative tasks in the 20% box, while allocating the secondary tasks to the 80%. Remember, only a handful of critical things are important to achieve each day. What does your day look like and what is your focus?
3. Time the task
Fit it into the appropriate time of day. After identifying those high-profile tasks, you can attack them during your high-energy moments. It’s no good booking crucial meetings at 2pm if this is the time you would naturally take a nap.
Pay attention to schedule – people are usually more difficult to get hold of at lunchtime so don’t bank on making sales calls during the noon to 2pm period. You won’t be negotiating that policy from start to finish on the day leading up to a public holiday.
4. Be defensive of your time!
If you have an imperative task to do – writing that proposal or getting that policy in the post – don’t be afraid to create some ‘unavailable’ time. Turn the phone to voicemail and ask your team not to interrupt you. Learn to say ‘no’ when it counts.
5. Handle communications once
How much time do you waste wading through emails? Read them, delete them, or file them. Same with paper, handle it once only, if you can.
Establish suitable sales ‘down times’ so you can get communications out of the way without feeling guilty of wasting time. I find it helps to keep telephone numbers and addresses on you at all times. It’s amazing how long things take when you don’t have access to the right information at the right time.
6. Write your own job description:
This is another of my favourite pieces of advice given to me: Take a moment to write down the tasks that the business depends on you for.
Work out what you are good at, and what you are not – wherever possible, delegate other tasks to someone who is good at them. Funnily, this usually reflects what you enjoy and what you don’t.
Investing your time wisely is a skill – best not to waste it.
About the author:
Sharon is a pioneer in the Australian marketing and public relations agency industry. She is a CEO, Fellow of the PRIA, international speaker, personal brand expert, entrepreneur, mentor, marketer, media commentator and frequent mainstream editorial contributor. Under Sharon’s leadership and entrepreneurial flair, Taurus is now recognised as one of Australia’s highest profile agencies, offering unparalleled levels of service to global corporations including Advance, UTS:INSEARCH, Appster, Napoleon Perdis and Clean Up Australia.