How to become a master planner

people sitting around a table planning

In a five-part article series, we look at the 10 most common ways small business owners waste time, and deliver solutions for combating this damaging behaviour. Part four looks at not being able to say ‘no’ and poor planning skills.

In part three of this series we discussed procrastination and delegation. I said these two topics were vitally important to understand in order to conquer them as chronic time wasting behaviours. Well, the two behaviours I’m raising today are just as vital for business owners who are keen to become more efficient and time effective.

Problem 7: Not being able to say ‘No’

To illustrate what I mean by ‘not being able to say No’, consider this story.

Before I started my own business, I worked in a large corporate firm. A good friend I made while working there’s a genuine person, the kind you’ll only meet once or twice in your lifetime. They’re unbelievably kind-hearted, caring and giving. The problem though, is that this person always says ‘yes’. You could ask for anything and it would be done for you, even if it meant you’re encroaching on time they need for something else.

This is not a realistic way to live – you just can’t say yes to everything. The consequence of my friend’s kindness is they’ve been branded as a pushover. Yes, this is an extreme case, but do you know what’s happened to my friend? Because they said yes so many times, it’s now expected that they’ll always be there to do the work and so more gets piled on. Now, my friend is constantly chasing the proverbial tail.

Solution?

This is one of those instances where a person genuinely doesn’t have enough time to do everything. In cases like this, I tell people they need to start exerting themselves, or if you’re in the position, hire some help.

Exerting oneself – this might be a little bit of a scary concept to many. What if your boss doesn’t like it?

First and most importantly, don’t be arrogant about it. You need to tread carefully when you are approaching (or thinking about approaching) your boss. Remember, people can’t read minds. This isn’t a husband and wife relationship, where you can say “well if you don’t know what’s wrong I’m not telling you!” It doesn’t work that way in a workplace. If you have an issue with something, speak up. Don’t expect your boss to pick up on your body language or whatever else – for all he or she knows, you might like working your backside off.

Secondly, if your boss doesn’t like it and can’t appreciate that you are trying your hardest to get through everything but genuinely can’t, why are you working for someone like that?

If you’re the boss and can’t get through everything regardless of how much time management advice you’ve taken on board, now’s the time to start thinking about outsourcing or hiring. As much as small business owners like to think they can, sometimes you really can’t do everything yourself.

Problem 8: Poor Planning

What are you doing today? Do often find you have a long list of things you want to accomplish, but by the time you get to the end of the day you wonder why you haven’t managed to get everything done? I’ve heard this before! In my opinion, planning is right up there with focus on the scale of importance.

Would you go into battle for World War Three without some kind of strategy? No. So I ask you, why would you go about your life without a plan of attack. This is the same when it comes to getting your to-do list ticked off. You can’t attack this list without a plan, otherwise you’ll get to 5pm wonder where has the time gone.

So, I’m going to share with you how I plan my day – in fact, how I plan my week. It’s an example, but the process is what you need to pay attention to. You can apply the same process to everything.

Solution?

I think that time management is just like a really good weight loss program. You need to have a plan of attack that you follow constantly.

The first thing you need to do is get yourself a good diary. An even better option is to get yourself an electronic diary that makes noises to remind you of tasks that need to be done and when they need to be done by [anyone with an iPhone or iPad check out the great app ‘Toodledo’].

Here’s how I plan for the week. Every Saturday I set aside an hour to prepare my weekly menu, which I write  out on a menu planner. When I’m doing all of this, I go through my diary and see what is planned for the rest of the week. This prompts me to think of other things that need to be done, so I can then go through and write down every single thing I need to do that week – from exercise, making breakfast, getting myself to work and appointments, certain tasks that need to be completed, getting ready for the next day… the list goes on.

Why do I do this? Because when you see your day laid out for you like this, you realise just how much you need to fit in and you can get a better sense of how much time everything takes. Without a plan like this, some of us tend to add things in to our day that we can’t achieve, and this is when things topple over and come crashing down. You need to bring yourself back from the craziness of not knowing what you need to do next, and shift focus onto what it is exactly needs to be done.

Once I have everything written down, I then list everything in a time slot in my diary. A diary is a planners best friend – they go hand in hand. They keep you consistent, help you to form a good habits as well as stay on top of things and in control.

For those of you who are saying “this isn’t a plan, it’s just a detailed calendar” – you are kind of right. For me, the two are the same. By planning your day, you’re prepared for the day and week ahead and you’re in control because you know exactly what you have time for and what you don’t. It’s a great tool to keep you on track, and it also helps you prioritise effectively.

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