Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What a Waste of Time

Does it seem there never seems to be enough time in the day? Do you feel overwhelmed by the massive amount of stuff you need to accomplish? Does your day lack focus? Are you jumping from project to project? Feel like you are spinning your wheels? Get to the end of the day and wonder what you accomplished?

Well it is time to take control of your life. Time management is one of the very essential factors in becoming successful in business. We are going to talk about three things you can do to become more productive. Please take the time to read this article. 1. To-do or not to-do. 2. Deal with it. 3. Live in boxes.

First, to-do or not to-do that is the question. The answer is, to do it; it must be on your list. Creating to-do lists is one of the easiest ways to become more organized in your day. To get started, write down five things you want to accomplish before the end of the day tomorrow. Do it right now, I’ll wait…Finished? Great, let’s move on. Congratulations, you have just started down the path of putting more time into your day. I would like you to add one more thing to your list and that is “Make my to-do list for tomorrow”.

The simple exercise of creating a daily to-do list helps you to become more organized in your time, it allows you to prioritize the tasks which face you tomorrow and helps you each day to hit the ground running.

A key component of making this process a success is to complete a task before moving on to the next. When you are trying to do several things at once you are inevitably going to be less efficient and the quality of your work will suffer. You may need to take larger projects and break them down into smaller pieces in order to manage the entire task. Doing so will make you better able to deal with larger projects.

As you think of other things which need your attention. Write them down to be added to your to-do list. This allows you to get back to the task at hand. I suggest you keep a notepad or day journal with you. This way when you get ready to work on the next day’s list you can refer to the notes you made.

Long term to-do lists are great for you to work out the details of large projects or concepts. You may want to keep a separate list of such projects. On a weekly basis you should set aside time to review your to-do lists and analyze the progress you are making on these long-term projects.

Next, deal with it. There are two major time wasters which you need to take care of. First is the mail. Sort it over the garbage can. If you are not in the market for red plaid snow boots, throw the advertisement away. Don’t need a magazine subscription to Underwater Basket Weaving Weekly, through away the advertisement. And just how many credit cards or home equity loans do you need, throw the advertisements away.

Once you have thrown the junk away. Sort the rest of your mail. File the bills to be paid and deal with them when you have planned to pay bills. I suggest you pay your bills at least once a month. And the Roseanne Barr theory of, “Pay the ones marked final notice and throw the rest away”, is probably not a good management decision.

Take care of the rest such as client correspondence and move on with your day.

The other major time waster is the internet. Deal with e-mail just as you do your regular mail. Get a good spam filter to eliminate your need to wade through all of the junk which shows up on your inbox. By the way, reading our e-mail should be an essential part of your time spent on-line.

Next, limit the amount of time you are surfing the web. And don’t give me the little Miss Innocent look. You have been busted. A recent report suggested American business loses several billion dollars each year from abuse of the internet in the workplace and small business is no exception. The internet can be a great tool. It can also be a great deterrent to getting your work done. If you must be on-line, go with a purpose and when you find the information you need, get off and get back to work.

The final suggestion is to live in boxes. Okay, so you are asking, “How is living in the box the big screen TV came in going to make me more productive?” This is not quite what I had in mind. The suggestion here is to set your daily schedule into specific time segments. To begin, you can log your activity for several days. Use a note pad, write the date at the top, and jot down each activity you do in the course of your day and how much time you spent doing it.

After, review your log and ask where you could be more efficient. What activities could you have done together to maximize your productivity. What things did you do which really did not need to be done or could have been done at a different time. Where were there large gaps of time where you could have been more productive?

Set aside a block of time (at least an hour) to do this next exercise. Now, take a day planner (we have time management sheets available, simply e-mail us at info@inthespiritconsulting.com and put “time sheets” in the subject line and we will send it to you.). Begin by placing all of your scheduled appointments on the time sheet. Next use the to-do list you created above and begin writing in the other tasks you need to complete. Give yourself adequate time to finish these tasks.

Once you have done this you can begin to evaluate how you can better be using your time. This is where living in boxes comes into play. Start scheduling tasks back-to-back. Schedule your appointments the same way. This gives you larger boxes to complete your other work. Now your day becomes more efficient and productive. You are managing your schedule, it is not managing you. And the likelihood you will be living in a box is reduced because you are more productive and profitable in your business.

There you have it. To-do or not to-do, make a list and stick to it. Deal with it, eliminate time wasters handle items once and move on. Live in boxes, create structure in your day and manage your tasks. Anything else is a waste of time!

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