Time is just another word for life.
Time management is a skill that a lot of us struggle with. Even with the best intentions and the latest technological gadget that is supposed to streamline your work and improve efficiency, how often have you left work planning all the things you need to do in the morning because you didn’t get to them today? Busy business owners are just that: busy!
What kind of work is keeping you busy?
At EMyth, we make a very clear distinction between the strategic and tactical work. Strategic work is the work you do to define the results you are there to produce. Tactical work is the work you do to produce the results strategic work has defined. When you think about your day, what percentage of your time do you spend in each area? Where is the greater value for your business?
Even if you know that you need to focus on strategy, how do you carve out time in your day for strategic work when you’re just trying to stay on top of the technical work you have to do? It’s a question we hear all the time from our clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re a retail store owner, a doctor, an IT professional or a contractor; everybody, it seems, is fighting the clock.
That’s why we dedicate a whole process solely on time management. With the intention of freeing yourself from the technical work, in this process we take a look at how you’re spending your time to accurately determine how much of your time is spent on productive activities that directly contribute to the results you want, and how much of your time is spent unproductively. This is a revealing process, and we usually identify areas for improvement very quickly.
Another thing we explore in our Time Management process is what we call “Time Bandits.” You know, those pesky "time stealers" and distractions that take attention away from strategic work—email, a talkative vendor, the telephone, your mother-in-law, broken office equipment… The list goes on.
Finding the discipline to eliminate Time Bandits is an important part of getting to the strategic work you need to do. Below are five Time Bandit Busters (there are 25 more in our process) that might instigate a change in how you approach time management.
5 time waster elimination tips
- Prioritize and stay focused. Evaluate your daily tasks and prioritize. If nothing else gets done today, what are the one or two items that absolutely must be done? The most successful CEOs of Fortune 500 companies only focus on one or two priorities for a given day.
- Delegate as much as you can. Let go of the idea that nobody can do what you do the way that you do it! With the right systems in place, you can properly delegate the tactical work that keeps you from working on your business. There is critical distinction however, between delegating and abdicating.
- Set and meet deadlines for yourself and your employees. Set reasonable deadlines for all jobs and stick to them. Hold yourself accountable just as you would an employee. It’s true; work expands to fill the available time so set expectations.
- Don’t postpone unpleasant tasks. Those “bitter pills” that you put off can come back to haunt you in so many ways. A situation may become more acute with time, not to mention the fact that it will be sitting in the back of your mind (or somebody else’s mind) becoming a distraction. It’s best to take care of important matters that are unpleasant immediately. Resolution is so much better than wasting precious time wondering “what if…”
- Learn to say no. Beware of over commitment! You are the only one who can truly protect your time. Learn the art of saying “no” politely. If this seems daunting, try this: when confronted with an opportunity, don't commit immediately. Take a moment to listen to your intuition and refer to your schedule; you may find that declining is the reasonable answer. People know you're busy, it's okay to set boundaries.
Building a successful business requires the ability to see the big picture while immersed in the details, the hundreds of decisions and activities that command your attention from minute to minute, day to day. Imagine the impact it will have if you can effectively establish priorities and focus your attention so your everyday decision-making becomes aligned with your big-picture vision. Eliminate the time wasters that take your focus away from the strategic work of the business and you will begin to work on your business rather than in it.
If you want greater control of your time, check out our handbook on time management. It's full of tips and tricks to help you get back on track.