In consulting and coaching with business owners and sales professionals I’m amazed at how few of them actually take the time to plan out their day.
Everybody knows that if we fail to plan we plan to fail.
Many people do what I used to do and make a long list of things and go to work on the list crossing them off one-by-one as they complete each item.
That’s if they even have any kind of system at all.
Most people forgo the list system because they’re in reaction mode and deal with putting fires out all day.
I’m here to tell you that in order to maximize productivity for yourself and your people you have to be proactive instead of reactive.
The most successful people value their time immensely and are militant when it comes to managing it.
Politics aside, if you had a meeting with the President of the United States would you arrive on time?
Chances are you would because you respect the President’s time because he is important.
Well, aren’t you equally important to yourself and your organization? I hope the answer is yes.
5 Steps to Effective Time Management
Warning: As you read through these time management tips and steps don’t think about whether you’ve heard them before, but whether you’re implementing the personal discipline to apply them.
1. Deal with it Once.
If you’re going to open an email or letter be ready to deal with it then and there.
If you’re not ready to deal with it don’t even open it.
It’s so easy to get sucked into just taking a peak inside an email or letter when you can’t afford to deal with it only to find yourself misappropriating your time dealing with it when you should have been dealing with something else.
JUST DON’T OPEN IT until you’re ready to deal with and file it away for a later time that you’ve assigned for it.
The best idea I’ve ever heard in regards to email management came from Chet Holmes and that is to designate a subject line to every message and have the message ONLY discuss what’s mentioned in the subject line.
If the message needs to address another matter change the subject line accordingly.
This will allow for optimum email organization and will make it easier to find any important information within emails no matter what the subject may be.
Email management can be the biggest time vampire on the planet if you don’t drive a stake through it’s heart and implement a proactive way to deal with it.
If you receive new email alerts, TURN THEM OFF.
This will help you to not be tempted to be reactive and waste time reading them as they come in.
You have no moral, legal, or ethical obligation to have to respond to any message instantly.
2. List 5 “Must-do’s”
If you don’t already keep a list of things to do just by doing this you’ll increase your productivity and position yourself to be proactive as opposed to reactive.
My problem with time management wasn’t that I didn’t have a list, it was that my list was endless and it controlled me.
When I wanted to be productive I’d go to my list and do something on it, the problem was that the list was so long I’d end up doing the easiest things first and not have time or energy to complete the rest of the more important, time-consuming, or hardest tasks later.
Long lists of things to do never get completed, and this can have a negative psychological impact on us.
On the contrary, completing the last task on our list of things to do can be uplifting and give us a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Here’s the answer: Take your list of things to do and pick only the 5 “must-do’s” or most important items from that list to handle each day.
As you’re going through the day you can add things to your general list and use it as a menu for your 5 “must-do’s” to select from everyday.
3. How Long Will Each Item Take?
Determine how much time you’ll need to realistically accomplish each item in one day.
If an item can’t be completed in one day decide how much time you’ll dedicate to it.
Some projects will require more than one day to accomplish. You eat an elephant one bite at a time.
I would recommend not spending more than 2 straight hours on one specific task so you don’t burn out.
A good rule of thumb is to allocate about 5 to 6 hours to your list of 5 “must-do’s”.
Now that you’ve determined how long each task will take the next step is to put them in order of importance.
Most of the time the most important things are also the hardest, most time-consuming, or require the most concentration.
In the next step when we map out our schedule do them in that order.
It’s imperative to do the hardest tasks first because if you do the easiest tasks first often times you get so tired at the end of the day you don’t have the energy to take on the most difficult tasks that require the most concentration.
If 20% of your efforts bring you 80% of your results, what if you started spending 80% of your time on the most important tasks and just 20% of your time on everything else?
Well, you’d quadruple your production! That’s what we’re doing here.
Sales professionals should spend most of your time closing business, asking for referrals from your current clients, cold-calling, or prospecting.
5. Map it Out
So you’ve allocated time to each task and prioritized them in order of importance, concentration required and/or level of difficulty.
Now let’s map it out on your calendar. Don’t let your schedule be a guideline, be militant about it.
Assign a time slot to absolutely all 5 tasks. As mentioned previously, this would be an estimated 5-6 hours of your day.
Schedule one 30-minute email management session for the beginning of the day and one for the end. This will be a total of 1 hour per day.
Without a doubt, things will come up that you might have to react to that will throw you off schedule.
With that in mind, plan at least 2 30-minute slots in your schedule to deal with these matters in the morning and the afternoon. Lastly, this will be another 1 hour out of your day.
After you add all the hours up you’ll have worked a total of 7-8 hours productively.
Be sure to build in an hour for lunch or 2 30-minute slots for faster meal breaks depending on your eating preferences.
Once you implement these steps you’ll be kicking yourself in the pants after you figure out the hours wasted in the past because you didn’t know about this!
It goes without saying, emergencies or family might need your immediate attention.
Take care of your family and what’s important and then immediately get back on schedule.
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