“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” -Harvey MacKay
Not too long ago I had a client ask me if we had a program for eliminating procrastination. I responded that if I had a patented solution I could make millions with a book on it! The problem is that procrastination is more of a symptom than a problem, and while it’s a good thing to overcome, it doesn’t strike at the heart of poor time and self-management.
A quick Google search for “overcoming procrastination” returned about 93,000 results. I tried again with “effective time management” and got back 24,000,000 results– how interesting! While this is certainly not a scientific approach, it supports the idea that managing time (and self) effectively is a challenge and a struggle for most business owners and professionals. In fact, an entire industry exists solely to providing plans, methods and tools to help others establish effective time management practices.
We recognize that an essential and fundamental aspect of being an effective business leader is the ability to effectively manage their own time. In fact, one of the top three frustrations we hear voiced by our clients is the seeming “lack of time” experienced by harried and overworked business owners. The struggle to effectively manage ourselves and use our time is common to almost all of us.
Time Waits for No One
Michael Gerber (author of the E-Myth) said that, “Time is just another word for life.” You can think of life as a bank account with a limited balance of time that is relentlessly being withdrawn moment by moment, day by day, year by year—until the account is empty. In this account there is no overdraft protection nor are any deposits being made. Consider this: the time that it took you to read this far, is time that is was expended and cannot be replenished.
So, if you continued reading this, you still have some time available to you. In fact, you have 24 hours every day, day in and day out, just like everyone else. The real question we need to ask then is not “How much time do I have?”, but “How will I spend the time I have?” While it’s true that we cannot dictate how we spend every moment of every working day, it’s equally true that how we spend the time is still a matter of choice: we can choose to be disorganized, reactive and ineffective—or we can choose to be organized, discriminating and productive.
Poor self (time) management is largely a matter of habit and a lack of focused attention and intention. But effective time management is also a matter of habit and focused attention and intention. And having some sound, tried-and-true tools and techniques doesn’t hurt!
It’s Time for a Change
One of the key processes we have our clients work through is effective time and self- management. While this is not “rocket science” it is absolutely vital to the client’s success as an entrepreneur and business owner. The way you manage your time corresponds with the way you manage your business operates—if your time management is reactive and unfocused, the general state of your business is likely to be reactive and unfocused.
There are a multitudes of plans, programs, and prescriptions for effectively organizing and managing your time. Experts have weighed in for decades on this topic, books have been written and training programs launched—the problem really isn’t a lack of information, it is too much information. The first challenge is simply implementation. So, here is a compilation from the best ‘minds’ on the subject:
1- Make it a habit to plan your work day. Set aside a specific time every day to plan tomorrow, next week, and next month. Don’t listen to those voices that say it doesn’t help or it won’t matter anyway. Plan and prioritize your work! Make a list a list of only the top five or six tasks or items you must do that day.
2- Assign a time frame for completing each of those priority tasks. Be realistic, but also be discriminating. Make certain there is enough time in the day for the tasks you want to complete.
3- Plan a time within your day for each of these tasks. Make sure you allow time within your day for unplanned tasks, interruptions, business challenges (don’t say the word problem) and unavoidable changes. You probably know these are inevitable so allow space in your day to accommodate them.
4- Work your plan! Don’t allow yourself to be distracted or diverted—don’t give in to the temptation to blow off some tasks that now seems unpleasant. Go through your list, complete your priority tasks, and check them off your list. The positive benefits that comes from this exercise is addictive and has even been found to increase productivity!
5- Be diligent, determined, and deadly serious about your time. No one else will respect your time if you don’t. Be clear and consistent when saying “No” to requests for your time that take you outside of your plan. If you include Step 3 you will be able to make room for others when needed.
6- Determine the Value of Your Time. Determine the exact cost of your hourly time. If your business has annual revenues of $1 million, then your time is worth $500 per hour (based upon 2,000 hours per year). So, what is the ultimate cost if you keep doing $10 per hour jobs, when you should be doing $500 per hour jobs (Answer: a cost of $490 per hour or $980,000 per year).
More Time Is Really More Life
The bottom line comes down to your willingness and commitment to make the necessary changes and establish productive and profitable habits that will give you more control over both the expected and the unexpected things that happen every day. The good news is that learning to manage your time is, in part, like any other skill. All it takes is practice and more practice, and the willingness to make the necessary changes and create new habits.
Just remember, if time is life, then isn’t self (time) management a way to—literally—get more life? How else could you find a better payoff for your efforts?