Time is gold so they say and true enough as most of us have come to realize there is nothing more precious than time — except perhaps making the most productive use of it. As much as we wish it wasn’t so, we also come to realize at some point that really there is not enough time to do everything that we want. Thus, we learn to streamline our activities to accommodate this reality by setting our priorities. With 2013 looming in the corner, I thought it would be a good time to share a few points that has helped me be more productive:
- A simple to do list for each day. I try to keep it as realistic as possible. There is the tendency to want to pile up your day with lots of to do’s as it gives the feeling of being busy. What it eventually does is make you feel overwhelmed and takes your eye off the ball and before you know it you’re spending time on irrelevant rather than the relevant matters. Steve Jones, a recent “Keep Your Dream Alive” radio show guest, shared that we should be aiming to accomplish at least 5 major tasks a day.
Another good reference on effective time management is a book by Brian Tracy called “Eat That Frog“. It basically emphasizes on focusing on tasks that are aligned to your overall goal no matter how unpleasant they may be.
- Placing a cap on my working hours. If you are a workaholic like myself, the hours of the day is not enough. I found out that by working lesser hours I can actually do more in the time frame I have allotted myself. Allocate yourself working hours based on when you are most productive. Some people are “Day time active” and while others are “Night active”. Use your best hours for more creative things this way you will improve your scale on work-life balance.
- Strategically working around Instant Messengers. Admittedly instant messengers like Skype are valuable business tools that a lot of business owners use today for meetings, 1:1 sessions, group mentoring and online collaboration. However, if one is not careful it can also eat a big chunk of your time. When deep in a project, I turn notifications off by putting myself on invisible that way I am not distracted by prompts from those who want to catch up with me online. My team has been trained to deal with my personal assistant; everyone goes through her or the project management site we use.
- Reducing time spent in Social Media Platforms. As a social media strategist, I encourage business owners to spend time in building their social proofs; you will probably agree with me that as much as these are great platforms for connecting and building your network, they can also be very distracting. I try to limit my social media activities these days from the usual 1 hour a day and I’m now down to 30 minutes.
- Addiction to gadgets: We are in a world where people are more in love with their gadgets than they are with loved ones. Business owners seem to get a fix from checking their mobile gadgets every split second if there is a message notification from one of the social platforms or emails. My strategy to be more productive is to completely turn off my phone when I have an important project to complete and if what I need is a clear space to think, my phone goes on silent for as long as I need to focus.
- Setting up e-mail filters. Most email clients come with an e-mail filter feature. I presently use outlook which I have become very comfortable with. I have taken the time to set filters up, i.e. emails from social media platforms, speakers, partners, website, private clients etc. This way when emails come in they go to the respective folders. Afterwards, I attend to folders as deemed important. I have also developed speed reading skills over the years and my best button when reading my email is my delete button.
- Outsourcing e-mail management. As your business grows, you find out you need to send out more and more emails, this can be time consuming. I have e-mails to cover several areas of my business and since discovering I can outsource the management of some and just check on them intermittently, I have done this and have not looked back. This way I get more done and receive better results.
|OfficeTime.net, creator of the popular OfficeTime time and expense tracking software for Windows and Mac computers and iOS devices, recently conducted a survey of working professionals on their Biggest Time Killers. 53% of respondents were business owners, freelancers or executives, while 39% work in professional “white collar” positions.Survey participants were asked to name their top-three time killers. Of all the ways people manage to squander their time each day, “Email” was named as this year’s biggest time killer by 47% of respondents.
Other Top Time Killers included Procrastination (42%), Social Networking (36%), Meetings (34%), and Surfing the Internet (30%). Rounding out the Top 10 were non business-related conversations (24%), dealing with computer / technical issues (23%), “bureaucracy / red tape” (19%), travel time / commuting (14%), and playing computer games (10%).
- Learning to say no to opportunities. Opportunities will always knock on your door but not all of them may be worth pursuing, no matter how promising they sound. Accepting too much will just ultimately split your time and overwhelm you thus causing you to lose focus. My focus for a few years has been about building my brand and so I use that as a measuring stick in which I use to accept proposals. If it is not leading to my overall goal, I am not getting involved.
- Delegating.This is something really difficult for a lot of business owners and it was for me too. Experience taught me that if I am to grow and expand anymore than I have in my business, then I cannot not do it all myself. I have to trust others to be able to do it and even when they don’t get it right, I have to take time to train them, to trust their instinct that they can deliver. Believing in my staff capabilities has also helped them trust in their abilities and made them work hard to impress and deliver what I want.
- Using a project management site. This is a very convenient tool in managing projects. You can delegate tasks, monitor accomplishments and send brief messages to team members. There are actually a number of these programs to choose from, some you can use for free. We use Asana and I have found it to be very convenient in effectively managing all of our staff and projects.
Finally, I would like to add, there is a lot of noise in the world today; silence is a powerful tool to creating and growing a successful business. If you continue in 2013 to self sabotage, chase after every shining object, you’re not going to go grow your business and get what you want. Create a system that automates your business and you will do yourself, your business, your staff and your results much good.