For the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to edit my latest DVD, ironically it’s about Time Management, but other things keep intervening, shoving it onto the back burner. Some of the things that have come up have been really important, things that absolutely have to be done immediately. Allowances have to be made for those. But the other things that have been stopping me from this important editing task have not only been not so important, they’ve been downright trivial.
As if that weren’t bad enough, I’ve been distracted the whole time. The unfinished editing job has been in the back of my mind, preventing me from giving my entire focus to the job at hand, so not only does the editing job not get done, but all the other things I’ve undertaken have been done with a little less precision than I would like.
I like editing. It’s a challenging task, enjoyable and rewarding. There’s no good reason for me to keep putting it off, so why am I? It’s a matter of priorities. I might think that I have prioritised the editing task, but have I really? Have I made it “real” by writing it down on my task list? Have I allocated specific times to get the job done? Have I made arrangements to work in the peace and quiet this task requires? Am I really serious about my priorities? I pride myself on being an accomplished time manager, but every once in a while, I neglect to do the basics. And these are simple;
Get serious and get real. Get serious about the importance of time management in your life and get real about how you want to spend your time.
Have a master list of short and long term tasks.
Prioritise them with a numerical system. Do the urgent things first. Revise your list regularly, upgrading some tasks to a higher priority and downgrading others.
Allocate specific times to accomplish them and don’t permit interruptions.
Make sure the time allocated is optimal for the task at hand e.g. Why do paperwork in prime selling time? Why schedule telephone prospecting after 5pm when your prospects are likely to be leaving their offices?
Get organised. You may think you know where everything is on your overly cluttered desk, but you still have to spend valuable time moving other things to get to what you want. Get rid of the mess, give yourself a clean break and have a proper storage system . If you can’t put your hands on what you’re looking for in 10 seconds, your current system is not working for you.
The same applies to your computer. Have a workable filing system on your computer, one that works for you and how you choose to work. You need to know where everything is and the logical place you would go to find that stray file. It doesn’t really matter if no-one else understands it, as long as you do.
While we’re on the subject of computers, let’s talk about time-wasters. How much time do you spend reading emails? Do you have a sorting system to prioritise them? I have several friends who send me emails to make me laugh. In theory, this is great because I need a laugh every now and then, but I also need to choose when that will be. I have specific folders for their emails. The jokes and gags go straight into the folders and they’re there when I need a good giggle. I do the same with all my other emails. My networking stuff goes into its own folder so that I can devote time to it when it’s appropriate for me, usually late at night. Same with newsletters just like this one. Of course we want you to read it. Of course we expect you’ll get value out of it, but not at the expense of what you really should be doing instead of reading this right now. Set up a folder for newsletters, then set up a rule & alert (look under “Tools” in Outlook) and have your regular newsletters delivered directly into their own folder, ready to read when you are. You can even have Outlook play a special sound for each different type of email. This is an enormous time-saver as I’m no longer distracted by incoming emails that are lower priority.
Know how long things take and schedule a little less time. The task always expands to fill the time allocated to it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and efficiently you can get through your workload when you allocate a little less time to it.
Know your own rhythms. When do you do your best work? What time of day works for you? Are you a morning person or a night owl? Those tasks that require you to be at your mentally sharpest should be scheduled accordingly.
Don’t forget the “little” stuff. Things like taking time out to play with your kids, having a romantic dinner with your partner, treating yourself to a massage, curling up with a good book..... after all, what’s the point of doing all the hard work if you never have time to enjoy life’s true pleasures?