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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 24, 2008 • Issue 08:11:02

Get time on your side

By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC

I need to manage my time better. How many of us have said this to ourselves in the last few days or weeks? Time management is commonly defined as ways people use their time and resources in order to achieve success.

In truth, we really cannot "manage" time. Time simply exists. There is only a limited amount of time available to us. We cannot slow it down, speed it up, store it or recover it. What we can manage is how we utilize time while it passes.

By managing our use of time carefully, we can accept greater professional responsibilities and achieve greater accomplishments and rewards by:

  • Increasing effectiveness - accomplishing more with less

  • Improving performance - seeing more clients, expanding our product offerings and increasing our sales

  • Enjoying personal development which translates into professional development - understanding what is important and, by doing so, generating greater income

Here are some practical everyday tips to help you achieve those objectives.

Increasing effectiveness

Evaluate how you currently spend your time. If you feel you are not using your time to its maximum potential, spend a week tracking exactly how you use it. Write down exactly what you did each day and how much time you spent on such tasks as:

  • Talking on the telephone

  • Answering e-mail

  • Surfing the Internet

  • Looking for misplaced items in the office

  • Dealing with personal issues

Then evaluate how much time you spent in productive, revenue generating work. At the end of the week, tally all of your time in these categories. You will be able to identify and abolish time wasters and increase time spent in productive activities.

Improving performance

After you complete your time assessment, make a list of all of the activities you need to perform. Write down everything. While you may have the greatest memory possible, trying to keep track of every detail leads to information overload and overlooked tasks.

While you think you may be working 10 hours a day, you may in fact be working productively only four hours. If this is the case, it will be easy to identify ways to add at least one productive hour each day to your schedule. Now prioritize your list. Prioritizing will help you identify the really important tasks that have the greatest impact on your productivity.

By focusing and spending more time on the things that really matter to you, you will accomplish more. This task will also assist you in identifying time wasters. With the list tabulated and reorganized, you can plan your days, weeks, months and years. Take a few minutes each day to organize your day based on the priorities you set. Do the same thing for your goals for each week, month and year.

It is easy to say, I don't have time for this. The reality is you don't have time not to organize your time. A few minutes well spent each day will allow you to accomplish the goals you set for yourself.

Staying focused

It is important to keep a journal that charts your progress toward meeting your goals. Schedule time daily to assess and write down your progress in achieving those aims. Go through your journal regularly to make certain you are on the right track and haven't fallen back into unproductive habits.

And, remember, goals are not carved in stone. A goal you set today, with the information available today, may not be achievable two years from now. Goal setting and goal achievement are works-in-progress and need constant evaluation, refinement and editing. Throughout this process, maintain focus on your goals. Every decision you make should be evaluated with those goals you have written down and prioritized. Ask yourself:

  • How will this help me meet my goal?

  • Will this prevent me from meeting my goal?

  • What will it cost me if I chose to take this action or participate in this activity?

As you complete your initial time assessment, pay attention to the bad habits that steal your time, sabotage your goals and hinder your success. After you do, work on them one at a time, and systematically eliminate them from your life. Remember that the easiest way to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a better habit.

Setting priorities

Many people can't say no to requests for their time and energy; they have a tendency to overcommit to tasks they can't realistically accomplish. By having a list, you can focus on high-priority items and not allow others to dictate how you use your time.

Saying no is never easy, and it takes time and effort to learn to feel comfortable turning down requests for your time. Eventually, saying no to low-priority or no-priority items will become easier over time.

Another type of person can't stop doing others' jobs. Do you think you're the only one who can complete a task successfully? Do you think it is easier to do it yourself than to teach someone else how to do it? These attitudes do not serve you well in today's economy.

Being a good leader and manager means delegating responsibility. If you are to grow your business, you need to spend your time doing tasks that are revenue generating. Hiring administrative or support staff is one easy way for you to focus on the big picture while someone else does the necessary day-to-day tasks.

However, if you continue to do minor jobs rather than delegate them, your energy will be spent on lower-priority tasks rather than the high priority, income producing ones.

A thousand and one time management tools are available in the marketplace to help you use your time efficiently - FranklinCovey Day Planners, Palm Treos, BlackBerries and countless computer software programs.

All of these tools can help you keep track of everything you need to do, organize your time, prioritize your work, and provide a method for evaluating and assessing the outcome of your efforts. Preparation, of course, is key. You never know when a great idea will pop into your head. So keep a notebook, a personal digital assistant, a cell phone or a tape recorder with you at all times - even by your bed.

Some of your best ideas come in the middle of the night. Be prepared to jot down thoughts or ideas whenever they arise. If you wait too long, you may forget to write them down.

Gaining mastery

Strive to better utilize your time, and the powerful techniques of time management will help you:

  • Use time to accomplish goals

  • Improve productivity

  • Make time for what you enjoy and value

  • Find greater balance, fulfillment and satisfaction

  • Focus on what is most important to you

  • Identify and achieve long-term goals

  • Reduce waste

  • Reduce anxiety and stress

  • Excel in managing all areas of your life
end of article

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at vickid@netdoor.com or call her at 601-310-3594.

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