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Tips for Managing Your Time
Time – it's a precious commodity. While no one ever seems to have enough of it, some people manage to accomplish far more than others in the same 24 hours. When it comes to time management, entrepreneurs have special concerns.
Providing both vision and leadership, entrepreneurs know that the success or failure of their businesses depends on them. As a result, many find themselves working a staggering number of hours. They say they will slow down after making it over the next hurdle. But another hurdle always appears. Running at such a fast clip may bring short-term results, but those gains can be lost quickly through ill health or divorce. Learning to use your time more efficiently not only helps you achieve a healthier balance between your business and personal lives but it can also save your business from missed deadlines, overtime wages, lost customers and more. Putting in more hours isn't the key to success. Managing your time more effectively is. You'll be more productive in fewer hours and live a happier, healthier life as a result.
1. Work towards larger life goals
The first step in effective time management is to determine where exactly you want to go. Without a clear picture of your destination, you'll wind up someplace else. Think long-term: What do you want to achieve by the end of your life? Or even at the end of this decade? Write it down and be as specific as possible. Then determine what steps you must take to meet your goals. Write these down too.
Next, keep a time log of everything you do for at least a week, preferably a month. Note the number of hours or minutes you spend on each work project, meeting, phone call or other activity. Log activities as they occur; just doing it a few times a day results in missing important details.
2. Figure out where you are spending your time
Compare your time log to your life goals. The majority of your time should be spent on activities contributing to the realisation of your goals. Make a note of any activities not directed towards this end, and try to eliminate them. It might be better, for example, to discharge a difficult client whose projects stray from your company's core business, and instead put more effort into marketing and finding new clients. Consider ways to streamline the tasks you are obliged to do: for instance, you can sometimes accomplish just as much with a teleconference as a lunch meeting. Say no to any new endeavours unless they somehow support your goals.
Don't hesitate, as many entrepreneurs do, to delegate some of your tasks. One print shop owner, who was putting in 90 hours a week, was so discouraged he was ready to close down his business. He couldn't give additional responsibility to his employees, he said, because they were not experienced enough. Then a health crisis kept him out of the shop for several weeks. In his absence, those same employees performed extremely well.
4. Use an organisational system
Organise the information you use most frequently, such as appointment dates, telephone numbers, action lists, mileage and so on. There are many fine organisational systems available. If you are a procrastinator, make a concerted effort to cure yourself. Consider whether your tendency to procrastinate is caused by a lack of enthusiasm for your projects. If this is the case, it may be that they do not support your life goals. If you're a slow starter or consistently underestimate how long a project will take, schedule frequent project reviews to hold yourself accountable or set false deadlines so you are not frantic when the actual deadline arrives.
5. Commit to better time management
Each week, set aside time for personal planning. Review your goals as well as your schedule for the coming week to make sure they are mutually supportive. Remember, the most important thing is to make a strong commitment to managing your time. If you don't, time will control you.
6. Clean off your desk.
Use folders to contain all documents relating to the same project and keep all work-in-progress folders in one place. Toss aging industry journals or create a corporate library. Don't leave a cluttered desk at night.
7. Group similar tasks
Time is often wasted changing from one task to another. Do all of your writing, emailing and telephoning at one time. Take this step further: group similar types of email. All good email programmes have filtering functions so that all email with the words "Project: Destroy Them" can be grouped, and all email from a particular address can be coloured in blue, and so on. In other words, let technology make less work for you.
8. Break large tasks into smaller steps
Estimate the amount of time needed to complete each step rather than the entire project. Monitor your progress along the way.
9. Create a written agenda and set a time limit for each meeting
Insist that discussion items be placed on the agenda before the meeting.
10. Review your life goals annually to make sure they are still valid
Things change. Accept that and tweak your life goals accordingly.
11. Forget about perfection
Perfection doesn't exist in this world, and you'll only frustrate yourself — and waste time doing things over and over. Strive for excellence instead.
12. Make it your policy to only touch a piece of paper once
Then act on it, file it, or throw it away.
13. Stop attending meetings that you don't profit from
If you need information from a meeting, arrange for someone to go in your place and report back to you.
14. Ask yourself, if I didn't do this task would it matter to anyone?
If not, don't do it.
15. Don't do anything that you can delegate to someone else.
Only do those tasks for which you are uniquely suited.
16. Set limits on new projects
Say no (it's very liberating)! Or be realistic about how much you can really get done. Don't promise it tomorrow when you already have six projects that need to be done by tomorrow.
Please be aware that all of the views expressed in this Blog are purely the personal views of the authors and commentators (including those working for AIB as members of the AIB website team or in any other capacity) and are based on their personal experiences and knowledge at the time of writing.
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