Start to see time as an asset and double your business productivity overnight!
Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis once said, “Don’t sleep too long – or you’ll wake up a failure!” He calculated that 3 hours less sleep each night adds a whole month of productive time to your year. That’s 30 extra working days in which to pursue your business interests.
Whilst few of us waste as much as three hours each day, the results of time-wasting are still staggering: 3 minutes lost each hour equate to 2 hours a week. That’s almost two and a half working weeks each year!
How do we waste so much time? Looking for thing we’ve lost (telephone numbers, paper, even people!), making and taking unproductive telephone calls, attending meetings that start late and last too long, reacting to one crisis after another, attempting to get things 100 percent right when 95 percent will often do. No matter how organised you are already, there are always areas that you can arrange better. Read on for your guide to focusing your day and maximising your profits.
1. Plan Your Day
Have a daily priority list, and hang it somewhere you can see it while you’re working. Mark jobs that must be done today in order of importance – ‘1’ for tasks that must be completed, ‘2’ means jobs which have to be started today, and less important tasks are marked ‘3’. Delegate or delay all numbers 3s. Don’t start them until you have completely finished all of your priorities. Delete or cross through jobs as you accomplish them. This boosts your morale and ensures that the most important tasks are finished first.
2. Organise Your Post
Organise your incoming and outgoing paper – a stacking tray file works well. Mark each tray with in/out/pending/file/delegate/urgent/invoice. Whatever paper appears during the day should be immediately sorted into its appropriate category. Do this by asking yourself: “Do I need it?” If the answer’s ‘No’, bin it. Ask the question of outgoing mail – and don’t waste space by filing items you may never need again.
3. Don’t Let the Telephone Rule Your Life
Tomorrow, record every incoming call you take. Note the length, and decide on a scale of 1 (vital), 2 (potentially productive), and 3 (unimportant) how beneficial the call has been for your business. At the close of day, calculate time spent on unimportant calls. More than 24 minutes makes an average of 3 minutes per hour – the equivalent of 2 working weeks each year. Cut down on incoming calls now, before your business suffers.
Have someone else answer the phone or ‘screen’ calls by answerphone. Then decide which calls to intercept and which to ignore. Be polite but firm with unproductive callers (but never say you’re too busy to speak to them – it sounds arrogant and will send their business elsewhere). Ask for details by post, and promise a speedy reply. Fix a regular time each day to make all your business calls. Plan each call before making it. Keep it short: know who you want to speak to, what you want to say, list questions and points, and stick to your list. Then summarise the main points before ending the call. Always stay in control. You should be the one who suggest the next move.
4. Time-Wasting is Contagious!
It’s estimated that the average UK professional attends 60 meetings a month, of which 10 involve long-distance travel. Even smaller office meetings waste incredible amounts of time. Too many start and last too long, some aren’t necessary, and most could be better achieved by other quicker and cheaper means.
Meetings should be held as a last resort. Look for ways to accomplish your aims by letter, email, phone or fax. If you must have a meeting, prepare a schedule. Set start and finish times. Choose someone with good management skills to take charge. Recap at intervals and look to get agreement as soon as possible. As soon as the task-in-hand is accomplished, get up and leave immediately. Then arrange for minutes to be distributed and queries to be raised in writing before the next meeting.
5. Identify the Monkeys
In US terminology, monkeys are those jobs we shouldn’t do, tasks frequently passed to us by colleagues, and tasks accepted because we’re too polite. Inability to delegate, the desire to make ourselves indispensable, our failure to trust important jobs to others, tackling other people’s problems… all are monkeys. They’re time-consuming and unprofitable.
First rule of monkeys – learn to say ‘No!’. Value your time and delegate tasks to others who are equally capable of carrying them out. Resist the urge for total perfection. Can someone else take over once you’ve completed the important stages of a particular task?
Let me give you an example, by admitting what used to be my own biggest time-waster. I read everything I’d written many times over, looking for spelling mistakes and typing errors. I spent days covering the same ground. It’s time wasted which a proof-reader can do faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. So I now focus on developing new products and ideas. How? I get my daily priority list out and delegate those tasks to which my skills aren’t suited.
Now Maximize Your Productivity
Avoid the urge to take on work from others, especially your own employees. Called ‘reverse delegation’, the process defeats the whole purpose of employing staff. Make an exception only in urgent or sensitive circumstances. Teach staff to deal with all but the most difficult of executive tasks themselves.
And always bear this in mind: while you’re running out of time, your staff might be running out of work!