Picking up from the last post … Challenge, Frustration and Stress #2 – What do you do when you just don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do!?! Most of us would say that there’s just not enough hours in the day.
Know something? That is not the real problem. The real problem is us. It’s really about personal management, not time management. It’s about that dreaded D word – DISCIPLINE! And it’s definitely not as easy as it sounds.
Time management is not something they teach at Business School. I wish they did! It would have saved me so much stress and I would have been so much more productive. It is only as I got older (and hopefully wiser!) that I’ve learnt – I can always make another dollar but I cannot make another minute. Time ticks on whatever you do. There’s always only ever been 24 hours a day. I don’t know why I keep complaining that there’s not enough hours in the day – as if that is ever going to change! And when that’s gone, it’s gone. You can never recover the time that you’ve lost.
I came across this list of 10 Rules for an Executive’s Early Ulcer when I was going over my archives recently (The OCD in me doesn’t throw anything away 🙂 ).
- Your job comes first – all personal considerations are secondary.
- Go to the office evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
- Take your briefcase regularly with you – in this way you can review completely all the troubles and worries of the day.
- Never say “no” to a request.
- Accept all invitations to meetings, banquets, committees etc.
- Don’t eat a restful and relaxing meal – always plan a conference for meal hour.
- Regard fishing, golf, etc as a waste of time.
- Believe it is poor policy to take all your holidays.
- Never delegate responsibility – carry the whole load yourself.
- If your work calls for travelling, work all day and drive all night, so that you can keep the next day’s appointments.
I cannot remember where this came from. However, it does make me reflect on my time management. How often have you heard your families and friends tell you to “take a break”. But of course, we know better and we continue to work 24/7 (well, we would work 24/7 if we could). Have you ever heard anyone say on their deathbed that they wished they spent more time at work? No, it’s always about the regrets that we didn’t spend more time with family, or we didn’t do anything about leaving our legacy.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is not enough to be busy. The question is, what are we busy about?” Unless we can learn to leverage our time and become more of a catalyst for our businesses, we will only continue to earn a living. But if that is all that we desire, perhaps we would be better off becoming an employee … a job that encroaches on our time only from 8.30 AM – 5 PM Mondays to Fridays (at least in some occupations that is still possible!)
Large “projects” never get started as it requires too much time and we never have any to spare as it is. Marketing that has to be done will always be done tomorrow – after you’ve cleared the in-tray that keeps piling up.
So, HOW can we practise effective time management, or more to the point, effective self-management?
BREAK IT DOWN
One way to manage time effectively is to dissect the project into its smallest base components and work on each component part as if they were projects in their own right. Reduce everything you have to go into a series of little logical progressive steps. Don’t try to attack the big picture all at once. Most people focus on the end result but fail to “stair-step” their way to it. Consequently, everything stays in a developmental stage.
Sometimes when we look at the project we have to deliver, we get overwhelmed. When we get overwhelmed, we tend to do nothing or we procrastinate because it all becomes too hard. Therefore, break it down into, say, 10 steps or tasks. Each task completed brings the goal nearer and now everything seems more achievable.
For example, I break my day into 2-hour chunks with 10-minute breaks each hour to complete a task. Its substantial enough for me to sink my teeth into the work but not too long that I get tired. Research has shown that the optimum time chunk is 50 minutes – hence my reason for the 2 hour chunks with a 10 minute break. Using my Weekly Planner, I have found that this allows me to plan my white space and my fun times AND I still get a lot done.
Without organisation, you can’t get things accomplished. By procrastinating, you allow the opportunity to pass you by. And the cost of doing nothing is enormous. You need to set aside just half an hour a day (or even 15 minutes if you just can’t afford to take that half hour) every day to work ON your business.
Consider this … if you are prepared to go to the bank to borrow to buy the goodwill of a business (and at this stage you’re not even sure what is IN the goodwill), why not borrow the equivalent of say, an administrator’s salary for a year so that you can spend 100% of your time on marketing? All it requires is a belief in yourself – that the “free” time you release can be used efficiently to market and grow your business.
SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
What is the biggest time killer for most people today? I would have to say social media. If you let it, Facebook can just suck the life out of your day. According to an International Data Corporation (IDC) Research Report, on average, we visit the Facebook app or the site 13.8 times during the day, for 2 minutes and 22 seconds each time. That’s at least half an hour out of your day EVERY day on Facebook alone and BEFORE you add in Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter and the multitude of other social media platforms. There are no surprises in the recent article published by Mediakix on How Much Time People Spent on Social Media.
Would you be surprised to know that we spend more time on social media (average of 5 years, 4 months) than we do eating and drinking (which only takes up 3 years, 5 months)? Youtube is the biggest culprit, followed closely behind by Facebook and Snapchat. The art is to balance what you must do (social media is a must, not an option if you are in business) against the distraction. I’m sure no one else does what I am guilty of – I log in to check on my family overseas, then I see an interesting article in my feed, and I click on that to read it. Before I know it, I’ve wasted an hour doing “nothing”.
No wonder we get to the end of the day and we feel like we haven’t done anything productive .. because we haven’t!
Don’t believe me?
Keep a diary of your time for just 2 weeks. Mark out the time you spend watching TV, interacting on Social Media, sleeping, personal development and productive work. Be honest with yourself when you do this. Make sure that these two weeks accurately reflect the way you normally spend your time, not one where you deliberately become more productive just because you’re noting it down. At the end of the two weeks, review your diary and see how your time worked out. This was a little exercise that was introduced to me by the John Maxwell Team. It got me to face my reality.
So now you have a starting point. What are you going to do about it?
Be disciplined with your social media interaction. Schedule your social media time. Stop when the clock says to stop irrespective of whether you have read all the posts that you have to read. Trust me … You will suddenly find a heap of “extra” time you didn’t know you had! Suddenly, you find you DO have enough hours in the day to do what you want to do. What you do today will impact on your tomorrow!
Easy to say … not so easy to do. If necessary, get yourself an accountability partner who can keep you on track. And most importantly, have fun doing it. If it’s not fun, it will become too difficult and you will very quickly slide back into your old ways.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR DAY
If you’re anything like me, you wake up to a barrage of emails from people wanting your attention. One of my favourite quotes from Brendon Burchard is “The inbox is nothing about a convenient organising system for other people’s agenda.” Unless you are intentional about the work you need to do, and you do that FIRST, you will find yourself getting to the end of the day and wondering what happened to your day!
Plan your day and stick to it (unless all hell has broken loose). I don’t know how many times I’ve planned my day, only to get distracted by others. I accept that in some cases, it was unavoidable. However, the majority of the “emergencies” are not really emergencies. Brendon Burchard has another wonderful quote for this “Don’t re-prioritise your life’s work to handle someone else’s false emergency.” I now use a Weekly Planner to plan my week. (I have tried many different ones from different people, but none of them really worked for me. The daily planner that many trainers espoused was just a little too detailed for me so I ended up designing my own.)
One major step I took was to stop watching TV just to “relax”. Nielsen research showed the average American watched an average of 5.1 hours of TV a day, or 153 hours of TV a month. That’s one-third of our day when we’re awake! This figure is apparently increasing. 5.1 hours per day is nearly 2,000 hours a year – 2.5 full months. Just imagine if that time was spent on your goals, how much further ahead would you be? Today, I hardly watch TV … I read a lot more than I have done in the past few years. And I am noticing the difference it has made in helping me reach my goals.
SCHEDULE IN THE WHITE SPACE
Let me clarify what I mean by this. You cannot work all the time, although if you do something you are passionate about, the theory is that you will never work another day in your life! However, however much of a workaholic you are, you need to (no, you must) spend time with your family and friends and relax. Have some fun. Enjoy life. You will return to the task refreshed and far more productive. No one has ever gone to their deathbed wishing that they spent more time at work. However, many wished that they had spent more time with their family and friends, and they stopped to smell the roses. Trust me, you will become a much nicer person to be with!
USE A REMINDER SYSTEM
In my Weekly Planner, I created sections on the 1 Page Planner for this. I included a section for “My Dream Life” to keep reminding me of my why. The “Habits” section is a reminder of the habits I need to build into my life and the “Best Me” is to remind me of the person I need to become if I am to achieve all that I want to achieve. You need to stay focused on the end game. It has been proven that using positive affirmations and reminders works. Have a read of the book the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murray. I found it fascinating and it certainly changed my thinking on this.
DELEGATE WHERE YOU CAN
This is very difficult for the perfectionist to do. Of course, no one can do it as well as you can. No one will ever be good enough. If someone else can do it at least 90% as well as you can, would it not be worth your while to delegate and release all that extra time for yourself? How about 80%? Or even 70%? Ask yourself, what is the minimum acceptable standard for you. Remember one thing – if you have to do everything yourself, then you are nothing but a slave. AND, the day you leave this world, someone else will step into your shoes and do that which you said cannot be done by someone else!
WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND WHY?
You need to decide what is important to you. What will propel you to the next level? Is what you’re doing today in line with where you say you to be? What do you have to stop doing? What are the things you cannot afford to stop doing because it HAS to be done because, for example, it puts food on the table. What are the non-negotiables?
You have to know WHY it’s important. Unless you know your WHY, you will find it difficult to sustain the discipline necessary to improve on self-management and get the resulting time management. WHY are you wanting to improve? Is it because you have a family that’s reliant on you? Without clarity on this, you will give up in defeat at the first sign of resistance.
Let’s face it. That bar of chocolate looks so tempting at the end of the day. TV is so inviting when you are tired after a hard day’s work. And before you know it – you’ve eaten a whole bar of chocolate (it is definitely not fair that 400 grams of chocolate can add 1 kg to our weight!) or it’s midnight and you definitely cannot raise enough energy to go and finish that task that has to be completed.
Will you do today what others won’t so that tomorrow you can do what others cannot?
GET OFF THE THREADMILL
Most of us have heard that saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” We know it’s true. And as long as we continue doing what we’ve always done, we will continue to get the same results. Yet we continue to try to prove that we are the only one that that adage won’t apply to.
At the end of the day, the clock ticks on irrespective of what you do. You can only really learn to manage yourself. You cannot “manage” time. Therefore, instead of asking how we can improve our time management, we should be asking HOW can we improve on self- management. Because if we can manage ourselves, we can manage our time! And before we know it – we will have enough hours in the day!
In reality, time management boils down to DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE and DISCIPLINE. It’s the hardest thing to do but it is also the most rewarding. Do it well and you will have discovered the elusive “secret” to time management.
Have I mastered my time management? Not 100%. But I’m a lot better than where I was before. Do I still falter? Of course. Discipline is a lot easier to teach than to practise. All I can say is I’m still working on it. And I will likely be continuing to work on it till I leave this earth.
This one can make or break a business. If you don’t learn to manage your time, you get burnt out and your business continues its downhill slide. You’re running faster than ever … doing more than you ever did … yet you do not see the results you’re chasing. That’s why in my mentoring sessions, I tackle this upfront – BEFORE we talk about anything else. I’ve seen more than one business owner crash and burn. Yes, you’re busy.
My question is – what are you busy doing?
Next week, I’ll get into Challenge, Frustration and Stress #3 – The feast and famine cycle.
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!