Do you struggle to maintain control of your day — and wish you could feel in charge of your career, and your life?
Integrate these time management tips into your self-management strategy to keep the chaos at bay, help you stay true to your priorities, get your work done, and still have time to enjoy your life.
1. Treat everything as an appointment. Bottom line: If it takes up time then consider it an appointment and schedule it. For example, getting ready in the morning, breakfast and your commute to work are just some of the activities that need to be part of your routine. Treating every activity as an appointment will allow you to plan better. It will also keep your honest about what you feel you can and cannot do so that you can perform each task with a conscious intention.
2. Plan for the unplanned. There are essentially three reasons why we find it so challenging to adhere to our schedule or complete our to-do list:
1. Not being realistic with our timeline and as a result, have too many activities scheduled into our day.
2. Not engaging in right activities that support our goals or objectives.
3. Not planning for the unplanned. Also known as, “externalities,” these things that we don’t necessarily plan for often go unnoticed and fly under our radar screen when we’re attempting to map out our week. They have tendency to eat up our days. These externalities can also take on the form of errands or household chores, the kids’ carpool, time on the phone, traffic, a doctor’s appointment, a project or proposal that you’re now responsible for which has a rapidly approaching deadline, a conversation with a co-worker, television, web surfing, meetings, emails, solitaire, etc. Many of these things come along and blindside us because they’re outside of our direct line of vision. Then we wonder why we’re often unable to finish everything that’s on our plate for the day.
Now, since we don’t have a crystal ball to inform us about the little things that threaten to consume part of our day, we acknowledge that they will hit us, and work them into our time-management strategy.
Tip from the coach: Distractions are events that you are not planning for. Plan for them.
3. Establish a timeline for each task. Time blocking is the art of creating blocks of designated time for specific activities or tasks throughout the day that are aligned with the realistic number of hours you have each day. However, before you can effectively block you time, you must prioritize your tasks and activities to be included in your routine and establish timelines for task. So, if you have a nine-hour workday, which includes one hour of planned externalities, (see number 2, “Plan for the unplanned”) you realistically have eight hours to use for activities that you can create designated blocks of time for and then position within your routine. You may encounter certain sporadic, yet consistent, activities that take up a portion of your day such as personal errands, phone calls, e-mails, prospecting, managing employees, writing proposals, training, meetings, or other work-related tasks. Consider allocating blocks of time for each activity during certain intervals throughout your day to handle them. For example, instead of being interrupted by incoming calls or e-mails throughout the day, try blocking out specific portions of your day to make and return calls or respond to e-mails.
4. Build buffer-time into each activity. The lesson here is to create your routine so it reflects a healthier and more respectful relationship with time that you have developed by underpromising on personal and professional deadlines. The point of this exercise is to become hypersensitive to how you are utilizing your time by becoming comfortable with the strategy of underpromising so that you can avoid overcommitting yourself. This will provide you with the additional cushion you need, just in case your best-laid plans get derailed.
5. Let the action be the reward. Rather than having the result be your reward, let the action be your reward. Once you have outlined a path and a success formula to follow (for example, if you are a salesperson: X # of calls produces X # of prospects which produces X # of sales), allow the doing or the process to be the reward and where the pleasure resides, not just the end result. This way, you can be responsible for your future goals without having to worry about them. If you continue your quest with your eyes focused on the finish line, you’ll miss out on the journey. Be careful not to hook yourself onto the future, so that you can enjoy the process of reaching your goals today. Knowing when enough is enough each day and the specific activities you need to engage in provides you with the freedom to trust the process you’ve put in place. After all, there’s always more to do. There’s always more that can be done at the office, at your home, and in your life; another call can be made or another e-mail can be read. But exceeding your monthly sales quota and maximizing the potential of your team will be the result of the cumulative efforts you make and the activities you engage in every day. When you’re mindful of the process, you now have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate your accomplishments on a daily basis (even the little ones) rather than pushing for or waiting until the “End.” (And when does that happen?)
6. Get off the adrenaline train. Many people today are hooked on a commonly abused drug whose widespread use seems to be flying under our radar. That drug is adrenaline. The classic symptoms? Saying “Yes” when you mean “No.” Overcommiting or overbooking your schedule, then finding it difficult to deliver on deadlines or complete tasks. Procrastinating until the last moment. Believing you, “Work best under pressure.” Being easily distracted. Consider that an adrenaline addiction may be creating many of the problems, employee challenges and obstacles to a sale that you want to avoid. Tolerating stress, chaos, disorganization, poor planning, lackluster team performance or undesirable customers create situations that provide the adrenaline rush associated when working on overdrive. Like any drug, adrenaline has its rewards. On the surface, it may appear that this legal, seductive drug provides a burst of energy to get something done, tackle a project or meet a deadline. Being superhuman enables you to accomplish more than what a mere mortal is capable of producing. While we need adrenaline to help us handle a crisis, we don’t want the drug to control us and dominate our lifestyle. Aside from making you feel drained, burnt out, and exhausted, adrenaline lowers your productivity level and sets you up for failure. If you thrive on chaos, it’s difficult to maintain your focus, concentration, peace of mind, or mental clarity. After all, if you’re a salesperson, a congested mind does not allow for the space to create the best solutions for your customers.
7. Become process-driven. Like many professionals, you may often feel pressured to reach quota or a certain level of acceptable performance. While having a monthly goal keeps your eye on the prize and your focus on the end result, it may actually do more harm than good. I often hear salespeople say, “Results aren’t showing up fast enough.” At the end of each selling month, frustration and stress run rampant as salespeople scramble to do their best to close sales and meet their numbers. The irony is, this constant push to reach sales numbers keeps you hooked on the goal, diverting your efforts away from refining the selling process needed to generate more business. The quandary then becomes, “I’m too busy to work on my process. I have numbers to meet!” Consider this paradox: The result is the process. In other words, what if you shifted most of your attention away from your goal or the end result and onto the process? After all, you don’t do the result; you execute the process, which produces the result as a natural byproduct of your efforts. That’s the paradox. By honoring the process, you can enjoy the benefit of knowing that you will attain your goals, since it’s the process that will get you what you want. (Imagine building a house without a blueprint!) To continually exceed your goals and better manage your mindset, change your thinking to become process driven rather than result driven.
8. Plan for time to plan. Great runners may be born but they have to learn how to walk first. The training and planning for the race will always take longer than the race itself. The same holds true for attaining the results and the level of productivity you are looking for. How much time do you invest each week to plan? Take the time to plan your week. Forecast what your week will look like. Whether that means putting aside thirty minutes Sunday night or Monday morning, use this time to plan your routine or develop your task list of what needs to be accomplished during the week. Schedule this block of time into your routine! Just like a runner trains so they can finish their race in the shortest amount of time, planning in advance will save you valuable time and prevent countless headaches throughout your week.
9. Plan for the worst. We do our best to plan. Then, life gets in the way. So, rather than plan our day from a position of “This is the best-case scenario (if all goes smoothly and according to plan with no distractions),” let’s plan for the worst. Hey, I’m the eternal optimist — but also a realist. By building in the worst-case scenarios, you’ll wind up budgeting for the unforeseen events that are going to happen anyway which would otherwise prevent you from achieving your daily goals and tasks.