“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” This famous quote by William Shakespeare fits in well with today’s small business owner/executive. Busy schedules, emails, phone calls, voicemails, meetings, lunches, seminars, conferences, demanding clients, product emergencies – oh, and did I mention meetings?
Time is life, and time is irreversible and irreplaceable. If we waste time, it’s gone forever, and we cannot get it back. And yet, it seems like we never have enough time to get everything done—or do we?
The fact is that we have 168 hours of time per week. There is no such thing as a “lack of time.” We always find time to do the things we are most motivated to do. Our quality of life—our excellence in our field of work—is determined by how we manage those 168 hours.
So, how can we master our time? We need to focus our brain on doing what is most important, and stop doing non-essential tasks. Everyone wants a “piece of our time”—and it’s typically in conflict with what we want to do.
1. Set Goals
Author and time management expert, Alan Lakein, tells us in his book, How To Get Control Of Your Time and Your Life: “Control starts with planning, and planning starts with goals.” List your life goals and set priorities. What do you want out of life? What do you want out of your job? Make a list right now. List 3—but not more than 5. What are the most important goals I have for my life? Many people drift through life with no goals. Don’t be that person! Everything you do should relate to these goals!
2. Execute Goals
Make a daily “to do” list—every day—prioritize it, and then execute. Seriously! You can make it on your smart phone or on old-fashioned pen and paper. Either way: DO IT! Then categorize each item as an “A” item (absolutely must do today), a “B” item (sure need to do today), or a “C” item (would be nice to do). You can’t have more than one-third A’s. Then, put the C’s in a drawer. Forget ‘em. They will either pop back up, or go away. Focus on the A’s. Do the A’s. They are important.
3. Evaluate Your Time
Next, ask yourself this question several times a day: “What is the absolute best use of my time right now?” You will find this makes you more productive. Then, most important: learn to say “NO!” Say “NO!” to interruptions, phone calls, emails, etc. Set aside specific times to answer calls, emails, letters. Do not allow constant interruptions—get work done! I remember interviewing one executive who “turned around” at her desk every time her computer made a “ding” sound, signifying an email came in. Probably 70% of those were junk mail—but like Pavlov’s dog, she turned around every time that sound occurred. Don’t do that.
4. Master Your Time
Do it now! Don’t postpone tasks! If you can’t finish it, use the “swiss cheese” technique of nibbling away at pieces of your “A” task, doing a bit here, and a bit there, until it gets done. Keep at it. Get it done. You will feel great when it’s finally finished. Keep asking yourself—again and again—what is the best us of my time right now?
After all, you will run out of time someday. Use it wisely—in your business and in your life. Get more done today!