1. Take Stock – keep track of what you are spending your time on. Here’s a simple exercise for you. For the next week, keep a tally or journal of how you spend your time each day. In detail. Record your activities every hour of what you did. I’ll bet you’re saying “I don’t have time for that!” Just do it, OK? You have to measure something if you want to change it. After a week, count up how many hours you spent on each type of activity such as email, phone calls, marketing, meetings, etc. I guarantee an “Ah Ha” moment.
2. When you Think it, Ink it – Get things out of your head and onto paper, into your schedule or onto your computer. Humans have somewhere around 60,000 thoughts a day, so if you think you’ll remember everything later, guess again. I carry a digital voice recorder with me so I can capture important ideas and to do’s when they come up. I keep a journal with me too. When I get home, I move these important thoughts and ideas into my planners.
3. Eliminate Distractions – Turn of you cell phone, unplug your office phone and shut down your email. Unnecessary or untimely distractions are the biggest time wasters in your day. I promise you won’t die if you don’t check email for an hour or two. If you share an office with someone or work in an environment where other folks like to pop in and say Hi, then shut your door with a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it and request your office mate not talk to you when the door is closed. You’re working.
4. Prioritize Your Activities – Control your day, don’t let it control you. Have a list of tasks you want to accomplish each day. Rank them in order of importance. A) Must do today. B) Want to do today. C) Might be nice to do today. Then rank them A1, A2 etc. in order of highest priority. And here’s a hint. Some of the A’s should be marketing and business generating activities. Don’t let others determine what you do, their emergency or lack of planning cannot dictate your schedule.
5. Block Your Time – One of the most time consuming things in your day is starting and stopping an activity. Block off an hour or two for each task you plan to work on. An hour for phone calls, two hours for marketing, and hour to reply to emails, etc. Only work on that task during the appointed time block. If an idea interrupts your or you remember something your forgot to do, write it down and return to the task at hand. I like to use a kitchen timer to help track my time blocks. When the timer goes off, I can reevaluate spending more time on that block or moving on to something more important.
6. Multi-Tasking is a Myth – You can’t do more than one thing at a time. Sorry. Multi-tasking is just moving between two or more things and not doing any of them very well. Focused attention on one objective at a time is the best way to do a great job on that activity. It’s true that women are better multi-taskers than men, but that just means they do a better job at being inefficient than men.
7. Stay Organized – Part of your day should be devoted to keeping your work space, calendar and projects in order. Fifteen to 30 minutes of organization and planning can save you two hours of wasted time that could be used for accomplishing ‘A’ priority tasks. If you are spending more than 2 minutes looking for a document or phone number, or if you frequently miss or are late for appointments, then it’s time you got organized. Do it before you call it quits for the day. I promise, you’ll thank me tomorrow.
© 2007 Steve O’Sullivan
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