Making the most of our time

In the November 2010 meeting the main discussion topic was “Making the Most of our Time” with everyone sharing the problems they had in managing their time and providing tips for ways to improve.

There were four main time management problems identified that we all experience

  • lack of clear goals, which makes it difficult to know what we should be prioritising
  • other people who have different priorities and schedules to ours. These range from clients, bosses and colleagues to family, especially children,  if we are working from home.
  • lack of discipline because we prefer to do the fun stuff, the easy tasks or the things with short term rewards.  This includes answering unimportant emails just because it makes us feel that we are achieving something
  • tasks that have to be done but which take us lots of time (e.g. accounts) because we are not skilled at them or else not motivated

Ideas that were shared for making the most of our time were:

  • Run imaginary “board” meetings.  Ideally find someone to whom you can talk and give them a report on where you are in the business – progress against strategy, financial figures, sales & marketing report, status of operations, plans and milestones etc.  If you cannot find someone to talk to, at least write down the key points.  Writing down your status & plans or better still reporting them to someone (who does not have to understand your business in detail) will clarify the progress being made and the major actions that are required to meet your goals.  If you do not have clear goals, it will also help you to set them
  • Set aside particular times for important tasks.  Think of this as setting meetings with yourself and give these meetings as much priority as meetings with important clients – put them in the diary, set the objectives and avoid distractions by turning on answerphones, turning off email and shutting the door
  • Be proactive: tackle issues before they escalate, check that clients are happy (and identify further opportunities with them), tell suppliers and colleagues what you need from them in time for them to deliver
  • Find a place to work where you can be uninterrupted when necessary – agree with those around you (colleagues or family members) some times when they will leave you in peace and shield you from interruptions
  • Set expectations for when you will reply to phone messages, emails and instant messages.  Say you will reply for example, within 1 day or within 4 hours, and then make use of the time this gives you to be proactive
  • Use virtual assistants to manage messaging, handle admin or for many other tasks.  It can be very cost effective to free up more time for the key tasks that bring in revenue
  • Chart showing the 4 quadrants of time management

  • Divide your tasks into the 4 quadrants as shown in the image and spend time on the important but non-urgent tasks while reducing the time spent on unimportant tasks
  • Split up tasks into bite-size chunks so that you feel your progress as you tick them off
  • Delegate where you can.  Do not hold onto less important tasks just because you do them well, when you would make more impact doing the important tasks

You can download a fact sheet by Chris Lilly on time management from the Mayfield Business Group (MBG) website

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