By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me first in Bloomington, MN for the HomeServices of America Marketing/IT Conference where I spoke about leadership and Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). Today, I recorded a podcast with Amy Vetter, a keynote speaker, trailblazing technologist, CPA and yogi. Her philosophy melds mindfulness with management to help leaders across the world generate more business, create balance and find bliss.
The idea of living a balanced life is directly tied to the mastering of one important leadership aspect: time management. Writing for the September/October 2018 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Senior Editor Gretchen Gavett says time management “really comes down to [being] conscious of what you do, when you do it and why.”
My friend and colleague John Thompson of Intero Real Estate Services made a great point when teaching a recent time management class. He said: “Every time you say ‘yes’ to something just remember you are saying ‘no’ to something else.”
Time management is one of those tricky topics to discuss. We all know what we should do but as we review the components of a proper strategy for tackling time management, we must think about whether we’re actually applying the proper discipline – the ability to make and keep promises to ourselves – that allows us to add these tactics into our daily routine. Time management is one of those things where this quote from Samuel Johnson really applies: “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
In today’s post, I’m going to provide several points on time management I’ve learned throughout the years. I recommend picking the ones that feel most important to you. Typically, I wouldn’t try to implement every single one of the below at the same time. Select the three that seem most relevant and commit to doing just those three tactics this month. Next month, add another three, then another three and so on …
Here are my points:
- Work from a list because it will double your productivity right away.
- The key to being productive is to stick to the seven most important things you need to get done that day. Generally, when you have a long list of tasks to accomplish, you first do the less productive tasks just to trim down the list. At the end of the day, you’ll often find the most important things on your list didn’t get done because they were the hardest, the most time-consuming or both. To get around that you have to list out the seven most important things to do. Then put time frames around each task because Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Not every day will go perfectly, so you can put buffers in the day but never put a buffer in the time you’ve allotted to complete the task. You can get infinitely more done when you do tasks in blocks of time.
- As it turns out, time management can also be used with email. The key to great email time management is to institute a company-wide (or team-wide) policy that insists on very descriptive subject lines for all emails. When the subject of the email changes, the subject line on that email also changes. This is critical because you’re not wasting any time reading through the entire chain of emails to figure out what’s being discussed.
- As a related point, the key to great time management for documents is to also institute a universal policy for labeling these documents, which includes a reference to the date it was created, date it was updated, version number of the draft and final version.
- Keep a detailed schedule. If it’s not in your schedule it doesn’t exist, and you should never make a commitment of your time without checking your schedule first. Have your next day’s schedule ready the night before and make sure it’s filled out with everything you need to do. Schedule all your tasks, including having lunch, going to the cleaners or shopping at the grocery store. Listing everything keeps you focused, and you’ll get more done.
- Speaking of schedules, you should plan your schedule a year in advance. First, put in the critical business meetings and functions you need to attend. Next, add the training you’ll do professionally and personally and the appointments you can set in advance. Then schedule your vacations, days off and everything that gives you balance.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and as best as possible, wake up the same time every day. This will help you create a habit, which is what scheduling and time management is all about – building a structure that fosters the habituation of our most productive traits.
So, what’s the message? Control your time, don’t let time control you. If you follow the above simple steps with discipline and focus, you’ll be able to optimize your time and maximize the achievement of your Wildly Important Goals.