Make time your servant, not your master

We've given you ideas on time management before, but we're still hearing from many of our clients that they really struggle to optimise their day and to get enough from it. You may agree that the more streamlined it is, the more time you can create quality thinking and marketing time to grow your business.

The set of procedures we've mailed you over the last few weeks will certainly save you time when working with your team, or even if you're on your own. But do you often find yourself at 4 pm saying, “Wherever has the day gone?” Here are some more ideas gleaned from our own sources and from others who are good at managing their day.

Email – are you a slave to it? With email, we are drowning in collaboration, but it doesn't necessarily get things done. There are reasons for this. Many are conditioned to email and it becomes an addiction. Social media is the same. Mark Bauerlein, in 'The Dumbest Generation' says that we all need to feel connected and 'in the loop' and often feel desperately disassociated if we don't. Email was one of the first things created on the Internet, but it wasn't created as a great productivity tool. The problem is that emails are sent in the order people send them not in your preferred priority. 

One supplier tells me that she doesn't even look at her email until 10.00 and only then for emergencies. Her first two hours are locked into her 'major task of the day' and cracking it! Once in a blue moon, a client may say, 'Have you seen my email (sent earlier)?' and she says, 'Sorry, I only read my email after 10. Let's look at it now.' So if you, too, find yourself hooked, do you need to reconsider your priorities?

When am I at my most productive?

It is vital that you look hard at yourself and ask 'when am I at my most productive?' That is, when can I think, create absolute peace to crack on with what must I do today? Very few of us can work flat-out and concentrate for longer than an hour or two. Few are at our best straight after lunch or at 5-6 pm. For some, it takes a while to get going in the morning, but, after sleep and shower may get the best results. Others prefer to line up their day first, then do their best work. But, for sure, committing to not being interrupted and cracking on with the big-ticket issue will give you the best results. It's harder when you work alone as you may lose business to the next in line on Google search so route calls to a mobile or to someone who can take the call. But when you have office support, very few clients expect an instant response from you, the business owner. Put your phone on voicemail if you possibly can with the message, “I'm tied up until 10.00 this morning, please leave a message, or if it's urgent call X.”

Brain-Dumps

To make sure your priorities are set, or to plan one distinct piece of work, try brain-dumps. Do you ever sit looking at a blank word document and wondering how to drive your thoughts?

Never download your mind in pieces. Do the whole brain-dump on to a whiteboard or to a large sheet of paper. Scramble down what's in your mind, and keep going until you've 'spilt out' your words and phrases on to one big picture. Only then start joining the links when you've flooded the board/page.

Number the priorities by urgency, the value of that business and the timescales you need for each element, then nail the work.

Next week, we're looking at more time-saving ideas.