We all talk about how we use our time. Secretly, we probably think we’re all quite good at it. But if we are, why are so many of us pulling 14+ hour days, wishing we had more time for our families, our hobbies and ourselves?
Here are 7 time secrets, I followed and still follow, that you can action to reap real rewards. The majority of us are sitting on a goldmine of untapped productivity and happiness gains, that only proper time management can unlock.
Treat time as an asset
Like Gollum, we often feel we are tricked out of our ‘precious’ time. This is often because we fail to see time as an asset, with which we can do what we want and whose value we recognize. This precious asset can give us good, average or great results. Most of us amble along just getting mediocre results. But this can change.My epiphany came while I was reading Tim Ferris’s book, ‘The 4-hour work week’. A trip to the doctor for my wife’s pregnancy acted as a further catalyst for change. The doctor’s ‘surgical’ use of time exemplified maximizing time as a asset to everyone’s advantage. This was the process I observed:
We get stuck in a rut. We get too busy to step back and challenge the status quo. If we did, how creative could we get? What advantages could we win from harnessing technology and other assets?
Here’s one example: typically salespeople meet clients face to face or talk on the phone. But consider Skype. Skype allows you to have eye contact and gauge essential non-verbal communication, which is lost on a phone call. Skype saves travel time and allows you to screen share. While video calls cannot replace the power of face to face meetings, particularly in the initial stages of building rapport, increasing Skype usage with clients builds the potential for more frequent meetings and stronger relationships. If 10 meetings a week are 1 hour each with 40 minutes travel, converting these to 30 minute Skype calls would save 700 minutes (11 hours, 40 minutes per week). Although this seems simple, very few people use the widely available video conferencing software as efficiently as they could.
Technology is both the greatest asset and the greatest challenge to mastering our time. Interruptions bombard us at least every 8 minutes. The cumulative time taken to get back on task after these perpetual assaults is devastating to our time management.
Awareness of this and the self-discipline to switch off from these distractions will win back significant amounts of time.
Determine when and how you are going to deal with these distractions. Keep your phone face down, switch off the sound and vibration unless you are expecting something urgent. Answer Whatsapp messages every 2 hours or so. Try and keep set hours for checking and responding to emails e.g. 9am, 2pm, 5pm, or better still have someone filter your emails.
Beware Parkinson’s Law
This is the hypothesis that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Half of what you do, you do not actually need to do. Letting it go, doing it later, not doing it at all, might all be valid options. Consider this, then set yourself clear, defined tasks with timescales and stick to them.
Embed the Pareto Principle
Roughly 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. Embedding this belief in your psyche will revolutionise your time management. At present, you probably spend 80% of your time doing things you simply should not, or do not need to be doing.
Do a time management study of yourself. Look at the tasks you do. For each one consider: is it the best use of your time, what would it cost someone else to do, could you delegate it? By going through this process you’ll discover the 80% that you should not be doing and the 20% that is really driving results. It will empower you to envisage the team you need to support you, create more time and do a better job.
Having done this myself, here’s how I manage email, invoicing, bookings and documentation:
Invest in resources
We are often held back by our reluctance to invest in new people or technologies. There are many reasons for this, including: fear of failure, not knowing how to proceed and fear you will not use the extra time created. Essentially though the formula is simple: understand how much you are worth per hour, look at what you do with your time, outsource or use internal resources to free up your hours for more productive activity, be that doing other tasks, enjoying your hobbies or spending time with your family.
We use Fiverr or Upworks and an outsource administration firm, Cream Counsel. This allows us to commission small tasks and learn about potential employees and technologies without the downside of lengthy recruitment processes and agreements. Contractors are paid when they do what you have asked them to do. Once you find a person you work well with, give them regular work and build the relationship. Ideally you want to use a mixture of full-time staff, part-time staff and outsourced administration. This builds flexibility and scaleability into your model.
Understand how your personality type treats time
Some people are drivers, some are expressive, some are analytical, some are amiable and others are a mix of two or three of the four. Each type though, has dysfunctionalities that impact time management dramatically. Take a look at the four groups below. Where do you fit? How does it impact your time management? An understanding of this is crucial to embrace change.
So where now? Change is never easy. We get stuck in ruts of time wasting and inefficiency. But why not try some of the seven methods discussed here. Let me know how you get on. We’ve developed a time management app that will be available on iTunes soon. It has been designed to make an analysis of your time as easy and efficient as possible. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Here’s to being free with your ‘precious’.
CEO SchiffmanMorrisonAsia, Co-founder SchiffmanVT