Effective Time Management

Effective Time ManagementIn business, as with all aspects of life, learning “how to make time to smell the roses” is truly an art form and skill set you need to master so you may run your business more efficiently and effectively as you enjoy the success you then reap with more family and personal time.

Entrepreneur Magazine some time back printed an info-graph worth noting that stated there are only three ways to spend time: thoughts, conversations, and actions. Regardless of the type of business you own, your work will be composed of those three items. As an entrepreneur, you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do have a say on how much time you will spend on them and how much time you will spend on thoughts, conversations, and actions that will lead you to success. Truer words have never been so spot on. I even wrote about time management last year. Entitled “How to Work Less and Achieve More”, it is worth revisiting again.

Time management is never easy. Much time is often wasted or frittered away daily. Managing daily activities when you are your own boss, often on deadline, and when the other responsibilities and tasks are not otherwise delegated, requires good time management skills.

I have a found a lot of inspiration reading Steven Covey. Among his books, my favorite is “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” especially where he states ” time management is a misnomer; the challenge is to manage ourselves”. As an entrepreneur, you have to be a tough boss and maintain the necessary self-discipline in order to be successful.

Again citing Entrepreneur magazine, their article on time management spoke of ” two types of time: clock time and real time. In real time, all time is relative. Time flies or drags depending upon what is being done. The reason time management gadgets and systems seldom work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time and clock time is generally irrelevant. You live in real time. The good news is that real time is mental. You create it, you manage it. To be successful, you must become the master of your own time”.

I use a to-do list. You should have one as well. It is the essence of effective time management.  You will be never be able to remember or recall everything, so keep a notepad and pen handy. Appointment books do work.

Work in blocks of time. I make it a point to schedule myself a window in time and then work down my list of tasks. Eliminate distractions. Know your goals, prioritize them, and complete them faithfully. Plan ahead. I put up a mental “do not disturb” sign. Learn to just say no. Do not let others manage your day. Do not answer the phone or check or respond to emails except during a designated time to do so. Block out all forms of social media except for that block of time you designate to do so. Clear all clutter. Learn to delegate well and delegate more often. Leverage the time and labor of others to free up your time. And make time for yourself. Sleep well and exercise to maximize your alertness and be highly functional.

It helps to make a weekly time diary and plot out what you need to do daily and for the entire week. Let your computer help. Make effective use of personal scheduling software programs that allow you to keep at your fingertips your to-do list and your calendar.  Learn to multitask but learn to do so cautiously and only with those routine tasks and activities that can be consolidated and easily combined and handled. Keep in mind, according to a recent University of Michigan study, that productivity drops as much as 40% when subjects try and do two or more things at once. It is often best to focus on accomplishing one thing at a time. Set realistic goals. Do not try to accomplish too much or become obsessed with being too perfect. Micromanaging every little detail is so counterproductive, it actually is worse than mere procrastination. Just keep in mind, it is okay not to accomplish everything you set out to accomplish in a designated time period. The best 20% often produces 80% of what you seek anyway.

I have found it is always best to tackle the most difficult tasks first. The more you put them off, the tougher it gets. Adding stress that way is so counterproductive.

Time is your greatest asset as an entrepreneur. Make the most of it. You will accomplish more and in less time. You will find that you have more time to smell the roses and that you have mastered time management.

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