Every productive person one time or other gets confused with activity. The great saying by A.J. Marshall, “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans,” is true in the sense that if we don’t manage our time productively, it passes us by- we forget deadlines, we lose deals, we become reactive instead of proactive.
In business, any business, understanding and taking control of time is just part of being proactive. So often I hear the words, “I’m so busy. I just couldn’t call you today,” or, “It’s on my list but I won’t get to it until a few weeks because I have these other tasks first.” These are reasonable responses if and only if, the other tasks and activities that have been prioritized above correspond more directly with the company’s goals, revenue and mission. If you are prioritizing the tasks and activities by urgency, you’re missing the entire point.
How many times have you been ready to check out with a retail clerk in a store or pharmacy and the sales person answers a ringing phone? Meanwhile, you are standing in front of the person ready to make a sale for that business and they prioritize the phone call as being more important (or urgent) for them. A former boss and now friend of mine (who actually taught me my first time management course) told this story. His theory? Call the store from your cell phone while you are standing in front of them. When they pick it up and you smile, they’ll get the hint.
The point is, in order to manage your time, you need to set goals. You need to identify events and then you need to manage the time with control. What are your long-term goals for your business? What are your immediate needs? What’s on your daily activity ‘to do’ list? When you are goal planning, are your goals:
• Time dimensioned
• Owned (either by you or another employee)
Here are some other quick thoughts to take control over your time:
1. If you use Outlook organize your email by creating folders and changing your settings so some emails are automatically filtered to a folder you look at once a week. If billing emails are not a priority and only have to be checked weekly, have technology filter it so you aren’t spending the time opening and filtering yourself. I even have a folder labeled “tools,” where I filter all my SEO ranker tools, keyword management tools, helpful articles (like this one) and even sometimes, contacts. Some contacts are definitely worth the ‘tool’ label.
2. Planners. With so many gadgets, it’s no wonder we forget conference calls, picking up our children and sometimes even eating. Sync your office, home and phone calendar into one. It’s easy to do with Google calendar and docs plus you can set it up so it sends you a text to remind you of an appointment. Other similar programs and applications are from Jott and Cozi. In fact, if you use Doodle.com, you get a free online scheduling assistant to set up meetings and go back and forth about times so you don’t have to. The service syncs with your calendar in Outlook, Google and on your Apple.
3. Remember, don’t let urgency take over priority just because the phone rings or a customer demands an immediate response to an email. Yes, take care of it. However, if you are working on a $25 million project, take care of that first.