In recent weeks two of my clients – both partners in a major global consulting firm – have asked me for advice on making the most of their time.
Time management is one of the key skills for anyone running a business. Without it, time can slip away like sand running out of an egg timer, so I thought I'd share the technique I gave them.
I believe it's one of Stephen Covey's tips from The 7 Habits. Certainly I can't lay claim to it myself – 'though I have used it for many years now!
The way most people plan their day is to wait until they get to the office, first thing in the morning, look at their to-do list, go through their emails and their diary, and try to fit stuff in.
By the time you sit down to plan, your head is already filling up with all the things you need to remember to do – including getting bread and milk on the way home, calling your cleaner, and looking for a birthday card for your sister (probably a "sorry I missed your birthday" card!).
The end result is that your day gets filled up with lots of trivial stuff, and the important tasks have to take their chance alongside the fillers to get your time and attention.
Even worse, you've already lost an hour by the time you start to work on them!
The way to avoid this is to do your planning at the end of the day.
I have a week-to-view diary that has a few blank lines at the bottom of each day. I use these to list the 3-5 key tasks I need to start/complete the following day (including any brought forward from earlier days). It takes me no more than 5-10 minutes.
When I sit down the following morning, I open my diary and my priorities are already set for the day and I know what I need to start working on.
Yes, things may come up, but at least the main direction for the day is already set, and there's a much better chance that I'll get it done!
So there you go: take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down what you ned to achieve the following day. It will make you much more productive.
Next time: Getting Things Done