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Don’t Have Enough Time? I say that’s nonsense! with Henry Mittelman
Is your client’s business (or your business) sluggish?
Does it feel more like a tugboat than the jet boat it’s supposed to be? The challenge serious business owners, entrepreneurs, and self-employed professionals face is that there are so many things they can do in the course of a day … that they frequently fail to do what’s most important.
They even fail to identify what the best use of their time might be. Effectively managing your relationship with time plays an integral role in your experience of success, and in your ability to lead a fulfilling life. It’s what separates the achievers from the dreamers and wannabes.
In my Amazon #1 best-selling book “UnSTUCK for GOOD!”, I write about the Five Pillars of Success. They are Focus, Time Management, Consistent Action, Self-Talk, and Accountability. In this article, I’d like to share with you some of the Time Management concepts from Chapter 3 of my book.
MYTH: The more I get done, the more productive and successful I am.
FACT: Success is about doing the right things, not doing many things.
If you believe this myth, you’ll always feel like nothing is getting accomplished, even if you work twelve-hour days. In fact, the key to productivity and success is adopting an effective focus that integrates the big picture with the daily operating of your business.
When you commit to performing high-leverage activities, and to create positive emotional experiences, your focus is sharp and on-point; your strategy is directly linked toward your goals of success and growth.
Money can buy you a lot of things, but it can’t buy you time. We’re all allotted 525,600 minutes a year and an equally finite number of hours each day. Whether you’re a billionaire, or unemployed and crashing on a friend’s couch, you get twenty-four hours to your day—no exceptions. So the big question is: Do you use those minutes and hours effectively?
If you don’t control your time, how can you possibly control the results of your day?
As the leader of your business, you should be focusing on tasks only you can do. I always ask my clients, “Which items on your to-do list can only be accomplished by you? Give me a comprehensive list of the activities that play to your strengths—the activities that will help drive your business.”
When faced with a decision of whether to spend your day doing bookkeeping or recruiting clients, ask yourself: What activity offers more value? What activity drives my business? Can one of these activities be outsourced? My choice would be to send the bookkeeping to someone else. Go out and get those clients, find a JV partner, develop a strategic alliance, develop a new product or service, review your metrics to see why you’re coming up short, and develop a plan to fix it.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Strategy #1—Run A Strict Calendar
An important factor that separates moderately effective business leaders from highly effective business leaders is an airtight calendar. Business leaders who operate under the discipline of a strict calendar avoid getting tossed into the endless loop of emails, phone calls, and impromptu visits because they have a structured timeline keeping them on course throughout the day.
Strategy #2 – Use fifteen-thirty minute increments to structure and discipline your day.
Scheduling out the entire day gives people control and power. I suggest that the first order of business each morning after arriving at work should be closing the office door and creating a game plan for the day. Your client will benefit by writing the high-leverage activities into their schedule first. They shouldn’t be saying to themself…I’ll get to making the calls or writing the newsletter when the time becomes available. They should schedule a specific amount of time for each task on their daily calendar. This is a fairly simple step, but it holds considerable implications for the degree of success they will experience in the business.
Strategy #3—Employ The 80/20 Rule
I live and breathe by this rule. The 80/20 rule is an extremely important piece of the productivity puzzle—perhaps the most important. It is a go-to strategy that works in all areas of life. Remember, effectiveness isn’t defined by how much work you complete.
You can do a lot during the day, but achieve very little if you’re not focusing your efforts where they matter. Invest in the 20 percent of your to-do list that offers the highest value and that can only be completed by you. These activities are the engine of your business—they’re fundamental to growth and moving forward.
Strategy #4—Delegate Or Outsource Everything Else
Understanding the importance of delegation within your business operation is crucial to your effectiveness and success. You will never have time to finish everything, so hand off tasks to others who can do them (they may even be able to do them better). If you’re a one-person show, don’t be afraid of outsourcing.
Many business leaders resist delegation because the act feels threatening. They don’t want to give up the power and control inherent in completing everything themselves. This is a dangerous mistake. If you’re uncomfortable with delegating, you will be in a constant state of overwhelm.
If you refuse to pass off low-leverage activities, you’re either putting the high-value actions on the backburner or you’re completing them haphazardly. Neither scenario offers a desirable outcome. Be smart with your time and delegate.
Strategy #5—Take Regular Breaks
Spending two hours on a high-level thinking task without taking adequate breaks leaves your mind dull, unfocused, and fatigued. The outcome of your work suffers. Stepping away periodically throughout the day enhances your critical thinking skills, mood, and ability to approach problems from a new angle. Your work then becomes sharp, skillful, and effective.
Research shows taking breaks every fifty minutes during the workday is critical to productivity. The ten-minute break each hour gives you just enough time to clear your head so you start again fresh. It keeps you from burning out. Believe me, fifty minutes of uninterrupted, focused time is huge.
If you don’t think so, sit in a chair, close your eyes, and don’t open them until you think only 10 minutes have passed. If you’re like most people, it will feel like forever. Eliminate “short” interruptions, such as emails, phone calls, etc., and you can get an amazing amount of high-quality work done in fifty minutes.
Strategy #6—Step Away From The Emails
Email may be the biggest productivity trap today—the black hole of time management. It wreaks havoc on everyone and sucks the wind out of your sails. If you haven’t created solid email habits that are highly structured, email will take over your life. Can you relate? If you’re honest, you’ll say yes.
Managing time spent in that alluring inbox can be a challenge, especially when new message alerts chirp on your phone every few minutes. Disentangling yourself from bad email habits requires a systemized routine and perseverance.
Here’s a simple method I use with my clients: schedule, sort, and unsubscribe. The first step is to schedule (yes, on your calendar) three specific blocks of time throughout the day to review incoming messages. Many business leaders shrink back in horror at the idea of only visiting their inboxes three times per day.
They believe their businesses will go up in flames if they aren’t always in touch with their inboxes. They’re afraid if they don’t send an immediate email response, they will be left out of the loop or will upset others—but these are both limiting beliefs that keep their victims emotionally anchored to their inboxes.
There’s a good probability that only 15 to 25 percent of the emails you receive are actually important. The remaining are really junk—well, maybe not junk, but certainly time-wasters and brain-drainers. Since the majority of email is not overly important, set up a filtering system that automatically sorts messages into proper folders, and keeps them from even hitting your inbox or phone. Out of two hundred emails that land in your inbox daily, you probably only need to read thirty to fifty of them. The rest can wait, so get them out of the way.
Finally, unsubscribe from email lists that only serve as distractions. Pouring over meaningless messages, and then deciding where they should go after being read, is a tremendous waste of your time.
If you have hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox that are more than a month old, move them all to a folder called Archive. If you haven’t looked at them after thirty days, there’s a good chance you don’t need to look at them at all. Cleaning out your inbox like this can provide as much stress relief as a full body massage.
A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.
Strategy #7—Invest In Meetings Only If They Advance Your Goals
Because they’re so commonplace, meetings are one of the more difficult productivity holes to recognize. They can be an immense waste of time and money, so they must be streamlined and run efficiently if they are to add value to your business. Are your meetings materially benefiting your business by producing actionable results, or are they just transmitting information?
If they’re only functioning as a broadcast, you should eliminate them, period. You’re wasting your time and the time of your staff. There are much more cost-effective ways to communicate information.
Strategy #8—Be Selfish With Your Time
On a daily basis, reserve the vast bulk of the day to tackle only your top three priorities. Selfishly guard your time and focus. Don’t allow your employees to disrupt your CEO-oriented priorities and actions with countless “Got a minute?” interruptions. Allowing such conduct creates an environment whereby your time is not valued and respected. It also creates unproductive days, a reactive business mindset, and employees who depend on you for everything. Stop these interruptions.
You’re 100 Percent Responsible For Everything. Period!
It’s up to you to ensure employees are focusing their efforts on activities that move the business forward. Employees may be getting a lot done during the workday, but if they aren’t accomplishing tasks leveraging their talents and the business’s resources, they’re wasting their time and yours. Ask yourself if their decisions are smart and strategic.
When The Day Is Over …
Time management is a source of frustration and anxiety for almost every business leader. Everyone wants in on the secret to walking step-in-step with time instead of racing to keep up with the clock. Unfortunately, reading time-management books and undergoing time-management training sessions aren’t going to have a tremendous impact on your effectiveness, and they’re going to take up a lot of time. Yes, the new information gleaned from a seminar or book may endow you with more knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to implement it into your life in a tangible way.
Improving your relationship with time requires a willingness to prioritize, delegate, and release limiting beliefs. You need to change, and change is difficult for most people.
However, when you make these changes in your approach to business and life, you start each day from an empowered vantage point that leads to less frustration and more effectiveness and growth.
About Henry Mittelman
Henry Mittelman provides his clients an unbiased clear lens, guidance, sounding board and the strategic counsel to effectively implement the appropriate procedures, systems and tactics necessary to drive the business forward day after day! Henry is a distinguished member of Forbes Coaches Council, a Keynote Speaker and author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling Book “Get Your BusinessUnSTUCK for GOOD!” www.ceoadvisorypartners.com Phone: 617-901-6159