No matter what the state of the economy, each of us has the same amount of time in a day as we had in the good times. One of the first things leaders and entrepreneurs lose in hard times is confidence. This causes either paralysis or frenetic and often unproductive activity. Either way effective time management loses its way.
I personally think that time management is a misnomer; time is time and can’t be expanded or contracted. The proper title should be, ‘Managing oneself in the dimension of time.’ Self management is what really counts. How I manage myself within the 24 hour period determines how I reach my goals. The time measure of whether I am succeeding or not is measured by what is in my diary. Intentions do not show up diaries, actions do.
I once agreed to do an exercise where I kept a list of every activity I did, in 15 minute intervals, two weeks. Apart from being detailed and tedious it gave me insight into how I used my time and more importantly, if I was really achieving my goals. I then became a convert to keeping a daily diary which was linked to my goals and objectives. This was 23 years ago and I am still converted.
From this experience I came up with a few non-negotiables
1. Always plan tomorrow five minutes before the end of today
Why? Your day is fresh in your mind and so you can see what you did and what needs to be carried over. Also, you mind needs to be work free as you go home; sign off the day and finalise tomorrow, then rest. Your brain sure needs it.
2. Select your priorities according to your energy levels
I list all of my activities for the day and then divide them into A’s and C’s. A’s are the top end priorities that require concentration and dedicated time. C’s are less important and require less focus. Now assess your energy levels, when are you more able to do A’s and C’s? Some clients like 8-11am for A’s, 11-2 for C’s and 2-5 for A’s. Each day may vary. Set up your diary in a way that suits you and transfer your activities/to do list into the relevant time slots.
3. Your diary keeps you honest
Commit to do what the diary says. Only change in exceptional cases. I am not advocating legalism here but this is your diary and these are your goals that need to be achieved. The diary is the ideal vehicle to accomplish this.
Priorities come in two categories: unpleasant and overwhelming. For the former do the Nike approach. Just do it! Procrastination only makes it worse.
For the latter use the Swiss cheese approach. Swiss cheese is full of holes; take a task that’s big an overwhelming and work on some of it, i.e. put some holes in it. Then allocate time tomorrow to do some more. Slowly but surely it gets whittled down to zero. Ideally, set aside 5 or more ‘A’ slots in your diary for this.
In tough times this will ensure focus and productivity. We know the old adage that says, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” – Confucius. Daily time management, using a diary is the single step.