In the spirit of trying new things this year to bring about better results, I recently conducted a time management seminar. Time management is one of those areas that perpetually impacts business owners, and it’s also one of the most discussed areas of potential improvement. I’m sure you’ve come across the popular approaches, from Stephen Covey’s Big Rocks, to Alex Czarto’s Four Quadrants, to dealing with distractions and setting priorities.
I wanted to take a different approach so focused on three areas not so commonly addressed: Understanding your role; Identifying waste; and Journalling.
Understanding your role is probably the best place to start. You hear stories about people like Einstein who seem able to squeeze 48 hours out of every day. They realise you can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself and your priorities. This is only possible when you understand your role.
If you’re the leader of your business, you really don’t need to be cleaning toilets, or topping up the water in the urn, or even doing a sales course. Do you really need to be the person who is photocopying documents? You do need to make sure that your role is manageable and that you understand it well, and from there you set the priorities that enable you to achieve the important things only you can achieve.
As a business owner/operator, often your role is too big. I realised this about my own role a while ago, and so I now employ someone to review clients’ accounts so that I can help clients in other areas, such as business coaching and adding value. These are not only essential for my business to thrive, they are also things that I love to do.
Identifying waste is a related issue. It’s about looking for the areas where we’ve taken a sledgehammer to crack a nut, or asked an inappropriately qualified person to do a job someone else is ideally qualified for. One place I waste time is on a slow computer. I also get distracted by clutter on my desk. Even if I don’t touch it, I see it, and that impedes my effectiveness. These are small things, but they can mount up and consume an awful lot of time.
The final thing, Journalling, is an addition to the time management discussion that I’m most excited about. It’s based on research that examined the effectiveness of two groups of people working full days. The control group worked from 9 to 5 while the journalling group worked from 9 to 4.45 and spent the final 15 minutes of their day journalling. They were given a pen and paper and asked to reflect on their day and synthesise their ideas and tasks and find a cohesiveness to it all. Their performance turned out to be 22 per cent better because of that process of assimilation.
I find that journalling also helps improve self-awareness. Where did I waste time today? What went really well today? By taking time out to reflect we can not only recognise the areas in which we are wasting time, but we can also improve our understanding of our role and become more effective leaders.
When all is said and done - however, the truth is that resetting priorities takes some effort. Most of the time we’re battling years of established ways of doing things. Which reminds me of the story of the guy who arrives at Eden Park to watch the All Blacks test. As he’s making his way through the stand looking for a seat, he glances to his left and sees one just in from the aisle.
He asks the guy if the seat is available, and the man says, ‘No, sorry, it belongs to my wife. We’ve been coming to see the All Blacks since 1976. But unfortunately, she died and can’t be here.’
The guy says, ‘That’s very sad—surely there’s a friend or relative who can be here and take her seat.’
‘Oh, there is,’ the man says. ‘But they’re all at the funeral.’
Priorities—sometimes they might need to change. But don’t expect them to change overnight.