I have several clients and a number of friends and colleagues who equate busy time with productivity. But, being “busy” does not always equate to being effective. Ineffective people abound. From outside they are hard at work with paper, phone calls, emails, meetings and more meetings. Their desks are piled high. They look frazzled. They achieve nothing. Bad entrepreneurs and ineffective managers complain loudly about the time they spend, how tired they are and waste the time of people around them who could be making them money.
In contrast, great managers and good entrepreneurs are stingy with time spent on unproductive, non-earning activities. They keep meetings, emails and phone calls short. They focus their attention on concerns that will make them money.
How do good managers operate? Good managers seem instinctively to be able to find the time to work on the money making projects. Here is short list of how to do it.
- Make a physical list and prioritise the items. If the items on the “A” must–do list do not earn money, re-consider your priorities. Making a list also prevents you wasting time lying awake at night desperately trying not to forget to do something. When I took my first time management course in the 1980’s, we wrote down everything on a to-do list. I still do. If the same “urgent” item is still there after a week, it will not likely ever get completed. Dump it or go to item 2.
- Some jobs are simply better done by employees. If you are paying someone $20 per hour why are you doing that job for them?
- Block your time. Short focused bursts of 2 hours will produce more than a 12 hour day frittered away. Eliminate the noise by shutting off phones, radio, email and any other distraction from getting your work done. Close your door. If it’s not fire, flood or blood, ignore it.
- Deadlines work. Give yourself a time limit to complete a project. You have heard the adage that “if you want something done in an organisation, then give that task to a busy person”. This is true because that person manages time well and completes to deadlines.
- Manage your energy. On most days my energy levels peak in the morning so I try to make my meetings happen in the afternoon or move paper shuffling to my least productive part of the day.
- Do the most dreaded task first. When that crap job is out of the way, the rest of the day will seem simple.
- Don’t attempt too much. More than any other characteristic, this is a most condemning character flaw. Too many great opportunities for fun, friends and business crowded into an already busy week. How can you do it all? The answer is you cannot and it is a worthwhile exercise to apply some rules to ALL of your projects. The one I have used for years is to ask 3 questions. Am I in control of this project? If not, why am I doing it? How much will I get paid? And, when will I get paid? It is simply remarkable how the answers will change your mind.
If you want to be a better manager or business owner, work smarter and not harder.