“I bet I could have cut back on many of the seventy, eighty, and ninety-hour weeks that I’ve put in over the years, if I’d been more systematic and rigorous in managing time!”

Get Aggressive About Managing Time!
Time and money are both very important in business. Yet, like me, many business people tend to give a lot more specific thought as to how to spend their money. Too often, how we spend our time is only thought of in terms of “What am I going to do today?” or “What should I do next?”

Just as a well-run business should carefully develop a strategy to determine how to spend its money, an effective businessperson should carefully develop a strategy to determine how to use his or her time.

Just as a well-run business follows a budget in spending money, an effective businessperson should also follow a budget (or schedule) in spending time.

Prioritize Your Time!
The first step in effective time management is not to develop a schedule, but instead to develop a time strategy. The time strategy should be based on a short list of time priorities.

You start by identifying the number one way you can most increase profits by use of your time; then the number two-way; then the Number three-way; etc. This short list of time priorities forms the foundation for your time planning for every week of the year.

These time priorities may be identical to key parts of your company strategy or they may be different. For example, if your company strategy is based upon excellent customer service, spending lots of your time in customer service may not be the best use of your time if you have a terrific customer-service manager.

Narrow Your Focus!
Focus is crucial for time management, and the fewer priorities you focus on at once, the more productive you will be.

After you have your major time priorities for the year established, you should allocate them by week or by month. Like it or not, a lot of our time each week is going to be eaten up by – items that we have no control over; hence it is important to limit the number of strategic time goals we have for each week. So even if you have ten strategic time goals for the year, you may want to focus on no more than one or two of them in any given week.

For example, in a particular week you may plan on working on your number one time objective, let’s say planning improvements for the company’s major product line, and a secondary goal, let’s say re-evaluating the dealer marketing program, but no time on other secondary time goals that you plan on tackling during other weeks.

Set Aside Uninterrupted Time
Every week you should make up a detailed time plan, which you modify each day as needed. Except in times of crisis, try to make sure day-to-day issues don’t push your strategic time priorities off your schedule.

Generally your major strategic time priorities will involve such activities as planning, thinking, and developing ideas. More so than day-to-day issues, such activities require big blocks of uninterrupted time.

Constant interruption kills any hope of effective time management. One way to avoid interruption is to make it clear that when your door is closed you are not to be disturbed. Another is to have regular meetings, such as every week, with the people that you interact with the most and insist on saving non-pressing issues for these meetings.

Avoid My Time Traps!
These are some “time traps,” all of which have plagued me, that you should guard against:

  • Spending a disproportionately high amount of time in the offices where the most congenial people are, as opposed to where the most important issues are.
  • Wasting too much time getting daily updates on routine activities as opposed to waiting for a more meaningful weekly summary.
  • Jumping too eagerly into the routine, more straightforward work and putting off the more complex and difficult work.
  • Not starting the more important work first thing in the morning.
  • Not bothering to make up a schedule for each day.
  • Over scheduling–scheduling each day so tightly that it is impossible to stay on track and the schedule quickly becomes meaningless.

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