Time – it’s one of the most precious things a young CEO has and yet we often use it so carelessly. Between family, friends, social outings, seminars, and running a successful business, there are a lot of demands on our time. Take a moment to consider how you spend your time – are you using it wisely or are you spending time on busy work that isn’t truly productive? In some instances, you’ll find yourself spending your time – watching television, socializing, and oversleeping. Other times, you’ll find yourself investing your time – reading books on personal development, networking with other successful people, and working on your business.
Time management is an important skill necessary to succeed, and as you excel and evolve as an entrepreneur, time becomes your worst enemy or your best ally. As adults, we assume that we know how to budget our time and often become indignant at the suggestion that we could improve. However, as with many things in our lives, we can always go from good to great. Think about how your life would change if you had 2 additional hours in every day to spend as you pleased. What would you do with that time? What if I told you that you could get that time?
Oftentimes, we are misusing and misappropriating time without realizing it. I’ve always considered myself a “productive” person, but several years ago, I came to the realization that e-mail is a huge time sap for me. In light of this discovery, I decided to limit my e-mail usage to three times per day: first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, and just before bed. There are few e-mails that I receive that are so urgent that they cannot wait. What is your time sap? Is it the phone? Do you look up after a phone call and wonder where the time went? Is it video games? Maybe your time sap is social networking, long lunches, or poor meeting planning. Whatever it is, eliminate it and take control of your time. Suddenly, you’ll observe that the day is more forgiving to the countless things you want to get done.
Remember that you can’t manage time – it’s an elusive object that is constantly slipping into the past. You can only manage yourself. Use the tips below to maximize your productivity and create more leverage in your day:
- Map out your day on paper before you do anything. Brian Tracy, the personal development and business expert, advises never starting your day before you’ve written a list of things to do. Planning the day’s activities is a great way to improve efficiency. Time is often wasted figuring out which activity to do next. Setting an intention for the day is a powerful way to get clear on your purpose and be sure that your activities are productive, not just busy. Plan 70% of your day then leave 20% for unanticipated developments and 10% for a buffer.
- Make lists. Lists are a productive person’s friend. Think about the amount of energy you spend trying to remember a grocery list or trying to remember the things you need to take care of before you leave your home or office on any given day. A list frees up your mental hard drive space to be used on something more profound. Use lists as miniature assistants that keep you on track and remind you of the details.
- Budget your appointment time. Networking is important for any young CEO building a great company. We need to create and maintain relationships with people. However, as you begin to assess how you’re spending your time, consider the return on the investment of spending time with certain people. In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson noted that there are people you should spend 2 minutes with and others you should spend 2 hours with. As with activities, there’s a difference between spending time with a person and investing time with a person. Know the difference and make choices that are consistent with your stated goals. The key is to know who is who. Be honest with yourself about whether you are growing, flourishing, and expanding in the presence of those you spend your time with, and make adjustments accordingly.
- Get organized. Are you spending hours and hours trying to find things? Organization is essential to moving quickly from task to task. Clear the clutter from your home, car, and office, and not only will be thinking more clearly, you’ll observe that it’s easier to find things. Form the habit of putting things in their proper place once you’re doing using them.
- Do it, delegate it, or dump it. Most of us have what I call backlog – papers, emails, calls, appointments, projects, and ideas that we haven’t gotten around to. Our intentions are the best, but we’ve yet to make those things a priority. Instead of putting things off, consider each task and what should really be done about it. Either do it right away, pass it off to a helper or partner, or get rid of it altogether. Using this method will free up much of your time and energy. Do what needs to be done to relieve yourself of any obligations that are no longer important to you or are not moving you in the direction of your goals.
Freeing up time in your schedule means more time to grow your business, develop yourself and your team, serve others, and do the things you love. Remember that your time is a gift. Unlike money, once we spend our time, we can’t get it back so always spend wisely.
Lisa Nicole Bell is an author, award winning filmmaker, and entrepreneur. Learn more about her at www.inspirationicon.com