Instant Time Management
Here’s a quick course that will help you get more done in less time so you can make more money and still have enough life left over to spend and enjoy it. Ready, set, go.
Do what is important and critical and that only you can do first. Unimportant, noncritical tasks should be left undone if possible. Delegate everything else.
Do what has to be done right now, don’t procrastinate. Ever. If you want to delay, ask yourself why? Are you overworked? Hate your job? Procrastination is a symptom. Find the cause and fix that. If you were doing what you truly loved, and were getting substantial rewards, monetarily and emotionally, would anything stand in your way? Would you want to put things off?
Delegate everything that can be entrusted to someone else. Micromanagers and perfectionists will say that they must do it all personally. They are wrong. Anything that is worth less per hour than you make, or want to make, should be delegated. Jack Welch ran GE with hundreds of companies and hundreds of thousands of employees. Do you think he delegated?
Handle every email, document, message one-time only. Resolve and deal with it now. If not then delete.
There are few decisions in business that can be made with 100% certainty. The data may be incomplete or vague or conflicting. Acknowledge that decisions must be made anyway. That you will be wrong once in a while. In most situations if you are right more often than wrong you end up a huge success. Don’t waste time waiting for certainty – it will never arrive. Decide and be prepared to go to Plan B if need be.
Don’t allow interruptions. It takes up to 20 minutes to regain the momentum lost. Lock your doors, let voice mail get calls, don’t sneak peaks at email. Set aside open office hours when people can drop by or ask questions.
Set a schedule and stick to it. Calculate how many hours you need to make the calls to reach your targets. Then put in those hours, do or die.
Refuse loser assignments. Opt out of optional tasks or helping others do what they should do for themselves. Hang up on telemarketers. Delete emails. Slam the door on intruders.
Only schedule or attend when absolutely necessary. Penalize late arrivals. Attendees must prepare in advance and have issues or questions thought out before bringing them up to discuss. Set time allotment and have a stop watch to measure. Remove chairs, turn down the heat, serve lots of coffee and water while not permitting restroom breaks. The moderator should insist that nobody ramble on or digress or debate minutia.
Emails are better than voice mails which are better than phone calls which are better than meetings. Emails and voice mails allow communication at any time regardless of schedules. Phone appointments or meetings massively disrupt a day’s work schedule.
Don’t make unnecessary tasks more efficient. Eliminate them. Go top to bottom in your processes looking for routines and tasks that are obsolete, superseded, or redundant. Then find better ways.
Don’t make being organized a fetish. The time it takes to do this is mostly wasted. I imagine that the deck chairs were aligned exactly on the Titanic.
80% may be what the market wants and will pay for. Or all that is needed for smooth functioning of a company. Striving for the unobtainable goal of 100% is a waste. Diminishing returns occur at some point. Find out where and then stop when you get there.
Outsourcing is to companies what delegating is to individuals. To be competitive companies should do only core-competency tasks or those that are confidential or need to be done in-house for flexibility concerns. Look for and price vendors to do everything else. You may be surprised what can be outsourced – some companies are completely virtual with a couple of staff and hundreds and perhaps thousands of workers at vendors.
Build your company on people that are in a hurry to make a success, and you will get there fast. Hire slow, complacent, already satisfied plodders, you will never get there, and take a lot of time in the process.
Pulling is Better than Pushing
Find what internal motivations your staff has – money, recognition, time off – and use that to get them moving fast. External motivators – reports, threats of firing, peer pressure – will work on the surface or temporarily but are not anywhere near as effective.
Due Dates & Quality
Never assign a task without a due (or die) date and the quality level expected explicitly stated. Why have staff assume everything has to be perfect when you don’t care? If you are the staff, ask to find out what expectations are on time delivered and quality.
If you threaten dire consequences for every minor imperfection, your staff, or the ones that don’t quit, will take ten times as long to do tasks to avoid the negative reinforcer. Managers can state up front that a task that could take 10 hours is wanted in five, but that unavoidable mistakes are acceptable and will be corrected as you go along.
Used to frowned upon but is now accepted that allowing staff to do required errands can keep then on the job and that they often will be happy to put in extra efforts to compensate.
Fun and Games
Playing computer games, surfing the web, socializing are to be encouraged to break the monotony and allow for “re-creation.” Abusing the privilege by spending 4 hours a day to reach level 7’ on some simulation game is not OK.
Overstaffing, once common while now rare, encourages busy-work, committees to “study issues,” and people hanging around cluttering up the place. Take a management hint from Stalin and conduct periodic purges. A nice side effect is that it keeps people scared and in line. With all the money you save you can buy a yacht.
Often interlopers from other departments that want to goof off will want to come over and “analyze” your project and offer “assistance.” Or worse, your boss, trying to relive his youth when he actually performed useful work, will drop by to give you the benefit of his vast experience, as if knowing how to program Univacs in FORTRAN might help you optimize your website. Door locks and shotguns may be called for.
20% of your staff can account for 80% of your management headaches. The only cure is to periodically drop them out the bottom feeders so you can replace them with those that deserve the time and resources of the company.
The Martyr Syndrome
Countless ambitious strivers brag about their 100 work weeks. How they never eat lunch. That they haven’t taken a vacation in 5 years and if they do they spend more time on the laptop than with their family. How they “don’t have the time” to work out or eat right or see a doctor. These “winners” are exposed as “losers” when they drop dead from heart attacks at 50. In the meantime they are operating very inefficiently from chronic fatigue and burn-out. A well rested healthy professional will do more and better work in an hour that the burn-out can do in a day, if not a week. Hours are not the measure of productivity.
If you can’t become successful in 40 to 50 hours you aren’t doing it right. The probability is that you are a perfectionist and unable to delegate because you can’t hire, train, or manage effectively. It’s also quite likely you have no personal life or can’t manage it any better than your schedule or want to avoid going home to deal with it.
Managers should insist that staff work no more than 50 hours a week, take all vacations, and take lunch breaks. They can also encourage exercise by providing time off and memberships at health clubs. Meditation or nap rooms on site have been proven to be a win-win. Healthy food should be available to eliminate junk food binges.
Classes and Books
Don’t’ waste time taking classes or reading books about time management. The points above are 99% of what you will learn. It’s about implementation not theory.