I saw a statistic this morning that the average person wastes fully one-third of their work day – one-third! And that’s before you take into consideration that the remaining two-thirds can’t be entirely billable or income producing. Once you do get focused on work, a good portion of that remaining time will be allocated to administrative tasks and marketing your business, things that don’t directly bring in revenue.
That’s why it’s so important to plan up-front and be proactive about your time and productivity, and not let it get away from you. Once you drift off into Time-Wasting-Land, those minutes go by really fast.
Just do this one thing
If you could just do one thing to get control of your time, I think this is the one I’d recommend. (And this is hard for me, because there are several things I think are absolute musts, and I want you to do all of them. But I’m being realistic, so I’ll just recommend one.) I’ve heard this one thing credited by highly effective people and management consultants as one of the most important actions successful people take.
I like it a lot, because it’s worked for me for over 30 years. And I stumbled upon it myself, before I even knew other people did it.
Schedule your day ahead of time
It’s easy. The hard part is carving out time, and remembering to actually do it.
Here’s what to do: At the end of every day, clear your desk and make your schedule for just the tasks for the next day, in time blocks. Don’t just make a list of the things you’re going to do tomorrow – after you know what they are, go one step further and schedule the time to do them on your calendar. This way, you’ll get a realistic idea of what your next day will actually look like.
Decide what you’ll do first, and block off the amount of time needed to do it. If you need to dig right into that proposal because you have to present it at the end of the day, then you know it needs to go first – block off the time you think you’ll need. Work around any appointments that are already on your calendar, and schedule in other tasks that need to be done tomorrow. Give yourself some wiggle room if you want, block off time for lunch, you get the idea.
1. If you’re not going to do it tomorrow, don’t put it on your calendar for tomorrow. Don’t even have it in your radar for tomorrow. As far as this exercise is concerned, it doesn’t exist. (Unless you want to put it on your calendar for the next day.)
2. Try to estimate how much time the task will take, then pad it a bit, because you’ll think you’re faster than you really are.
3. If someone else is necessary to help you with a part of your task, be sure to let them know ahead of time when you’ll need them.
4. Don’t move anything, unless you absolutely cannot help it. (Try really hard.)
You can take this further, like I do, and block out the rest of your week while you’re at it, or schedule time to finish tasks you can’t completely finish tomorrow. Time blocking comes with a certain sense of relief that doesn’t come any other way – and that’s because you can see, visually, right in front of you, that what you need to do can indeed be done within the time you have available . . . or not.
It’s also great for when you’re overwhelmed and can’t see how you can possibly accomplish everything that’s on your plate – just dump your work into your calendar in time blocks, and you can see if and when you can physically accomplish it all. Neat, huh?
What gets scheduled is what gets done
Bottom line, you can use your calendar for more than just scheduling appointments with clients and your hair stylist – you can schedule appointments with yourself.
It’s your time. Planning ahead on how you’ll use it is a terrific way to take control so you waste it less. Schedule your tasks as well as your appointments, and they’re more likely to get done.
And while you’re at it, you’ll want to schedule a short time block at the end of every day to schedule your tasks for the next day. You’re gonna get hooked.
And — bonus — you will no longer be one of those people who waste a third of your day.
Please let me know how this works for you!