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Let’s Talk About Time - Time Management, That Is

Time Management, that is. Wait, I know it’s boring, but hang with me. Improvement here pays huge dividends.

None of us really manages time, just how we spend time. Time is a gift and we should try to spend it wisely. Even a small improvement here makes a huge difference in the bottom line of our businesses and, ultimately, the size of our paychecks.

If you do the math, we only have 1,800 to 1,900 hours of “Golden Time” during business hours to work each year, after holidays and vacation. Add your salary (or desired salary) to your overhead cost factor, divide by 1850, and you arrive at what the time in the Golden Hours is really worth per hour to you. It’s worth a lot for most small business people and top executives, hundreds of dollars per hour usually.
I am fairly organized, very organized in some people’s eyes. But I have gravitated toward activities that are too freewheeling and disjointed. Working virtual and on my own, there are many distractions and non-productive activities. I also wander off to the more ‘creative pursuits’ when I should be finding new business or working on something more important. I suspect I am not alone with this issue.

A recent Stanford study confirmed that as we get older, we have a harder time multi-tasking and returning to focus. We sort of lose our place and it is hard to re-establish momentum. We lose not only the distraction time, but the time it takes to find our place again. With all the shinny distractions on our computers, phones ringing, emails, social media, and co-workers popping in, it’s a wonder that anything gets done at all in corporate America.

Here are the top 7 time and focus robbers:

1. E-mail (and I suspect FaceBook and twitter too)
2. Constant interruption by colleagues
3. Self distraction, being bored and fiddling elsewhere
4. Phones, and answering non-essential calls
5. Rather be doing something else distraction
6. Self-interruption (from multi-tasking)
7. Inability to say no distraction

I am trading in multi-tasking and free-wheeling for focus and working in modularity. Blocking out time, focusing, and batching work from a prioritized list of activity is the best way to increase my effectiveness. To maintain this focus, outlook must be closed, social alerts have to be turned off, and I can’t answer the phone every time it rings. I have even put on my Nasser ear phones a few times to shut out external noise.

There is time enough to catch up with phone calls, email, and other demands, but it is at the time I choose. Of course I take that important call from a client, and occasional unscheduled breaks when I want, but it’s back to the focus as soon as possible. Without flexibility and a forgiving system, it just will not work for me.
I’ve worked many calendar and time management systems, some computer based, some paper based. I need a system that works with both sides of my brain. It has to allow some freewheeling creativity, as well as regimented structure.

Previously, I was working off a weekly to-do list that I did on Sunday night or Monday morning in my journal, and added to/crossed off as the week progressed. It had no formal prioritization, like the ABC, 123 systems.

My new priority system is called the NIP Priority System and I got it from a consultant I am working with to improve my business. I still maintain an outlook calendar and extensive contact databases in outlook, but plan to move to more specialized software with these too, in time.

“N” stands for non-productive activities, such as calling your wife, visiting at the water cooler, and a lot of the time we spend socializing on non-business activities during the day. It’s okay to spend some time on these activities, just be aware of the cost and minimize this time during the “Golden Hours” of 8 to 5.

”I” stands for Indirectly Productive Time. It is the time we spend preparing for presentations, in meetings, and with administrative activities that are not directly producing money for you (or the company). In my case, if I am not meeting with a client or working on solving their real estate problem, it’s Indirectly Productive Time. For someone in an administrative or support role, the definitions will be different.

“P” stands for Productive Time. This is what pays the bills, increases your paycheck, makes the company profitable, and solves your client’s problems. It is when you are meeting with your client or working directly to solve their problems. Only you can do this work in most cases.

The key, or course, is to spend more time in P and less in I. We all know that we need to minimize N. Striking a balance with I and P activities is the challenge. You need to do some of the I activities, especially when refining your business systems, but delegate or outsource as much as possible.

Strive to be “like a doctor” who spends their day moving from patient to patient (all P activity). Administrators and nurses do most of a doctors I activities. If you are a C level executive, mid manager, or small business owner, your time is worth hundreds of dollars per hour. You really need to farm out a lot of I activity to others.

Another key is to keep a detailed daily priority planner that you update every morning, prioritize with NIP, work off of during the day, and evaluate at the end of day. Yesterday’s list is this morning’s starting point.

My daily priority planner is a simple one day Excel sheet that has nine hours down the right side for meetings, a list of my major projects I am working on, a prioritized task list (with NIP), people I need to call, and people I am waiting to hear from. I fill it out with Excel in the morning and work it by pencil in my journal during the day. It is a simple Excel based form from Vertex that I got from my business consultant.

Here are some new guidelines I am striving for:

1. Reduce non-productive time
2. Automate, Outsource or Delegate Indirectly Productive tasks
3. Increase productivity by spending more time in transactions.
4. Spend more time in prospecting for new business, networking, and cold calling
5. Work in Blocks of Time I reserve on my schedule
6. Group similar tasks – Batch Process
7. Complete it NOW, or schedule the completion time. If it is not on the calendar or list, it may not happen.

I may share additional information about this quest in a future post. By the way, I am doing this post in Non-Golden Time because it is an “I” activity for me.

Good luck and I hope this is of use to you!

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About the Author

Mark Glover, iMark Realty Advisors
140 Red Oak Lane
Flower Mound, TX 75028

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