Time Management Techniques Guaranteed to Cure or Kill
By David Sanders, Certified Master Consultant
Can you spare a moment to read an article on time management? Maybe you don't have time, but for those hearty souls who'll grab father time by the arm and slow him down, this could be the moment you've been waiting for.
After all, isn't life the management of one moment after another? We've all experienced days when time seemed to drag on forever, or when time flew and we wondered where it went. Is there any way to control or manage time?
TIME: Point at which something happens. - Merriam Webster's
MANAGEMENT: The process of dealing with or controlling things or people. - New Oxford Dictionary
Time management then is a process of deciding what you want to occur with things and people, and getting it to happen. The opposite of time management would be letting things slide.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The fun really begins when we grab the steering wheel of our own lives and hit the accelerator. Here's something you can do in your office or home that could dramatically improve your time management – practical actions guaranteed to cure or kill.
1. Set aside a few hours some evening or weekend.
2. From an office store pick up a set of at least 3 communication baskets for yourself and the other members of your business (even your family might benefit from this) and some file folders.
3. Go to your desk, table or workspace and brace yourself for the toughest moment. Pull out every unanswered letter or memo, anything incomplete with your finances, all the half-done projects, everything incomplete you have lying around and put it on the desk. All the stuff on your dresser, in your trunk, briefcase, everything incomplete. This includes confronting your voicemail, email, even your spam folder.
I worked with a CPA in Houston who had a desk the size of a barge. He disappeared on the other side of the desk on this step, with stacks of paper and boxes several feet high.
Even worse, I once did this action on a businessman in Orange County and when we got to his home office, he broke the news to me that everything wouldn't fit on his desk. He took me to see his pending three-car garage. It was piled to the ceiling with incomplete projects and stuff.
4. The next step can also be a bit gruesome at first but rapidly gets better as you go through it. You do one of the four D's on each item, one at a time.
Pick up and handle just one item at a time per the four D's. Just plow through it. One professional lady burst into tears when I asked her to pick up the first piece of paper atop the huge pile in front of her. Surely you're tougher than that.
Here are some rules of thumb. If you can knock it out in 10 minutes or less, just do it. If it's not a valuable document and you haven't needed it in the last six months (or if you can pull it off the web when you need it), dump it. If it's really not your job, delegate it to whoever should do it, getting their agreement as needed.
5. Those papers and projects that now remain go into a pending stack that we'll detain and deal with later.
Do all four D's – don't just shuffle papers. I worked with a financial planner in Sacramento who operated from his home, working off his kitchen table. When I commented that it seemed an unusual place to run his business, he asked if I wanted to see his office! It was piled so high that he had had to move to his kitchen table to work. His huge pantry was filled with papers and documents that he just shuffled and put back, not completing a thing, saving everything for when he had time.
When I asked where he learned to handle work like that he told me about his former boss. It turned out that he went bankrupt. Probing further, his father had the same habit pattern and his kids had recently moved him into an old folks home, not because he had health problems; he had just filled his home so full of stuff he wouldn't throw out that he could no longer move around in it!
You can go a bit extreme in the other direction, too. A business executive in a major corporation asked his secretary if she'd taken all the important documents out of a stack about two feet high, and when she said yes, he took the entire stack and dropped it in the trash, commenting to the startled consultant that if it was important, they'd write him back.
6. If you persevere and get through all your piles you'll end up with a pending residue that is typically between 1% and 10% of what you started with.
7. Now take the file folders and divide the incompletes up by area, such as finance, family, hobbies, personal, computer, production, sales, marketing, future plans, etc. Sort the papers in each folder into the sequence in which you want to do them. If there are things you want to do for which you don't have a piece of paper, make a note and put it in proper sequence in the appropriate pending folder.
8. Finally, set aside some time regularly to work on your pending folders so you eventually catch up completely.
We have had conservative business executives get up on their desk and do a jig when they completed these steps. Maybe you will, too!
Remember, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement.
David Sanders, certified master consultant, is President of Creative Business Strategies and former marketing director of a Beverly Hills ad agency. He can be contacted at email@example.com.