Sunday, July 15, 2007

One thing that you can't control

The one thing that most people don't have enough of these days is time. Why is that ? Is there that much more that needs doing ? Are we so pressed that we need to clone ourselves to get all the work done ? Somehow I don't really think so. I agree that there are plenty more demands on our time these days but it all comes down to how we choose to manage it and where we choose to send it.
The one constant thing about time is that it marches relentlessly on. If we waste a second then it is gone for eternity, never to return. Clearly, time is one of our most precious resources and something that we have little control over. Also, clearly, it is impossible to achieve everything that we want to in the time we have, once you take out the essentials like eat, sleeping and toilet breaks. One of the major differences between highly successful people and those merely successful is their management of time. These people recognized a long time ago that they couldn't control time, the best they could aim for is to be as efficient as possible as they can with time.
A very interesting experiment is to keep track of exactly what you spend your time on during a day. If you want to become more efficient in your business keep track of exactly what you spend you time on for at least a week. After you have recorded all this information go through the list and allocate each activity into high, medium and low value activities. Have a look at how much time you probably spend on low leve activities, such as reading and responding to emails, browsing the web, chatting and so on. To become more efficent you are going to have to eliminate these low value activities to make room for the high value ones.
Note, I didn't say add more items, I said eliminate items. Why ? Well most business owners probably already have their dance card full. Instead of looking at the value of the tasks they perform they simply add “one more” item, then “one more” item and so on. Not only does each new item affect the outcome of all the items the person is already balancing it generally overloads them. It may sound strange but the secret to becoming more efficient for most business people is to actually do less.
In business, especially self-employed business, we need to be ruthless with our time and focus on the items that are going to earn us the most return. Unfortunately, too many people spend too much of their time in low value tasks that should be eliminated or at best delegated to someone else. The problem for the business person is letting go. Most become so addicted to teh feeling of having the whole business depending on them and having the power of being in total control that they can't for a moment release control. The problem here is that in fact these people are not in control, they are out of control. If they were to get sick or stop doing the work for any reason, then the business would stop. when you look at it that way, who is control ? As Michael Gerber says, if you are like this then you don't have a business you have a glorified job.
As with most things the secret to being efficient with your time is not some expensive time management system that only helps you crowd more onto your dance card, it is a discipline of continually working to do high value activities while eliminiating or minimizing the lower value ones. The first step in the process is to actually sit down and record exactly what you are spending your time on. If you never take the time to look at your self and improve you never will. It is as simple as that.