How to become an expert time-driver

We all seem to lead extremely busy lives. Families, work and/or business all demand our time. How often are you frustrated about time? “There is never enough time to . . . ,” or “If only there were more hours in a day,” or “I’ll never accomplish . . . in that time.”

We all seem to lead extremely busy lives.

Families, work and/or business all demand our time.

How often are you frustrated about time?

“There is never enough time to . . . ,” or “If only there were more hours in a day,” or “I’ll never accomplish . . . in that time.”

I’m no different. I can catch myself thinking similar things about time, especially when I have a large to-do list and an in box full of email messages. And, as an independent business owner, work seems to always overrule personal time.

Why do we blame time? Time, and the increments that we use to track time, are not random. We know that there are 24 hours in every day, and always will be going forward.

The term “time management” suggests that we can bend or expand time to our advantage.

The fact is, we cannot manage time.

The only thing we can manage is how we plan, respond and proceed with daily activities.

Coaching colleague Tony Roy maintains that successes in life and business are directly related to how we consciously use our time.

Roy uses auto racing as an analogy. If every driver raced identical cars, there would still be one vehicle that crossed the finish line first. The fact is that the winner may not be fastest driver but the one who uses their skills and time to their advantage.

Time management is self-management. What separates successful time-drivers from the less successful ones is the discipline and determination they devote to achieve their goals, no matter what.

Winners don’t quit on themselves. They are accountable for their actions and take responsibility for the results.

Most everything in life, and business, relates to choices we make. More often than not, we can also choose how we spend our time.

Take those few minutes to “warm your engine,” to visualize the finish line. Then prioritize those activities — and the time it will take — that will help you reach your goals.

Track your personal tasks/time usage for a few days. Become aware of your time wasters — those things that divert your attention and time from important activities.

Include how much time is lost when you take an “off ramp.” You’ll be astonished at how those extra minutes surfing the Internet, or unscheduled visits in the next cubicle, can gobble up a day.

Schedule time each day and/or week to review the successes/challenges and adjust where necessary. Be honest with yourself and continually reinforce your “Why” — the vision of what you are trying to accomplish and how important it is to you.

There is a big difference between being busy and being productive. Most business owners are very busy, but are they busy doing the right things? Be clear what your role is and schedule your activities to reflect what you actually need to accomplish.

A variety of organizing systems are available; several exactly suited for your business to help manage activities. There are numerous tools to choose from: smartphones, diaries, calendars and daily planning sheets. However, all the extra features are useless unless you have the discipline to use them effectively.

Although technology has improved efficiency, it has also created unique issues. It’s so easy to be distracted by things that are not urgent and not important. There is that constant urge to look and respond to every item, which can add up to minutes and even hours of your business day. These unnecessary “pit stops” just create delays, which takes you longer to reach your destination.

Best practices show that accomplishing the most challenging thing first — that task that hangs over your head — alleviates stress and boosts energy and momentum. Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog, is an excellent resource that shares strategies to help organize your time, fight procrastination and tackle the tasks that have the most impact on your day.

Being successful is hard work, so make efforts to create an environment that gives you the time to focus. Schedule uninterrupted desk time to plan, create and review long-term goals and key strategies. This takes focus, a bit of effort and constant practice (an upcoming article).

Learn to say “No” nicely. This can be the most effective way to maximize your time but is often the hardest word to say. It’s critical that you evaluate requests in the context of your role before you devote your time.

A great book to read in this regard is, The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, by Ken Blanchard.

Many individuals have successful relationships, careers, businesses and lifestyles, so why not you. Becoming a professional time driver creates that foundation for achieving your goals in every aspect of your life.

ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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