Life-hack some time back
If there was something that we could all do with more of, it’s not money - it’s time. Business owners and leaders often find themselves waking up, working every possible minute (including the inevitable crumbs-over-the-keyboard at lunchtime), then crashing in the evening - either straight to sleep, or back on the laptop after an hour or two of chill-and-family time. But you can claw some valuable time back from a packed schedule. Here’s how.
Let’s start obvious. Most importantly, keep track of what you need to do. This could either be in written form (a notepad or even a Filofax is fine; many people swear that physically writing is helpful) or online (Google Keep, Microsoft To-Do, Trello ‑ many list services also have apps for your phone).
Score off items which you have completed ‑ this alone represents achievement. Add every item which needs adding ‑ don’t skimp or shy away from tasks. And carry your to-do list everywhere ‑ hence the value of apps. The result should be a much more manageable approach.
Write your five most important things to do today, the night before. Read them over breakfast; contemplate them as you travel to the office. Which item needs to be started first? Which one is the most complex? If you complete fewer than five, what happens? Whatever the question, get your mind into gear before you arrive for work, and you’ll be prepared.
Speaker and best-selling author Brian Tracy wrote a book called “Eat that frog”. It means: do the thing you’re least looking forward to, first. Procrastinators end the day with a list of hated jobs; if you swallow the frog, you’ll have a better day and a more predictable schedule.
You can’t do everything, and you certainly can’t do everything well. Just as you turn down deals that don’t benefit you, turn down activities that don’t deserve your time. Avoid distractions like email and messenger applications, too.
Because we can’t do everything, we need others to help to lighten the load. It’s understandable for business owners to feel that they have to personally remain in control ‑ the business is your baby, right? But other people have skills you don’t. Delegate out; it develops personal trust, it gets things off your plate, and because it builds your management credentials, it builds your business at the same time.
A famous quote from Isaac Newton was once printed on the side of the £1 coin: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s a tribute to mentorship and the talents of others. If there’s one trait of successful leaders which saves them time and prevents them losing money, it’s the urge to collaborate, ask for advice and leverage their networks.
Long meetings sap energy, they kill innovation, and they stifle productivity. Get everyone’s meetings down to the minimum. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint and enforces a six-page narrative to open each meeting. Find what works for you- you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you get through when you’re against the clock.
Networking events can be interesting, fun, and highly valuable in terms of future business and great contacts. But like many meetings, they can be a waste of time, too. Don’t just go to an event because it’s happening: the ‘opportunity cost’ of attending is that you could spend your time doing something else. Commit to events with a track record – particularly those where attendee lists can be seen in advance.
Multitasking might be something of a competitive sport, but it doesn’t necessarily work. Do one thing at a time, rather than spreading yourself thinly across many priorities every few minutes. Giving your full attention to one job is more effective. 60-90 minutes is the ideal maximum time to devote to an issue before taking a short break and then focusing on something else.
Where’s that email from 2015? Where’s the Excel spreadsheet with those numbers? Not having information to hand is a real time waster. Have a filing system and use it religiously. More challenging, prune what you don’t need. You may have a compliance obligation to keep everything, but it can all be archived: keep your desktop focused on the here and now.
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