The 17th century real estate entrepreneur, William Penn, said it best. “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”
Every leader and entrepreneur understands the precious nature of time – and this is especially true for leaders who also spend time raising a family, caregiving for others, studying and/or fulfilling social obligations – over and above the demands of their career or business venture. Let’s face it, managing your time can often be a struggle, and even the most effective leaders can fall prey to distraction, disorganisation and procrastination.
One of the key principles to success is being productive and effective with your time; making it something we use best. The truth is, if you allow time to manage you – if you have a lot of unproductive minutes in your day – you will be unable to achieve a great deal.
I’ve been in business for over seventeen years and, for the past decade, have spent a large portion of my year travelling the world with family … while running my business. These years of experience have taught me many things, including how to manage my time more efficiently. This, in turn, has helped me become more productive and successful, and more able to follow my personal goals and dreams.
There are seven time-smart principles that I adhere to, and that I believe smart leaders and business owners should live by each day.
Introduce forced deadlines
According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Use this rule to your advantage and introduce forced deadlines into your day. This can be something such as picking up the kids, a phone call or meeting you need to attend, or attending a dinner. The point is to make it something that you simply must do, to give you the impetus to complete a task (or range of tasks) by this time.
(Editor’s note: The Make Your Mark Daily Planner is structured to include your top three priorities for the day, and rewards for completing each item!)
Utilise non-productive time
There are going to be many moments in your day when your arms and legs are busy, but your mind is free. If you’re smart, you can actually use this time to get a whole bunch of stuff done. It may that you listen to an audio book or podcast while driving the car or commute on the train; you may read important news articles or research while sitting at the kids’ soccer practice; or you use the time you walk the dog to call people you need to catch up with – perhaps your clients or family.
Focus on what you do best
It’s only natural – when you’re doing the things you’re skilled at and/or that you like, you’ll find you can complete tasks incredibly quickly and efficiently. When you’re doing things outside of your area of expertise, you’ll find that it will take you a longer time to do. Therefore, consider hiring a professional or delegating someone in your team to do the things that don’t come easily to you – chances are they can probably do it in one tenth of the time you can. This may cost you money, but if you think of what your time is worth as a team leader or business owner, you’ll be much better off.
Hire a virtual assistant
This is something I’m particularly passionate about, because I know the huge difference it has made to my business. Here’s one of my core principles: if you’re in your business, doing it alone, without any help, then you’re just doing it way too tough. These days, you can hire someone to work for you from anywhere in the world, and it can cost as little as $6 per hour. Build a system around all those niggly, repetitive tasks that take your precious time away from your core business, and pass it on to a virtual assistant to take care of.
Pay for expert advice
If you are a business owner, or aiming for a new role in your company, it is impossible to overstate the importance of a mentor or a coach; someone to help you along the way. Whatever it is that you want to achieve in your life, there’s someone out there who has probably done it or has done something similar. So, rather than wasting time on the process of trial and error, find someone that can help you along the way and be prepared to pay them for their time. In the end, their advice will save you precious time of your own.
Write your to-do list the night before
I have found this simple trick to be incredibly effective. Get into the habit of writing a to-do list before you go to bed. Build it into your routine: put your PJ’s on, brush your teeth, and write your to-do list for the next day. This will ensure that you start each day with definition and direction – no more time wasted in the morning.
Do an hour’s work before you check your email
The first thing most of us do when we turn on the computer in the morning is start scrolling through our inbox. However, by doing this, we instantly create another 20-30 things that we need to do or respond to and, immediately, we have lost track of what’s important. If you can, resist the urge to check your email first thing in the morning. Instead, look at your to-do list, choose the most important task and do at least an hour’s work on that. If nothing else, you will get a good chunk of that task completed before you’ve even started your day.
No matter how busy your business makes you, there is a way to insert some method into the madness, and actually get things done. By following the strategies above, you will find that you will develop a more strategic approach toward your to-do list, and you will be much more efficient and productive with your time.
Dale Beaumont is an Award-Winning Technology Entrepreneur, International Speaker and Author of 16 best-selling books. Dale started his first business at 19 and has been building companies ever since. One of those companies is now a multi-million dollar enterprise. In 2009, Dale launched Business Blueprint, an education company designed to help fellow entrepreneurs build the business of their dreams. Seven years later Dale has personally trained over 15,000 people and produced over 750 business training videos.