Yes, you read that right. For context, my husband and I have been known to have long discussions surrounding Powerpoint, Excel and the like, so this being my favorite topic is kind of fitting for me. But I digress….
If I could pin point one area where I have constantly received positive feedback, and questions on how I do it, it would be time management. I always thought that was an odd thing to receive such positive reviews on, but I honestly don’t know any different. For me, time is more than of the essence. Time is my love language, it is how I measure my relationships with others (clients included!), and it is quite possibly my #1 reason for success. Now, I know you must be thinking that I’m getting a little overworked about something like time, but here is a story.
When I was working in the Corporate world as a young newbie, I was asked by a very senior leader to put together a Powerpoint in record time. Everyone around me was panicking about this ask, but for me it was a simple question. How much time did I have? What were the base requirements? And for myself, how can I make this great? Those 3 questions lead me to create an awesome deliverable in a very fast turn around. Before this ask, I doubt this Senior Leader could have told you one thing about me. But this Powerpoint was on an area of opportunity that I was interested in. And that small deliverable stuck in his mind, proving to him that I was capable, efficient, creative and had what it took to test the waters in a new position. This did not happen over night. But it put me on the map and eventually snowballed to many career opportunities. See time is critical, and how we use it masterfully is a way to set us apart from those sitting next to us.
It’s not just about being efficient, and doing a great job. It’s how we use our time to be as effective as possible. And how we use this capability to further ourselves with our clients, customers, senior leaders, etc. If you are a customer inquiring about a product on Facebook Messenger, what are you hoping when you pose a question to the Social Media Manager? My guess is, a fast turn around with an appropriate amount of information. See? Time. I’ve been asked over and over by peers, clients, and friends- how do I do it? How do I manage to get the work done effectively (with value add of course!) in such short periods of time. Given how much this question has come up, I figured I’d write a blog to share my tips with you all!
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT procrastinate.
Your Mom was right, procrastination will never work for your benefit. Why do tomorrow what you can do today? True story! When I have something come my way, whether it’s a text message from a friend or an ask from my client, I respond literally as soon as possible. If I can, I will drop other things I’m working on to get it done. The longer it sits, the more it sits on my mind occupying space and my creativity suffers. I want it done, finished and out of my head to make space for everything else! I heard the advice once that if it’s something that can be done in a minute or two, do it NOW. It’s a simple, quick task and you can cross it off immediately, so just get it done!
Value your OWN time
As a business owner, you MUST value your own time. We know we do not have infinite amounts of time in this world, but yet we often push the boundaries of doing what we are capable of within the limits of the time we have. Time Management is not just about getting the work done, it’s about focusing your time in chunks. Studies will tell you that we are not productive if we continue at full force for hours at a time. We NEED breaks, we NEED time away from our jobs, and we NEED to have full lives outside of work. Prioritizing your time to include all your values will ensure that you are putting the most effort in when you are on, but it also requires you to switch it off when possible. When I’m at a kids performance or a team party, it’s so easy to want to grab my phone and check my email quickly. But I try to remember how valuable my time is with my family, and then I find pockets of down time to get the work checked. Now, if it’s super critical, of course I will make sure I’m on top of it. But when you know that your time is important, you can value everything else against it more easily.
Value OTHER’S time
I am basically never late, in fact, I am pretty much always early. My kids tell me my most frequently used word is “hurry!” Now, I’m not necessarily proud of that, but my reasoning is pretty sound. I value time in general, including other’s time. When you show up late to something and someone is waiting for you, you are not valuing their time and therefore not valuing your relationship with them. This is simple. Prepare yourself to be where you need to be, when you need to be there. IT IS SIMPLE. Yes, things pop up, but plan for it. I know many people who are chronically late and it’s often a running joke. But seriously? Respect others time, respect your own, and be there on time. You will find yourself feeling less stressed, and you may even find yourself with the added benefit of adding chunks of time to your productivity – see below for more on this.
Little chunks add up
This can work in both a positive and negative way. Because I am never late, and never procrastinate, I often find myself early. I am a strong believer that the early bird catches the worm, but I will admit that at times I am a little TOO early. The benefit of this? I often find myself with 5 or 10 minutes to spare to catch up on work. Maybe I create a to do list, send off an email, or get my creative juices flowing by brainstorming in a note pad. Whatever it is, I use my time to my benefit. If this happens 2 or 3 times a day, I’ve just found myself 20 minutes to get stuff done. It’s amazing what I can accomplish when I focus my energy for those short periods of time on a set goal. Find what works for you. If you are sitting in the passenger seat and have some down time, what can you focus on to accomplish in that small moment of time? Make it worthwhile.
To do lists are key for me. I always have a mental or physical list of what I need to do, in which level of priority and by when. This helps me focus my time when I have it. I typically try to accomplish the thing I most don’t want to do first to get it out of the way. By knowing what I need to accomplish and being clear on my priorities, I can focus my time and energy on the task at hand and then move on to the next.
Ask for help
This is a big theme of mine, and not my biggest strength. As I’ve said before, time is not indefinite, and our abilities to do everything aren’t either. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Outsourcing work to others, whether its in work or outside of it, allows you to have more time, period. People these days try to be everything, and do everything perfectly. But that is not only impossible, it is exhausting. Several years ago a boss of mine pulled me aside to ask me where I wanted to go – you know, the typical, what do you want to be in 5 years question. He told me that I was really good at so many things and had so many options available to me. The problem was, that I wasn’t focusing on core areas and asking for help, I was trying to be good at everything instead of GREAT at a few things. Learning to ask for help allowed me to hone my skills in the areas that mattered and put me in the direction of learning to be great. So ask for help, save some time, learn to be great.
At the end of the day, you are in control. Time is yours to do with what you want. But be specific with how you spend your time. Prioritize your life, and know what you need to be successful. If TV is your way of unwinding at the end of a long day, then go for it. But find an appropriate amount of time that allows you to unwind without killing your day.
Focus your priorities, be on time, get things done when they need to be done, ask for help where it’s needed, and use time as an advantage to you. At the end of the day, you make the choice of how you spend your time, so make the choice to be deliberate and see how much your life can improve because of it.