12 Ways to Master Your Calendar and Manage Your Time for Maximum Results
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Charles Darwin once said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Some people, and entrepreneurs in particular, take that to heart. They strive to make the most out of each and every minute with focus and purpose.
But, not everyone works that way. Some people get completely freaked out over time. As a result, they procrastinate and start stressing themselves out. If you fall into that latter group, use these 12 time management tips. Once you do, you’ll become more productive and will no longer get rattled by time.
1. Know your goals.
Only engage in activities that support both your short-term and long-term business goals. Guard your time like a hawk and stop giving it away to things that don’t matter. Your days should only include activities or tasks that will either generate income or grow your business. For example, attending networking events can be beneficial. But, if you’re not adding prospective clients, collecting quality leads, interacting with other businesses or discovering new vendors or service providers, then you may want to cut back on attending these events.
2. Make and use lists.
To become a master of time management start making and using lists. To avoid making your life any more complicated than it is only focus on creating these four types of lsts:
Your daily schedule: Create a calendar for your entire year so that you have, and stick to, a daily routine.
To-do lists: This doesn’t have to be overly complex. This is your basic “things-to-do” list revolved around your three or four most important and urgent tasks.
People-to-contact list: These are the people who have to email or call. To make this more efficient, prioritize this list alphabetically.
Conference planner: This list contain notes or reminders on what you need to discuss with prospects, leads or team during meetings or conversations.
These lists work for me. You may chose to add or subtract to this list depending on your specific needs. The idea is that you have a regimented, regularly used list-making system so that you’re making the most out of your time.
3. Follow the 80/20 rule.
This concept, which is also known as the Pareto Principle, originated with Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. The idea, as related to time management, is that 80 percent of your results come from only 20 percent of your actions.
For example, you review your to-do-list. It has 10 items on it that need to be crossed-off. Using the 80/20 rule, you would tackle your first two items because those activities are giving your the most bang for your buck.
Not only does the Pareto Principle help your prioritize your time against your most important goals, it’s incredibly simple to apply. Just identify and focus on the few goals or activities that are most critical to your development or success. You’ll notice over time that you’ll eliminate most items off your list, while increasing your production.
4. Eat that frog.
“Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long,” writes Brian Tracy.
So, what exactly is your “frog?” It’s “your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.”
To help you “eat that frog,”here’s several suggestions from Tracy:
- If you have two important tasks to tackle, “start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.
- Get into the habit of completing your major task in the morning while you have the most energy and focus.
- Take action immediately and discipline yourself “to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.”
- Start and complete even more important tasks. Doing so releases endorphins, which will help you form a “positive addiction.”
- Keep practicing this technique until you’ve perfected it.
5. Just say “no.”
Early in my career I took every project from my clients then I could handle. Eventually, my work suffered and I got burned out. I just didn’t have enough time to properly manage all of these projects. The reason I took on such a workload was that I didn’t want to say “no” to my clients. I believe that they would get ticked-off and hire someone else.
Over time, however, I realized that sometimes you have to just say “no.” Instead of spreading yourself too thin, you should only take on commitments that you know you have time for and that you truly care about. If you’re honest and upfront about this, your clients, colleagues, friends and family should understand and be willing to work with you.
6. Avoid distractions.
Here’s an experiment. Track the number of interruptions you must overcome throughout the day. How many times does a colleague or family member burst into your office? How often do you stop working and check your phone or computer whenever you get an email or social media notification?
Researchers have found that work interruptions cost the average person six hours a day! On top of that, it takes an average of 23-minutes to get back where we left-off.
This will take some discipline but it’s imperative that you eliminate these distractions. Start by closing your door while eating your “frog.” Turn-off pesky notifications on your phone and set aside specific times during the day for responding to emails and phone calls.
7. Take fewer meetings.
We average 31 hours a month on unproductive meetings. I would even venture to say that meetings are the biggest time management culprit. Additionally, most people dread attending meetings.
While there are times when you’ll need to host a meeting, you want to keep them to a minimum and make them count. Instead, rely on email and IM. This way you can spend more time on working on more important work.
8. Make use of time while you're waiting.
If you were to track how you spend your time for a week you would see that there’s a lot of wasted time. Your daily commute on the subway, standing in-line at the store, sitting in a waiting room, or while on the elliptical. Instead of letting this time pass-by, put it to use by thinking, reading or listening to a podcast.
This is what the famous writer of legal thrillers Scott Turow did when writing his first novel. During his morning commutes into New York City he didn’t kill time like the other subway passengers, he wrote. Even if this was just 10 minutes a day, that time that was normally wasted will amount to something meaningful.
9. The 4Ds.
Filtering all requests using the 4D approach is one of the most effective ways to manage your time by limiting distractions, interruptions and time-wasters:
Delete (or drop). Scan through your inbox looking for unwanted emails. You can probably delete many without ever opening them. Simply put, if the email doesn’t provide you with any value, delete it. This is particularly useful when returning from vacation or business trip.
Delegate. If there is a task that can be handled by someone else, then delegate it. Most administrative tasks can be outsourced. A virtual assistant can respond to emails and make travel arrangements, while a bookkeeper can keep your books organized. You could also ask an employee to schedule meetings and copy agendas. The point is that reducing the time spent on less important things can be used for something more important.
Defer. Some tasks can be performed later. For example, if you get an invitation to a wedding you don’t have to book a hotel room when you receive the invite. It can wait until you have free time this weekend.
Do it. Sometimes you just need to buckle done and get it done. Going back to your emails, if there is an urgent and important message from a client, read and respond to the message instead of deferring it until later. Again, this goes back to knowing your priorities.
10. Block your time.
Take a minute and review your calendar for the upcoming week. Besides important appointments or meetings that are set-in-stone, how much time is left unassigned?
This is where time blocking comes in handy. It ensures that there is only a little loose and unassigned time in your calendar. Blocking also prevents you from taking on too many demands from others.
Personally, I use time blocking to create my daily routine. Every morning I carve out specific times for exercise, getting ready, writing and responding to emails. I then block out between eight am to noon for undistracted work. In the afternoons, I set create blocks for naps, returning calls or emails and hosting meetings.
11. Batch related tasks.
In simplest terms, batching is merely working on a group of similar activities at the same time. For example, instead of responding to emails throughout the day, you read and respond to them at specific times. This way you’re not interrupting your work flow
The reason batching is such a powerful time management technique is that different tasks demand different types of thinking. When you’re not switching back-and-forth, you’re reducing startup and slow-down time, reducing daily clutter, and improving your focus.
12. Take care of yourself.
Finally, it’s been found that getting a good night’s sleep, exercising and eating healthy will give you the energy, focus, and stamina to make the most out of your day.