Face it, there will never be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do. But if you methodically review how you spend your days and instill focus and discipline while completing daily priorities, you will soon find more time to work on the long-term success of your business. Here are six ways to do it.
1. Conduct a time audit.
Sit down and review three months of activity. The data from the analysis will show where you spent your time (which projects, tasks and priorities demanded your attention) and with whom you collaborated to get the work done. The audit will also shed light on areas where you were distracted, where you were the most productive and which tasks/projects took more (or less) time than anticipated.
2. Eliminate time drains.
These are the kinds of things that sneak up on you and steal time and can be better put to use growing your business. Look for these time drains: not delegating tasks, not managing meetings efficiently (Tip: always have an agenda!) and spending too much time writing/responding to e-mails. If you’ve done your job as a leader, members of your team can handle a majority of meetings and e-mails. You hired great people. Now let them do their jobs.
3. Take control of your calendar.
Remember: you drive your schedule; don’t let others drive it. Block time throughout your day and guard against changing your schedule to work on tasks that are not important or urgent. The way you allocate your time has a direct correlation to your effectiveness as a leader and, ultimately, the performance of your business. Prudent calendar management will also send a strong signal to your team that you take this seriously.
4. Plan your day.
When you know your priorities for the day, you will be better prepared to reset your work schedule if the unexpected comes your way. Once your schedule is set, block off chunks of time to work on your priorities. I recommend 90-minute blocks so you can concentrate on big-picture items or work on a group of related tasks. Stay disciplined and don’t allow yourself to go over that allotted time.
5. Limit interruptions.
Now comes the hard part. Once you start working on each priority, you need to remain focused. Close the door and don’t answer the phone unless it’s a critical issue. Avoid checking e-mail. Don’t let distractions slow you down.
6. Hold yourself accountable.
Share your tasks, priorities and deadlines with a colleague. Meet with that person at least monthly to review how well you managed your time. The probability of success increases when you have someone watching your progress and coaching you across the finish line.