Effective time management is something we all wrestle with. Regardless of our greater professional success, each day brings with it a fresh set of time management challenges. Does it feel like you’re always racing against the clock? Do you know the difference between being efficient and being effective? This week, Dr. Tony Alessandra shares some of his own life-hacks and observations for getting the upper hand at work, on father time.
Effective Time Management
By Dr. Tony Alessandra
Time remains constant, but our perception of it changes. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, and give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious, at other times we waste it. We give it the power to heal when we say, “Time heals all wounds.” It can also kill, as when we live stressful lives because we “never have enough time.” On a daytoday basis, nothing is defined and redefined in our minds as much as time. It’s a wonder, we can still recognize it!
Herein lies our power. Because things are as we perceive them, we can choose to see time as a manageable commodity and live our lives according to that assumption. This is one of the secrets of successful people they work at shaping those things that others think are uncontrollable.
EFFICIENT vs. EFFECTIVE
In discussing time management, some people argue, “What we need to be is more efficient with our time!” Other people claim, “Let’s not worry so much about efficiency, let’s be more effective!”
Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things. Working efficiently is doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B via a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield results.
Many people, when learning about time management, ask the question, “Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?” In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It is much better to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often, we are bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.
ELIMINATING TIME WASTERS
Time wasters come from the people around you as well as from within yourself. Some time wasters are unavoidable, but reducible nonetheless. Identify the most frequent sources of time wasters in your day. As a means of comparison, I have included a list of time wasters. Many researchers find the same handful at the top of their lists, which indicates that they are problems common to all of us:
1. Scheduling less important work before more important work.
2. Starting a job before thinking it through.
3. Leaving jobs before they are completed.
4. Doing things that can be delegated to another person.
5. Doing things that can be delegated to modern equipment.
6. Doing things that actually are not a part of your real job.
7. Keeping too many, too complicated, or overlapping records.
8. Handling too wide a variety of duties.
9. Failing to build barriers against interruptions.
10. Allowing conferences and discussions to wander.
11. Conducting unnecessary meetings, visits, and/or phone calls.
12. Chasing trivial data after the main facts are in.
13. Socializing at great length between tasks.
When setting your priorities, there are two famous laws to remember. The first is Parkinson’s Law. It states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for its completion. Parkinson’s Law makes setting priorities twice as important. If you do not know what your priorities are, your other work will expand to fill in the extra time. It will take longer for you to accomplish less.
The second law of note is Pareto’s Principle. Pareto’s Principle, in this situation, states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Another way to look at it is that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients.
USING A “TO DO” LIST
A list of “things to do” for each day and week is a valuable aid to managing your time. A “to do” list organizes your thinking and planning onto one form in the least amount of time with the maximum amount of efficiency. Such a list is especially helpful if it coincides with the record keeping you already do for your company. After a short time, you will find yourself handling a greater volume of work without increasing your stress. You will simply become more efficient.
As we mentioned before, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Your “to do” list should, therefore, define a specific amount of time (if possible) for each activity. This will keep work from “expanding.”
Your activities should be listed in order of priority. Work on high priorities first. In listing the activities, it is helpful to spell out the result as well as the process. Stating when, where, and what you are going to do increases your chances of doing it successfully.
As the day goes by, check off completed activities and make any notes that seem relevant. In the evening, make out a new “to do” list for the next day and include any activities you could not complete the day before. Always save your “to do” lists for future reference and evaluation.
CHANGE YOUR BAD HABITS
“Habit, my friend, is practice long pursued, that at the last becomes the man himself” (Evenus, 5th century B.C.)
Managing your time efficiently and effectively will require some changes in your behavior and thinking. Those changes require practice.
Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In “overhauling” your management of time, you, too, need to take small steps. Start today doing those things that will make you a better manager of your time. After you have improved in one area, choose another and so on.
How about taking a moment, right now, to list the ideas you would like to implement? Review this blog and jot down the items of most immediate value to you. Then put them on tomorrow’s “to do” list for action. Remember this: If it is not affecting your actions, it is doubtful you believe it.
Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, internet entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from Notre Dame, a MBA from the Univ. of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University (1976).
Known as “Dr. Tony” he’s authored 30+ books and 100+ audio/video programs. He was inducted into the NSA Speakers Hall of Fame (1985) and Top Sales World’s Hall of Fame (2010). Meetings & Conventions Magazine has called him “one of America’s most electrifying speakers”.
Dr. Tony is also the Founder/CVO of Assessments 24×7. Assessments 24×7 is a global leader of white-labeled DISC assessments, delivered from easy-to-use online accounts popular with business coaches and Fortune 500 trainers around the world. Interested in learning more about these customized assessment accounts? Please CONTACT US.
☞ See Dr. Tony Alessandra’s Day 2 keynote, “Constructing & Deconstructing a DISC Presentation” at the 2016 Users Conference (Oct 6-7) in San Diego, CA.