The best thing you can do for your business is have fun and enjoy the relationship with your clients. Without some strong time management strategies, you’ll feel strained and worn out.
Here are 5 key areas you are probably throwing away valuable time you could be having fun with your clients.
1. Starting the Day Without a Plan
Get the boring stuff out of the way in the early hours. Better still, plan your day before you leave work the day before. You need to make sure that your key contact times are left free for follow up with your key clients, don’t waste it with a bad case of disorganisation. Set a conscious rule that it’s “tools down” 20 minutes before you leave. Use that time to plan for the next day. Your business is reliant on you making the best use of your day.
Allow yourself to set aside time for key goal setting once a week. Just some short term goals. They’re easier to achieve and more satisfying. So create some long and mid-range plans and then extract from these all the daily activities you’ll need to do in order to reach the planned goals.
Simplify your processing. You should have a simple plan for getting organised and prioritising your workload that shouldn’t take you too long through the processing period. Massive in trays or inboxes where emails or documents are handled more than once are a time wasting trap.
2. Procrastination – Too much fun means the boring catches up
If your day’s tasks require an activity that you aren’t fond of, do it first thing. Getting past it will give you a lift and make the rest of the day a pleasure. It’s also best to do those hated things when you’re fresh.
You probably already know what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what’s going to distract you. We tend to put off the things we don’t enjoy, right? We don’t enjoy them, because of lack of clarity, that is, not being clear about the process or how to do the task.. The secret here, is be clear about what items on your to do list are actually projects and what are tasks. Tasks have clear action steps. Projects are outcomes you want to achieve. A project sitting on your “To Do List” might not have clear action steps and that’s why you’re putting it off, chunk down your project into doable and achievable outcomes. Or if you simple can’t resolve it, seek to delegate or outsource.
When I work with people on procrastination, they’re often surprised by what causes the distractions, what their personality attracts too but it boils down to working with your strengths and being aware of your weaknesses. You can actually trick your brain into having fun with something boring! (Ask me how if you’re curious.)
3. Not Using Effective Contact and Task Management Systems
If you’re working with yellow sticky-notes all over the place, you’re creating constant distraction and essentially double handling the information (Well actually, how many times are you going to read that note?) Whether you’re into technology or not, you need to have clear systems to manage your clients right through from lead to completion. Regardless of whether you use physical tools and filing systems or digital tools like Evernote, a good system will free you. Good systems free people, otherwise YOU are they system. Yes you, your bogged down brain and your sticky notes are the system running the show rather than allowing a good productivity system working for you.
Simplify your processes and create streamlined systems for task management and effective methods for easily getting things done. The simpler a system is, the more you’ll get done, whether it’s streamlined and automated email filing or basic organisation strategies
4. Allowing Non-critical Interruptions of Your Planned Activities
If you’ve got an open plan office, this can cause easy access and distraction for you. Create simple communication tools with your colleagues to let them know when you’re having key focus time and to only interrupt you for emergencies. I heard about a CEO of a major corporation who wanted to have an open door policy, but found he was interrupted too often to be productive. So he implemented a red hat policy. When he was wearing his red hat he was working on a deadline and would prefer not to be interrupted unless urgent but his door still remained open! But for this kind of communication symbolism to work, you have to be consistent with the rule, otherwise people will ignore it.
Email distraction is perhaps the biggest killer. I work with people to really cut down their processing time for emails. Typically I can save people 2 hours per day (for anyone receiving anywhere from 40 – 100 emails) by simply modifying how you process your emails and turning off the alerts! You should be spending time building relationships not troweling through your inbox for a lost email!
5. Not willing to adapt – Killing Your Mojo
You know that quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. You can trust in your instincts, or you can use time tracking tools and techniques to actually look at how much time you are spending on certain activities and projects. There are any number of tools available to help you be more effective with your time. Equip yourself with tools, both physical and digital to enable you to increase your productivity. Enjoy the process of trying something new. Have fun with it. If nothing else, time how long you take processing emails or responding to them and you’ll be shocked!
When you are unproductive you are stressed, absent minded and unmotivated. Mistakes creep in and you see and increase in conflicts around you. You become distracted, procrastinate and turn into a slug!
If the “fun” is missing from you business and you’ve lost your mojo, you can really benefit from increased productivity.
If you’d like to learn more about Time Management & Productivity Strategies join me for a half day recharge your energy in your business. For more information: CLICK HERE
I put off reading things sometimes, because it’s just too hard. I procrastinate. I remember through school being forced to sit in a circle and read the school based Readers Digest. Then through High School English Literature being forced to read A Tale of Two Cities (My mind still sees/hears “A Tale of Two Titties”). I guess it’s put me off reading in detail, of analysing the prose, digesting it, contemplating it.
But in a busy world, we need to process information quickly; we need to assess the importance of information as quick as we can, to decide whether we want to digest it further. (Goodness it sounds like I’m going to eat it doesn’t it?)
But this skill can be used to assess email priorities, newsletters, meeting agenda etc. Now I’m not saying it replaces the actual digestion but it enables you to prioritise your reading time.
Some Simple Steps
Learn the art of scanning.
Our mind mature mind has the amazing ability to fill in the gaps. Just take those clever, crazy number plates or texting abbreviations that everyone likes to use. If you can teach your eye to float over sentences looking for key words, you’ll get the general gist or context of the information. Take a look at this text:
He knew the moment he walked into the singles bar it was a bad idea. If you’ve been to one singles bar, you’ve been to them all. Yet, it was the flaming red hair of the woman in the corner that caught his eye and only then did he realise how big his mistake was. Surely that wasn’t his brand new boss?
By just taking in the key words, you are allowing your brain to fill in the gaps. In fact, your eye can take in about 3 or 4cm so you don’t need to focus on each word at time, you are probably more likely to be able to take in up to 5 words. It’s really a way of engaging your peripheral vision more, it’s a soft eye technique (not to be confused with a lazy eye).
Read the first Line.
This is not my favourite technique but it is another good one. You can read the first few words of a paragraph and the last words or sentence. You can scan read headings of a document or email newsletter, it will give you the general idea.
Tell your internal voice to “Zip it!”
My primary years must be haunting me but I can remember having to read aloud, word for word, the contents of my book; a painful and embarrassing experience for some. Or I remember sitting in class, the teacher, beautifully and with such expression, reading the story with expression and poetic pause. And so, we become used to hearing the words, so much so, that reading to ourselves we have the voice dramatise the words on the page. Stop it, turn off the voice, hear it in a monotone or sequence of brief words, skip and jump across that page! You can do it! You can actually understand the words QUICKER than you can say them. If you want to luxuriate over the lusciousness of your prose, by all means, take your time but otherwise, silence that voice and jump on through it.
Follow the bouncing ball.
It’s not exactly a speed reading technique but it is a way of ensuring the reading process doesn’t slow down. If you find that you are reading something complex and it takes you a few times to read a sentence over and over, follow your reading with a pencil, book mark or ruler. It helps your eyes to focus on the words and not accidently read a line more than once. This is a good technique when you are required to study, understand or learn from the reading. I guess, one good kick back from those primary school reading years is the technique of reading with the ruler under the text.
I’m sorry, what? What did I just read? – Get rid of those distractions!
I once asked one of the most organised CEO’s that I knew, what were his techniques for staying on top of his work? One of the great tips he shared was that he would dedicate a whole day to reading. No phone calls, no meetings, no interruptions. He would use this time to read industry documents, meeting minutes etc. It was an economical use of his time but most importantly he eliminated the distractions. Don’t try and read something while watching TV! Just don’t.
So why am I here? Key word searches.
If you’re looking for a key point of information and you are reading in a digital format, then for the love of god, use the search function. A blog on a website, a pdf, they all enable you to search key words. Alternatively, allow your brain to be the search function and seek out key phrases, terms, words or terminology to help you pull out the key information rather than reading the whole document word for word.
Obviously these speed reading techniques are not something you should rest on rely on all the time, however it can give you the opportunity to quickly assess information to be able to prioritise your reading workload, or it can give you the opportunity to decide if the document you are about to read has some value or worth for you to read properly in full.
If you’ve found a good technique for speed reading, please share in the comments below.
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About the Author:
Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Time Management Expert and Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in stressful, time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for making sense of things. She seeks knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world. Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity. Barbara’s professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services. For more information visit www.timetamer.com.au or follow Barbara on twitter @barbclifford.
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