Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
Time Management may be the elusive and never-ending quest of anyone in business but may be the one thing that determines success more than anything else. Even the term ‘Management’ is a barrier to our efforts as who can really manage time? We all get the same amount and you can’t change how it progresses, so it isn’t really time management as much as it is self-management within fixed parameters. As Bernard Metzler said, ‘Hard Work is often the easy work you did not do at the proper time’. Therefore, no matter what we call it, we need to develop a plan to maximize our focus and accomplishments. This article will wrap up the final P of the five P’s of time management as presented before:
Time Management Solutions (The Five P’s)
Practice is simply another way of saying – Now do it! It is putting the other five P’s into….well….Practice. Think of this last step as the term is used for the ‘Practice of law’. Attorneys call their business a Practice because it involves constant attention, reflection, and evolution. The more cases litigated, the more knowledge acquired about the operation of the law because to practice is to do as opposed to theorize or teach. Like a musician practices regularly in order to improve their performance. They could just read about it but in order to improve they must actually perform the action.
The other four P’s provide the structure, ideas and concepts that now must be put into action. Seems easy enough but we know that changing your habits and approach to each day is scary. Most surveys that list our greatest fears (public speaking and heights are usually numbers one and two), change is not even on the list. Yet it is fear that keeps us from changing our behavior even if we are confident that the outcome will lead to positive results. The only way to overcome the hesitancy to make the changes necessary is to remember:
Fear Stops Action,Action Stops Fear.
Your ‘Practice’ needs you to get the best results possible each and every day. When you implement time management systems and evaluations to your daily routine you can get closer to what Coach John Wooden considered the ultimate goal:
Make each day your Masterpiece
Of course, like all practice you will need to always be reviewing your processes and decisions and adjust continuously improve how you use your time. Sometimes we may not be able to realistically determine ‘where did the time go?’ The best way to track how you spend your time is to use a Time Journal – just jot down through the day what you did and for how long. You will find your time wasters and may be surprised at what you find. When you have that Journal completed for a couple weeks it will allow you to know exactly what to improve upon. Even something as simple as how you use waiting time and drive time may have a big impact on your ‘practice’.
One area that we all have to deal with daily now is email and it can suck up an extraordinary amount of our days. I highly recommend attending webinars or classes on how to slay the email dragon but the following is a summary of some of the best ideas I have found to get the best of email so it does not get the best of you:
Email Productivity Tips
• Minimize the distraction of a pop-up box by shutting it off or setting it to check every hour.
• Use templates and auto responders for standard messages.
• Turn emails into calendar appointments or tasks; avoid using your Inbox as a “to-do” list.
• Write less text; keep messages short and to the point.
• Use rules to automatically send certain messages into designated folders.
• Designate blocks of time in your schedule to check email.
• Proofread your emails before sending, even after spell check.
• Use copy and paste commands as you would in word processing to save time.
• Write descriptive and precise subject lines with calls to action to catch attention.
• If forwarding a message, put your comments at the top for clarity.
• Use “bcc” for bulk emails and be careful to reply to only the person you intend.
• Avoid unnecessary punctuation and acronyms.
• Use a separate email for each major message.
• Remember: Not every message needs a response.
• Summarize or explain your file attachment in your cover message.
• Answer by inserting responses into the message body. (Let the reader know you’re doing this.)
• If you anticipate a lot of “back and forth” discussion, phone rather than email.
If your practice is your business, then I need to wrap this up by putting some numbers behind the reason why time management is so important. I do not want to only focus on the financial aspects of time management as getting more out of each hour can result in more happiness, better relationships and a healthier lifestyle. However, numbers are easier to quantify and knowing the value of your time is important. We all know the phrase ‘Time is Money’ but do you make daily decisions based on that fact? You can see the value of time at your current earning level but it may be more important to look at what you think you are worth and determine the value of each hour at that level. Hopefully you will be motivated to make the five P’s a permanent part of each day and if so the income level you can achieve may be ‘off the chart!’