Written By: Scott Koepf MCC, CTC, V.P. of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners
As a reminder, we are looking at the five essential solutions for Time Management success. The first P – Prioritize is the process to determine what are the most important elements for you to focus on, spend time on and get done. The next P – Plan, is where we consolidate everything that needs our time and attention into a ‘To – Do’ list. The third P – Prepare is what we look at this week. As the middle step of the five solutions, it is the bridge from conceptualizing and documenting what you want and need to get done to the actual completion of each item. That will happen primarily through the mastery of your calendar or schedule. The five P’s of Time Management, once again, are:
Time Management Solutions (The Five P’s)
The basis of this P – the bridge from knowing what to do and getting it done, is admitting that you will only complete what you schedule to complete. This sounds simple but all of the best efforts to get to a prioritized and clear To – Do List will not help get items off that list. Even the tasks that take the least time and effort must be scheduled or they will stay on your list forever. You know exactly the type of tasks I am talking about. You carry one from day to day as the dread and anxiety builds. You know you need to call that mean client who had a bad experience. Some items on your list are just ugly and not fun to do, so:
If you have to Swallow a Frog, Swallow it First!
If you don’t swallow it, that frog will get bigger and uglier each day! Force yourself to swallow the frogs but putting an appointment on your calendar and if you want you can invite others to watch you swallow it (not really). Hopefully, there are not too many frogs on your list but there are probably other items that are mundane and while you know you should do them you would rather work on the fun things. That is natural and normal, but the best way to be able to give full focus to the projects that fuel your passion is to get the other nagging items off your list.
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal nagging of an uncompleted task.” – William James
The only way to overcome our natural tendencies to ignore the ‘need to do’s’ versus the ‘want to do’s’ is to move from the To-Do List to specific calendared appointments to get things done. Starting with a comprehensive To- Do List is so important but as we start to build our daily schedule it is important that we:
Don’t Confuse Activity with Accomplishment
The process of setting aside times to accomplish specific tasks is designed to get more accomplished, not just to fill up our calendars and appear busy. If you think about something that you have wanted to complete for a long time but haven’t, I am going to bet that you have not set aside time in your calendar to specifically work on that task. Spending the last 10 minutes of each day to review your accomplishments of the day and to design your schedule for the next day will help you achieve your goals faster and more efficiently.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to a calendar system to use. While you can make it work with a good ol’ paper calendar/planner, I do recommend moving to a computer based program (it took me three years to wean me off of the written calendar to an computer based one so if you are resistant to change, just start!). Outlook is the most common calendar/schedule program and due to so many other functionalities integrated, it is a wonderful choice. However, use whatever you find will work best for you.
As I noted before, do not use two different calendars – one for work and one for personal life. The two worlds will always collide at various points anyway and the goal is not to divide your time between the two but to integrate them as best as possible. Many Time Management gurus will point to the goal of a balanced life. As ‘balanced’ means equal I think this is a goal that will create frustration since we rarely can create the perfect balance of time between work and the other areas of our lives. So, I suggest the following goal:
Blended not balanced, integrated not Segmented
You can blend and integrate all of your gifts, strengths, passions and goals by integrating, not separating, your work and personal life. Where that process becomes reality versus just nice sounding concepts is in the use of your calendar. Obviously, you have to want to improve your time management skills and that starts with a ‘Do it Now’ attitude. Improvement requires change and change is hard, so start with the right attitude and understand that specific actions need to be taken which may be hard at first.
“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” – Jim Rohn
Ouch. The truth of that quote hurts a little, doesn’t it? Each day you make hundreds of decisions as to what to spend your time on. While we cannot overcome all distractions and the desire to procrastinate, having a set schedule of activities pre-determined can tip the scales toward discipline versus regret.
The care and feeding of your calendar is the foundation of a full system that will lead to the desired results. One of the best business books I have read is the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. His conclusion as to what sets apart successful businesses is their creation and disciplined use of systems. I completely agree and while every aspect of your business should have a system to follow, having a system for time management may be the most important one of all. Here is a great acrostic to keep in mind:
Energy & Money
Take the time now to create your Time Management System and then follow it diligently. Here are a few suggestions to use in your calendar system:
Enter Events and Meetings as you are notified about them. As soon as you get the email or other invitation, add it to your calendar immediately.
Enter Repetitive Tasks far into the future. If you have staff meetings at a set time each week
put it in your calendar for the whole year. Regular Webinars or other meetings?
Anything that has a regular reoccurrence should be entered in your calendar for as far in the future as you can.
Limit TV or it will Limit you. I love TV and I must be careful to not turn into a permanent couch
potato. I want to watch TV and do other enjoyable things but if I schedule them into the big picture of my day/week then I tend to relax more, knowing I have followed my system.
Calendar Uninterruptible time. You can rest assured that interruptions will come throughout
your day, but some can be limited by scheduling time that you do not look at email or social media or other controllable distractions. By even taking an hour a day to get the tasks done that you never seem to be able to get to will help you accomplish so much more.
Your System can include many other steps and should be under constant review to increase the effectiveness of each day. I will finish up with a story that ties in the importance of each of the first three P’s of Time Management. Knowing what is most important to you (Prioritize) and then creating your To-Do List (Plan) and now being ready each day through your calendar system (Prepare) will only work if you keep the following in mind:
Putting Rocks in the Jar
One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.
As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz” and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth Mason jar and set it on the table. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class yelled, “Yes.”
The time management expert replied, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, “Is the jar
By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.
“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted.
Once again, he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”
“No.” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.” The truth this illustration teaches us is”
If you do not put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in later. What are the “big rocks” in your life? In your work? In each day?
Follow your system and be prepared for a life and career that you knew was waiting for you!