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Guard your time and take control

The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on, nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.  Omar Khayyam

Time.  The most precious commodity which we say we never have enough of, but each minute that slips away is one that we cannot get back in any form.   Ooh, that’s deep!

Viewed from this perspective, entrepreneurs in particular must ensure they are disciplined with how each day is spent.  There are the never ending meetings to attend, networking, staying on the cutting edge of what is new in your field of enterprise, hundreds of emails to respond to, workshops to host, and for some, the added pressure of raising a family!  And you only have 24 hours to do this each day!  Whew!

Why is it so difficult to do?
Entrepreneurs, particularly ones just starting out, struggle massively in the area of time management because they have to wear many different hats all the time.  The founder of the company has to keep an eye on the minutiae of running the business because at that stage they are the only ones who can do it and certain decisions taken at that point can have a long lasting impact, for better or worse.

So how do we make the most of this precious asset and ensure that we are spending it in a way that is fruitful?
I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to teach grandma how to suck eggs, but we need to ensure that we implement those principles which we have heard in various seminars and workshops in order to stay on top of our game so that we can give to each area of our lives the adequate time and attention required.

Taking control
In Steven Covey’s book, First things First, he outlines how the people should select what tasks they give their attention to. Unless the entrepreneur is disciplined they may well find themselves fighting fires more often than they should, or dealing with things that really should be passed onto another to deal with. In his time management chart, he clearly lays out where our focus should be.

Urgent Not Urgent
I

(MANAGE)

  • Crisis
  • Medical emergencies
  • Pressing problems
  • Deadline-driven projects
  • Last-minute preparations for scheduled activities
II

(FOCUS)

  • Preparation/planning
  • Prevention
  • Values clarification
  • Exercise
  • Relationship-building
  • True recreation/relaxation
Quadrant of Necessity Quadrant of Quality &
Personal Leadership
III

(AVOID)

  • Interruptions, some calls
  • Some mail & reports
  • Some meetings
  • Many “pressing” matters
  • Many popular activities
IV

(AVOID)

  • Trivia, busywork
  • Junk mail
  • Some phone messages/email
  • Time wasters
  • Escape activities
  • Viewing mindless TV shows
Quadrant of Deception Quadrant of Waste

Find out where you are wasting time. Many of us are prey to things that steal time that could be used more productively.  Where do you find yourself wasting time? For a week, track your daily activities and see where they would fit into Steven’s matrix.  Make any necessary adjustments pronto!

Begin the day with a strategy. In fact you should have a strategy not only for the day, but for the week, the month, the year and thereafter. Prioritize ruthlessly. Start each day with a time management session prioritizing the tasks for that day and setting your performance benchmark. If you have 20 tasks for a given day, how many of them do you truly need to accomplish? Understand that if you do not arrange your day, someone or something else will.

D-E-L-E-G-A-T-E! Again, I don’t want to state the obvious, but do you actually do it? To effectively manage your time, you need to let other people carry some of the load. These people can come in the form of interns if you cannot afford to hire anyone.

Don’t over schedule yourself. Avoid scheduling everything down to the minute because something unexpected always comes up. If you take on too much you run the risk of not attending to your tasks promptly.

Be flexible – you will have days where you will not be able to accomplish everything you set out to do. Without allowing this to become a habit, learn to work with the unexpected interruptions that may occur during the day. This will avoid the build-up of frustration and allow you to clearly restructure your schedule to fit in any missed errands or tasks in the following days.

Learn to say ‘NO’! This is a crucial aspect of managing your time. It’s easy to become caught up in the sense of responsibility, importance or achievement of running a business and the number of tasks that need to be accomplished on a daily basis. Being unable to say ‘no’ at the right time may leave you in a position where you are unable to accomplish those tasks that you have set for the day.

Take a break! The best way to make efficient progress is to ensure that you are refreshed and ready to go. To do this you need to be sure that you are taking breaks and getting away from your work environment. No matter how much you have on, you will find that your efficiency and quality of work will be far more prolonged by taking breaks throughout the day.

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About the Author: Belinda Nnoka is a feature writer for Women Unlimited and ghost-writer for small businesses.  If you need any blogs, tweets or e-books written, contact Belinda to discuss your requirements.

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About Belinda Nnoka

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One comment

  1. time-management and planning
    are so important,
    and something I almost never do.

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