As members in my CEO peer groups have been getting a grip on their business through the implementation of “Traction”, a new challenge has emerged – How to make the best use of time that was previously spent in countless meetings and in constantly fighting fires. In other words, how do they more effectively use their found time to work “ON” their business rather than “IN” their business.
Last week we had Steve McClatchy, CEO of Alleer, help us do just that. Most of us had been through various time management programs, and understood the “importance vs urgency” distinction when prioritizing tasks.
However, all too often, urgency trumps importance, and deadlines tend to dictate how we spend our time. This keeps us in a reactive, rather than a proactive mode, which means most of our time is spent managing or maintaining our businesses, rather than leading and improving our businesses.
Here are 10 game changing tips from Steve McClatchy:
1. There are two major categories of tasks — Gain Tasks ( “A” priorities) and Prevent Pain Tasks (“B” & “C” priorities).
“Gain Tasks” produce the greatest results in terms of achieving your goals and improving your life or business. They are things you really want to do, they are motivating, and accomplishing them is energizing and creates the feeling of balance in your life. However, you don’t have to do them, you can’t delegate them, and they are never urgent. These should be your “A” priorities. The only person that can place an “A” on your task list is you. Everyone else’s “A”s are your “B”s and “C”s
“Prevent Pain” tasks are things we “have to” do, and are maintenance tasks which keep us where we are. They will eventually all become urgent, and can burn us out. Prevent Pain tasks are “B” priorities if their results are being recorded and “C” priorities if no one else will know if we completed them or not. Delegate “have to” tasks whenever possible.
2. Intersperse your “A” tasks with your “B” and “C” tasks throughout the day.
This will help you accomplish your “A”s, energize you to accomplish your “B” and “C” tasks, and will create the feeling of balance and movement toward your goals. If you do your Prevent Pain tasks first, you will never get to your Gain tasks and will experience burnout.
3. Schedule your “A” tasks on your calendar to assure they get done.
People make decisions on how to use their time, based on their calendar, not their task list! Getting your “Gain”tasks on your calendar dramatically increases the probability that you will complete them.
4. Have one location to record all of your tasks, appointments, contacts notes and emails.
Keep it with you always, on your smartphone, tablet or PC, and get rid of all floating pieces of paper. For each task or email, touch it only once and decide to :
— Do it now if it takes less than 2 minutes
— Do it later and schedule it on your calendar or to do list.
— Don’t do it ever.
— Delegate it
5. Create daily and future to do lists using tasks in outlook, lotus notes, etc. by entering the date the task is to be started and when it is due.
This is the key to delegation, goal achievement, and stress reduction. Don’t overwhelm yourself and kill your productivity with one giant to-do list. By using an outlook task list, you can parse your master to do list into 365 daily to do lists (one for every day of the year) by simply putting in a start and completion date. Don’t waste time looking at tasks you are not going to get to today. For more ideas, go to: http://www.alleer.com/Article-TMTip1.htm
6. Keep ONE calendar!
You can still keep communication calendars (like work and home), but everything on a communication calendar needs to be on your calendar. You will save yourself an unbelievable amount of time and aggravation if you and your spouse can access one another’s calendars through outlook, google or iCalendar. Make sure everything syncs through the cloud. If you have non-compatible devices (PC/Apple) and don’t have an exchange server, you can “rent” one over the cloud for about $6/month at sherweb.com.
7. Keep great notes!
For a low tech option, keep one spiral notebook that you log all notes chronologically by date.
Tablet computers are ideal for this purpose. The main challenge is retrieval, so keep it simple and take notes where you can always quickly find them. For example, create an outlook contact for each of your employees, and keep a running journal on all of your conversations in the notes section of each contact. You can also record performance examples there, along with topics you want to cover the next time you talk. Do the same for all of your peers, boss, customers, and even your kids.
There are also applications like onenote, evernote, and notes that let you take notes by date, topic and contact. The advantage with these applications is that they sync with all of your devices so that they are always accessible.
8. Become a power user of Outlook, Lotus notes, or Apple apps.
Learn to drag emails into tasks, calendar and contacts so that you have that information when you need it — When you are working on it or when you are in a meeting. You can also drag tasks into your calendar so you can easily schedule them
Turn your standard emails and templates into “signatures”. You can have over 75 different signatures that contain full emails. The advantage is that when you need to send a standard email, you can click on “new” and then right click anywhere on the signature, which will generate a drop down box with all of your signatures. Click on the one you want, change the salutation and anything else you want to customize, and then hit send.
9. Implement email protocols and best practices.
Email, while a great tool, can be an incredible personal and organizational waste of time. When you calculate all of the time it takes to set up, address, write, and edit an email, most people are only communicating at 5 – 10 words per minute. Contrast this with texting, which is 10 – 20 words per minute, Instant messaging, which is 30 – 40 words per minute, and voice mail, which is 150 – 250 words per minute.
Huge amounts of time can also be saved by having people limit their distributions lists and by not hitting “reply all” on their responses.
Finally, make sure you are managing your email, and not letting it manage you. Turn off your email new item alert window and sound — You have enough interruptions. Check it a couple of times a day, and otherwise, stay focused on accomplishing your “Gain” tasks for the day.
10. Manage interruptions to stay productive and accomplish your “Gain” tasks.
The key, says McClatchy, is to limit the interruption to the 2 minutes of actual work required by the interruption, which usually falls into 3 categories: A task someone wants you to complete, an appointment they want you to schedule, or an exchange of information. For some great tips on how to do this directly and in a way that builds rather than hurts relationships, go to Managing Interruptions.