Have you ever noticed how some people tend to get more done in the average day than others? Actually, it’s a rather common phenomenon, especially when you look at highly successful people. They always seem to get more done in a day than anyone else. Okay; so what’s their secret?
To get a lot done in a day requires an acute awareness of time. Do you wear a watch? How often do you look at it? Do you have clocks in your office? Your conference room? Your dining room? Your kitchen? How about your bathroom? Well, how often do you look at those clocks? Are they just decorations, or do you have an awareness of how long everything is taking you?
While it may seem trivial, just keeping track of your time; how it’s spent and how it’s wasted, will help you be more successful in using it effectively. Take answering e-mail for example. Some people check their e-mail ten times a day. Okay, so why is that a problem? Well, if it takes five minutes to check the e-mail, every time you check it, that’s 50 minutes in a day. That’s almost a whole hour lost each and every day to checking your e-mail.
Now, how many of those e-mail messages are really worth your time? Would 50% be high? Probably. If you’re like most of us, you know which ones will be worthwhile and which ones won’t before you open them. So, why bother opening the ones that will waste your time? Throw them out!
If you check your e-mail only twice a day, starting that activity by getting rid of the ones you really don’t want to read, you can easily cut your daily e-mail time down to 20 minutes or less. That’s a half-hour that you gain each and every day! That’s the same as 22.8 work days per year!
Okay, how about meetings. How much time do you spend sitting in meetings? How are those meetings scheduled? Probably for an hour, right? What if you scheduled 15 minute meetings instead? Granted, there are some things that take more than 15 minutes. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the average meeting wastes a lot of time. So, schedule 15 minute meetings and tell everyone that they have to say what they need to say in that 15 minutes. What’s that going to do?
That means that instead of wasting everyone’s time, people will come to the meeting ready to say what they need to say. They’ll already have their reports encapsulated as a brief message, without handouts available to fill in the blanks.
I actually did this, so I know it works. I used to run a meeting of an organization which met monthly. Every month, we’d spend more than an hour with people making their announcements. So, I instituted a two-minute rule. I told everyone they only had two minutes to present their information. Many complained, but I told them that television commercials got their message across in 30 seconds; I was giving them four times that much time. You know what? They learned to get their message across in two minutes.
So, let me ask you again, how aware are you of time? Do you know where your time is going, or is it just disappearing into some black hole? Well, get it under control, keep track of it, and don’t let people just steal it from you. You’ll find yourself getting more done in a day.