Map, Manage and Master Your Time: Smallbiz Success Strategies
by Frances McGuckin, Smallbizpro.com
"I don’t know how I can keep up with all this work!" complained Karen to her husband Peter over dinner as she downed a headache pill. "There’s so much to do with this business and it never seem to get it done! I can’t even sleep properly because all I think about is work." "I know," agreed Peter, "you toss and turn all night. You’re just going to have to get organized." "Easy for you to say!" snapped Karen. "You’re not responsible for your business, hundreds of different jobs and three employees." Can you relate to this conversation? Seems the more we advance technologically, the more stress is involved. Multitasking has become the norm. Most people you talk to -- particularly women -- are always "too busy". A recent article I read by the Stagen Leadership Institute highlighted how we have become a nation suffering from A.D.D. -- Attention Deficit Disorder, brought on by too much multitasking and lack of focus. Research shows that productivity is affected 20 to 40 percent by multitasking and not focusing on one job -- that’s up to 16 lost productive hours in a 40-hour week. The article illustrated the four time zones that we operate in: Proactive Zone, involving strategic thinking, preparation and planning time; Reactive Zone, attending to crises, stress and urgent demands; Waste Zone, where excessive entertainment or trivial activities use up time, and the Distraction Zone, consisting of unnecessary distractions and interruptions. Many of us probably feel that we operate in the last three zones most of our time. In this unsure economy, both the self-employed and employees are usually burdened with too many jobs, creating negative stress that puts people into a panic, unproductive and unfocused mode. More productive time is gained if you take time out to plan. When you have a plan, you declutter your mind, know your time lines and how your time should be utilized. Map out your time: Knowing that a one-month "time-cruncher" was ahead recently, I wondered how I was going to fit in writing four workshops, two keynotes, travelling and delivering them all, on top of releasing and marketing a new book. So I sat down and mapped out a time plan. It’s a process that really works if you stick to it. Here’s a simple method doing it. I call it RPMing.
- Review: Each weekend, plan the following week’s activities by looking at your daily planner, incorporating jobs that you know must get done.
- Plan: Using the priority system, list all the jobs to be done for the week on a column pad. Head the columns Job, Deadline Date, then allocate each one as an A+, A, B and C priority.
- Map: Transfer each job onto a weekly time map, starting with the A+ and A priorities. Estimate the time each job will take. A time map has the seven days of the week in columns across the top and the hours from when you wake up until bedtime hour-by-hour down the left-hand-side. Allocate smaller jobs -- such as ordering supplies or phone calls - into grouped time blocks.
Prioritize: Prioritize your time by first scheduling in all appointments, allowing for preparation, traveling, meeting and networking time. Then schedule some daily planning and preparation time, even if it’s just half-an-hour. Map in some "closed door" time to focus on projects with deadlines. Inform staff that you are unavailable during this time. Schedule follow-up, phone calls and staff meeting times. Schedule in meal breaks and the five "Fs" -- family, friends, food (healthy eating), fitness and fun time. If there is no room for these five "Fs", you have a serious problem and should evaluate why you are working so hard. One tip that really helps is to use a highlighter and color in the appointment times, use another color for family and personal time, and a bright yellow highlighter for your focused planning and work time. If you keep the time map on your desk or counter, it keeps you focused on your day, like a silent nag and conscience. When you map your week ahead like this, it’s easy to see whether what you want to accomplish is physically viable. If it isn’t, it’s time to review why and plan how you can delegate tasks to better utilize your time and talents. Employees who use this system and physically see that they are overloaded could then approach their managers to discuss their workload distribution. Because crises and unplanned interruptions do occur, you need to review your time map when you lose planned time and reschedule the priorities that "must" get done. Each day that you achieve what you set out to achieve, you will feel a positive sense of accomplishment. This in turn will further motivate you to continue planning your time and get you into the habit of focussing. The bonus? Your productivity will increase. By mapping out your time, you will learn to better manage -- and even more important -- master time. © Frances McGuckin and Smallbizpro.com. All rights reserved. Frances McGuckin is an award-winning motivational and business speaker, consultant and author of the best-selling Business for Beginners and Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business (McGraw-Hill Ryerson). She can be reached at:
Telephone: (604) 530-3601
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