Time management seems to be the number one challenge our coaching clients face. I often hear sales leaders talk about expecting more from others in a given day, or taking on distracting-yet-important stretch assignments. Business owners find themselves working in the business instead of on the business. Sales reps often find their time controlled and managed by their customers, instead of taking control themselves and managing the customers better.
It does seem as though everyone wants to be more organized and productive so they can be less stressed, have a sense of work-life balance, and make more money. Before we can even begin to tackle this challenge and start changing habits, it is important to first understand and appreciate how precious of a resource time is.
1. Time is just. Time is the only truly democratic resource. No one gets more or less time than anyone else, regardless of your position, your power, your nationality, or your gender. Each of us gets 1,440 minutes every day—no more, no less. We all have an equal amount of time with which to do whatever we choose.
2. Time expires. The frustrating thing about time is that it's perishable; you can't keep it, slow it down, or use it later. That's why so many of us should recognize we need to take advantage of every moment. Once time is gone, it cannot be regained. This is always easy to understand when you may have recently lost a loved one, and you reflect on how quickly a period of time in your life has passed. Such moments often make us wish that we could stop the clock, or certainly slow it down.
3. Time is priceless. Time is undoubtedly one of the world’s most valuable resources. It is up to each and every one of us as individuals to realize its potential. Those who use time to its fullest capacity will experience the maximum benefit. It is not just about how much work you get done in the time you have allocated, but how you value the time that you have allocated for the areas that are most important to you and for others.
Managing Time Effectively
So how exactly do you manage this democratic, priceless, expiring resource? The dictionary describes "time management" as "the process of organizing the activities in your life to determine what tasks have priority."
Most people realize the value of time and want to be more organized so that they are focused on the most important activities. We also know organizing tasks within a timeline enhances productivity, increasing the quality and quantity of work. Often this is an exercise of self-discipline, and the ability to manage a valuable resource to accomplish more than one otherwise might in a given day. Having coached many entrepreneurs and sales executives, we have observed some common time management problems. The top three include:
1. Unclear expectations and objectives.
2. Ineffective delegation.
3. Insufficient planning.
If you are able to address any of these three, you will recognize a significant difference in the amount of free time you can earn.
Unclear expectations and objectives. It is important to know your expected "time allocation" for your different job functions, before you can manage yourself (or others) to them. Unfortunately, many people are unclear on exactly what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis. There is nothing worse than employees showing up for work, not having a to-do list, and not being sure what you need to get accomplish. All of a sudden they start spinning their wheels, taking care of business and looking busy. But are they being productive? Are they really focused on the tasks that you are expecting them to be focused on?
Ineffective delegation. Many individuals have a hard time delegating tasks. They tend to think they can do it themselves better and faster than someone else. But if you want to make a significant difference managing your time, you must begin to delegate more effectively. We like to think of delegation as a three-part function:
1. Clearly define the task to another person, and gain their understanding of the value of the job to the business…and for them personally.
2. Establish expectations for the quality of work and the specific deliverables, and answer any questions to eliminate confusion.
3. Set a specific date and time deadline, and/or agree upon a status update.
Insufficient planning. The best advice is the adage "Plan your work and work your plan." Begin defining your specific activities and prioritizing them using your schedule or calendar. Track and measure your ability to meet your own deadlines. By getting into this habit, not only will you be planning your sales activity for a period of time, but you’ll develop great work habits by holding yourself accountable to actually getting the activities done within a certain timeframe.
It's about Time
Time will continue on its steady pace—we can't control that. But we can control how we arrange and manage our use of it every day. Take the time to outline clear expectations for others so they can be more productive. Use our three step process to delegate more effectively, and begin to plan and schedule your activities for greater results. Remember, you have the same amount of time in a day as your competition. It's your choice what you do with it.
SMM online columnist Krista Moore is president of K.Coaching, LLC, an executive coaching and consulting practice. For more information and free resources, go to www.buildyourships.com or www.kcoaching.com.