Sunday, May 4, 2014

Time Management In Just 46 Steps

“Toss:  If the information or document is something that can go in the trash, put it there.
Refer:  If the best action is to refer the problem or issue to someone else, do it!
Action:  Take action on the item, and get it off of your desk or list.
File:  Once you’re done, file the document only if you’ll really need it later.”
--Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Organized

Time management requires not only discipline, but sacrifice. Something has to give if you are to work more, or harder, or smarter. It means we give up some free time or some time to pursue other activities, but it also means we can feel accomplished and take pride in a job well done. Of course, the answer isn’t always to work more, but to work better. The thing about time is you can’t really make it up; every second that ticks away is gone forever, but you can determine how to use the precious time that you still have. Here are some tips on how to best utilize your time.

Perhaps the two biggest factors in poor time management come down to a lack of proper planning and delaying the execution of events that set in motion stress, poorer performance, and lots of catching up. We all procrastinate. The question is whether you can limit the number of times you delay doing something. Why do we procrastinate? Here are a few reasons that I can see:

1.      We didn’t realize we were behind or missing deadlines, and thus operated on a slower pace.
2.      Fear. We feel insecure in our ability to do the task, so we delay it.
3.      We are too busy working on things that aren’t a priority.
4.      Lack of enthusiasm.  Maybe the specific task is boring. But we still have to find a way to get it done.
5.      Perfectionist. You feel you have to do a task a certain way, that it’s the only way, and that lots of prep needs to be done for it, when in reality, maybe a short-cut can be found this one time.
6.      Too focused on too many “have-to-do-nows” because you didn’t properly plan previously and now are forced to catch up, thus pushing you away from doing things now for other tasks that will later become urgent rush jobs soon.
7.      Failing to see the importance and value of the task in relationship to your goal.

Let’s begin with a quick exercise:

Try to identify time-wasters, whether self-generated or caused by others.  What’s the solution going to be? 

Here are 46 ways that you can make better use of your time:

1.      Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of your success will come from 20% of your activities. This just means you need to focus on the core actions that generate your most results. Don’t get fixated on less-valued, less-productive activities.

2.      Think of what you can change, delegate, reduce, dismiss or delay – and do so. Set your priorities and stick to them. Weigh everything else against them and don’t get distracted. Explore how you do some of the things you do, such as how you pitch or put lists together, and consider what can be changed to shorten the process.

3.      Just because you can be very good at a lot of things doesn’t mean you always have to do all of these things.  Delegate. Divide tasks equally amongst others.

4.      Clear away distractions – limit personal calls, responding to e-mails not pertaining to work, a messy desk, a chatty person by your work area.  There’s a time and a place to socialize, look at joke e-mails, Google for airline tix, play solitaire, etc., but it should not take up chunks of time on a regular basis.

5.      Schedule meetings outside the office strategically – set it up as the first thing in the day, go straight from home to the meeting.  Or do it as the last thing in the day, go to the meeting and then go home.  Or hold a meeting during lunch time so you work through lunch. Try and get people to come to you rather than visit them. Stagger meetings so if you are meeting outside the office, try to set up a meeting with someone else who is near that location. This way you cut down on travel time for two separate meetings.

6.      Put a smaller emphasis on some of the things that you do – your time can be better used than to do all the things you always do. Think of something you can stop doing or do it less often.

7.      Set and meet deadlines by setting and meeting mini-deadlines. Set ground rules for all meetings in person or by phone. Essentially, set a time limit n begin meeting to identify topics of discussion. Multi-task as often as you can.

8.      Plan ahead and make every minute count. Value your time and be fully aware of how long it takes for you to do something. Think of how you pace yourself as well. When you project into meeting future deadlines, do you take into account holidays, vacation, getting new clients, anticipated demands on current accounts, struggling on something you didn’t anticipate, etc?

9.      Find shortcuts. Bundle errands – do things because there is a real deadline…and sometimes do them because you’re in the mood and have momentum.  Organize files so you don’t spend time fishing for stuff. Control things with good communication. Spend less time in fear or complaint mode -- and simply execute.  No one wants to feel behind or at a disadvantage so don’t put yourself in such a position. Don’t confuse being busy with being productive. Get feedback from others so that you can do things in a more efficient way.

10.  Test-run things, like a media list. Before you send 200 books out, e-mail to the media and learn of their interest. At the very least, make sure contacts are current.

11.  Improve your skills – the more proficient you are at something, the less time it will take you to do.

12.  Create checklists – standardize things that you always need from various clients, such as a client questionnaire.

13.  Learn how to terminate a discussion. Control the phone – when to answer, when not. Manage interruptions – simply be unavailable for a period of time.

14.  Come prepared – well-rested, well fed, and energized.  Adjust your attitude when you cross the PTA threshold and leave behind any personal matters – just zone in on the task at hand. Know the difference between: Must do.  Should do.  Could do. Every minute counts and has value. What you do at 9:30 or 11:30 or 3:30 or 5:15 is important.  Don’t just spend your time, invest it.

15.  Identify your resources for any project or any aspect of it. Who can you go to who can help you? Where can you find a pretty good media list? Who can offer good ideas? 

16.  Set goals daily and measure results. Hold yourself accountable to a standard. Have a minimum and a maximum range, so you know where you fall short or where you have fulfilled your obligation. Develop a network of people who can help you. Don’t be ego-driven.  It consumes your time and energy.

17.  Make a list of activities/habits that cause you to delay and figure out how to decrease/eliminate them. Develop a routine or schedule of your activities, allowing time for pitching, doing updates, meetings, and media research. Plan your next day’s work today.  Do not leave the office until the next day’s work is planned. Think ahead and work backwards from a deadline.

            18. Initiate rather than react.  Take control of a campaign so you spend more time           
                   executing than having to respond to a problem. This means if you are able to do your job 
                   without having to constantly put out fires, you save time and avoid aggravation.

19.  Don’t look to reinvent the wheel. When you have a new assignment, find out who worked on a similar project and look at their media list, pitches, etc.

20.   Determine when to stop an activity and move on.  For instance, if you have a 10-city tour going on, don’t get caught up on a single city that’s tanking at the expense of all other cities, which creates a domino effect in that you end up spending less time, likely last-minute, seeking to get bookings in other cities.  Sometimes you have to amputate a foot to save the rest of the body – and sometimes we have to sacrifice a part of the campaign for the good of the whole. Likewise, once you get 3 or 4 bookings in a tour city, move on.
          21. .  Don’t do things simply because someone asks you. This doesn’t mean ignore a 
                  request, but see if you can talk someone out of the need for such stuff. For instance, if a 
                  client asks you to do something that falls outside what was contracted for, politely remind 
                  them so. Basically, there is no need to make extra work for yourself.

22.  Set parameters and boundaries in how you approach work. For instance, designate some time to focus on a task and don’t do anything to take you away from that unless there’s a true emergency going on.

23.  Pace yourself so that you’re never having to play catch-up all the time.  Never be too far behind.

24.  Limit meetings or client calls in terms of frequency and duration. For instance, when scheduling a call, state from the outset you have 15 minutes or 20 or 30, depending on the situation.  Have them respect boundaries.  If  someone likes to call all the time, suggest they instead e-mail you or better yet, ask them to hold their questions comments until a scheduled phone call.

25.  Set daily quotas on the number of calls to be made, e-mails to be sent, interviews to be scheduled.

 26. Keep a log of how you use your time, the way dieters identify what they eat.  You’ll identify waste and be in a better position to address it.

27.  Know how to write shorter e-mails – anything that requires a long e-mail is often best verbalized.  But a phone call should only last as long as you need it to – have a goal, address it, and move on. If you need an excuse to get off the phone, say you’re being called into a meeting, that you have to catch a train, etc.  Or, put them on hold, come back and make it sound like you need to take another call.  You can’t do these tricks all the time, but it’s necessary to get off the phone when the usefulness of the call has been used up.

28.  Avoid problems because the clean up always takes more time and energy – and could cost good will – than if you head off a problem to begin with.  

29.  Keep a daily planner and list all of your activities. Or, use various computer functions to schedule your day.

30.  Get rid of your OCD-like habits of re-writing lists or notes – find the shortest, most-direct way to perform a task and stop trying to be a perfectionist that always takes six steps when only two are needed.

31.  Think about who is really dictating your standards.  Your priorities. Who are you trying to please? If it turns out the standard is unreasonable, it needs to be changed. If it seems like everyone else is telling you how to define your day, you need to seize control of the situation and find a way to get back in charge of what you are doing.

32.  Think of how you can shave 5 minutes from every hour of the day.  By the end of the day you now have an extra 30-40 minutes to utilize to your advantage. We can all improve by at least 10%.  It begins once you quantify your time and hold yourself accountable for how you spend it.

33.  On some crunch days, you might consider coming in 15 minutes earlier, stay 15 minutes later and cut your lunch-hour down by 15 minutes and you now have an extra 45 minutes to be productive.

34.  However, more time doesn’t always equate into more production. Working smarter, harder and more efficiently is what does the trick.  Remember you are special, unique, talented, and have the ability to continually improve upon your current level of success.  Never let yourself feel overwhelmed, psyched out or defeated.  Have the confidence to know you will persevere.

35.  Do you do these activities at work on a regular basis: Shop online?  Schedule vacations?  Text-message to friends? Play online games like solitaire?  Socialize for more than 5 minutes at a time? Make appointments for doctors, grooming, weekend plans? Use more than an hour for lunch? Come in late? Leave early? Download porn, music, funny video clips? By limiting the frequency and duration of these activities, you will find yourself with extra time.

36.  To be a good time manager, you must be focused, determined, energized, confident, knowledgeable, and to have a clear direction defined.  To veer off course is to waste time.

37.  Every task has a shortcut.  Find it!

38.  Time management is partly about strategy, but also partly about a frame of mind.  If you make it important to be time efficient, all of your actions and thoughts will begin to support that goal.

39.  Realize that one hour equals about 3% of your week after you factor in lunch. But in the course of a year, once you remove holidays, vacation, sick days, personal days, and crazy stuff like transit strikes, blizzards, blackouts, etc., each hour at work may really equal 3.5 or 4% of your work-week.  Spend it wisely.

40.  Improve your skills.  Obviously, the faster you perform a task, the more time you have saved.

41.  Don’t waste time complaining to five people about something. Just move on. 

42. Don’t go too long with a pitch that is getting no attention. Change the pitch and move on. Don’t wait for guidance or help – just ask for it. 

43. Don’t spend time worrying – just take action. 

44. Don’t wait too long to start a tour or a mailing – map out the prep work and do it now.

45.  Don’t attend every meeting for everything all the time.  Take a pass, where possible, so that you’re free to execute work and not just talk about it. That doesn’t mean cut out of every -- or even most -- meetings; it just means be selective and opportunistic.

46.  Identify the self-created pressures that stand in your way of success and address them. Are you binding yourself to rules that really don’t exist?


by Bobby Unser

  • Accept reality: Bad things happen, but they shouldn’t deter you.
  • Try and learn from failure.
  • Try more things. There’s always luck: good and bad. The more you try things, the more you give good luck a chance to help.
  • Assert yourself by making quick decisions.
  • Push to your limits to find out where they are, then throttle back a little.
  • Get back into the fight if you get knocked down. People notice effort after a fall.
  • You develop responsibility by subjecting yourself to challenges in which only you can be held accountable for the outcome.
  • Be accountable to your team. Play your role as a team player.
  • Don’t be afraid to take action. You will never finish something before you start.
  • Challenge yourself to take action.
  • Punctuate your words by taking action.
  • Be decisive.
  • Don’t threaten actions you can’t deliver.
  • Aggressively attack problems to keep them from gaining control.

      Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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