Time saving tips

Each New Year I examine what I have been doing and how I want to improve.  To help in my performance (getting things done) I found this blog from Eve Ash (Startupsmart 03/01/12) that I think has some good points. 

10 time saving tips
When there are only 24 hours in the day, time seems to be an enemy more than a friend, so wherever possible we need to increase our productivity and effectiveness. Here are my top 10 time saving tips.

1. Time mindset
The first step to getting on top of time pressures is to address your mindset. If you are forever telling yourself that you don’t have enough time, or that there’s too much to do, then your behaviour and emotions will follow that lead. It is so important for your sake and for those around you (particularly if you are in a leadership position) to shift towards a positive problem-solving attitude towards time pressures. So use positive scripts like “I will do it now” and get out of the “Negative Land of W” – wishing, worrying, whining and wasting time. Know yourself and assess your stress levels. Use an app like Rate-Me to monitor “am I stressed?”

 

1.2. Flying start
A lot of people start the day with a coffee or two to get going in the morning. This raises your heart rate, addresses the cravings, makes you feel more alive – but does it really get you moving? It needs to translate into behaviour, so the time-saving equivalent of a cup of coffee is the flying start method.

This method is as simple as doing five mini-tasks within 15 minutes to start the day. These are very minor tasks – a quick phone call, making an appointment, a tidy up of your desk, paying a bill or two – but once you get rolling with these you will discover some headspace, motivation and enthusiasm to the more challenging tasks ahead.

 

1.3. Create smart space
A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind, and a cluttered mind makes poor use of time. Make an effort to de-clutter your workspace, tidy up your filing system (including your computer files) and you will find your workplace more inviting. You will also save a lot of time, as you will be able to quickly find things you are looking for. Use one lined book for all notes, meetings, etc. Try an app like EVERNOTE to manage your various notes and ideas so they are always there to access. If you want to get organised and stop the clutter follow Peter Walsh.

 

1.4. Streamline meetings
Meetings have the potential to rob us of time and energy. Meetings need to be group communication sessions towards a goal. Whether that goal is to make some decisions, brainstorm new ideas or deliver some information to your team.

Your organisation should explore the possibility of alternatives to meetings. Instant messaging software (Yammer, AOL, MSN, etc) can reduce the number of required meetings, and speed up communication, particularly for geographically disperse teams and co-workers.

 

1.5. Find shortcuts
Shortcuts are everywhere. It is amazing how much unnecessary effort we expel doing things the long way! A short course or a bit of self-teaching on the software that you regularly use (MS Office, Adobe software, etc) can save you literally hours of the working week. There are many mobile applications that can be time savers – although it does come down to personal taste as an app may seem like a time waster for one person, and a time saver for another.

 

1.6. Break procrastination
The first step in breaking procrastination is to become aware of it. Until this happens you are at the mercy of the procrastination drive. Once you are aware of it you need to reset your goals and the list of tasks ahead of you. A common form of procrastination is to do a lot of small unimportant tasks instead of addressing the ominous task that is more important (and more demanding).

This is a subconscious drive towards de-cluttering your workload, and is an important reason why the flying start is such a great way to start the day. It also shows that the larger, ominous task needs to be broken down into more manageable parts – in which you can direct shorter bursts of effort towards. Audit your negative scripts and rewrite them to help you! Visualise completion.

 

1.7. Plan and prioritise
Too often we are unrealistic, underprepared and underestimate how long things will take. Stress builds up quickly when we have lots of work thrown at us. Becoming stressed and agitated is a sign that we need to stop, collect our thoughts and revise our priorities. When we are putting most of our effort towards the things that are most important we are infinitely happier and more satisfied with our work. It may require telling some people that you won’t be able to help them. It may require regular conversations with your boss.

Make sure you refocus yourself by asking these questions and hear your own voice:

Q: What is important to me?
Q: What do I want/need/goals?
Q: How much time do I have?
Q: How do I create balance?

It’s not that we don’t know how to plan or prioritise we just FORGET or IGNORE IT!

 

1.8. Best time and best energy

The notion of a morning person is simply someone who is more upbeat and active in the morning than others. Being aware of your peak times of energy is a great way to maximise your effectiveness across the day. Do a time audit for a few days.

Many people experience an energy slump straight after lunch (which may, in part be due to diet), so this may be a good time to do another flying start, or make some calls which is more of a social/interactive task. If you work on your most difficult and demanding tasks when you are at the peak of your powers you will find that you get through much more work.

 

1.9. Don’t get caught out
Frantically scrambling to get everything together the night before you travel, or before a presentation, is a stressful approach that leaves us prone to forgetting things, or taking up precious time when time is running out. A great strategy is to have a folder on your desktop called “NEXT” or “COMING SOON” where you quickly drop in everything that relates to an upcoming event. This can include documents, airline tickets, anything at all that is relevant.

You should also be aware of the common ways people are caught out. Carry a spare laptop power cord and a spare battery for your phone. Even a spare tie or shirt can be helpful in case of a food or drink incident!

 

10. Completion and commitment
There is no point completing work unless you congratulate yourself and enjoy the fact that it is complete. These small doses of satisfaction are ultimately motivating, and from a productivity point of view this a great thing. Commit to managing time effectively.
Everyone is always complaining about running out of time. How much time is wasted complaining?

I then linked into another blog of Eve – “How to avoid time wasting”

We aspire to being 100% productive when we work, but the fact is that nobody is perfect. Time wasting is a bugbear of any busy person.

It can be a matter of using time poorly, or falling victim to things beyond our control. What are the most common, and most influential time wasters of the working week? What are the common negative thought loops that can keep you stuck in a mind frame that perpetuates the problem?

 

1. Email
So many of us dread looking at our email inbox after a day or two away – that dreaded mountain that we’ve tried to chip away at from our mobile devices in our free time – now has our full attention. The problem here is that the focus is on the communication method – not the communication content. It’s not a mountain of email we are facing; it is a mountain of questions and correspondence.

With email being such an easy way to ask a question or send some information, there is no easy way to reduce the amount of email you will receive – but by focusing on providing solutions and/or electing not to spend too much time on these problems that other people send through you can start to reclaim your day. So reframe and rewrite those negative thoughts that hold you back!

“There are so many emails, I’ll never get through this” → “If I prioritise and focus I can get through the important ones”.

“I wish everyone would leave me alone” → “People need my input and I’m here to help”.

 

2. Meetings
Meetings are one of the most complained about activities of the working week. Common criticisms are that nothing ever gets achieved, they take too long, that they always meander off course and most importantly, they are a waste of time!

Again, meetings are just a form of communication, and to communicate effectively you need everyone on the same page seeking a similar goal. Too often people use a meeting to raise only mildly relevant grievances, or fail to keep on topic and address the problems being raised. Meetings without a pre-arranged agenda are almost destined to turn into a fruitless chitchat session.

“This is a waste of my time, nothing ever gets done” → “I’ll help to keep the meeting on track”.

“I could be getting work done instead of talking about it” → “I’ll make sure I’m progressing along the right track”.
Reframe (be brave) and give feedback to those managing the meetings. And if it is you – then get feedback from those who attend your meetings as to how to make them more effective.

 

3. People
Are there people in your workplace that seem to make a habit of wasting your time? They tend to be very friendly folk that enjoy discussing a lot of non-work related activity. Perhaps they frequently come to you to talk about workplace politics, or even worse, to complain about their workload.

Strangely enough there are a lot of people that consider their boss a source of time wasting. An attentive boss is a great thing, and it’s usually a good idea to spend your time on what your boss considers to be important – but the people that complain about a boss wasting their time are usually referring to the interruption to the work they are trying to complete.

“I wish he/she would just go away!” → “I will end unproductive conversations politely and firmly”.
“Stop interrupting me!” → “I will let calls go to voicemail while I focus on this task”.

 

4. Travelling/commuting
A lot of time can be spent travelling to and from work, and unless you have the luxury of shifting your workplace closer to home, or in some cases work from home, then travelling time is an inescapable part of the day.

The trick is to try and use this time productively. Many people now use the time to read through emails or listen to music or make some calls. These are all good ways of using the time. Consider listening to meditation recordings, or podcasts about a topic of interest to you. Or take those unread articles you put aside for later. If you have to spend time travelling, you may as well enjoy it!

“I’m so sick of the daily grind” → “The commute gives me time to think”.
“I dread the ride home from work” → “Getting home will be great”.

 

5. Procrastination
This is the time waster that is the most difficult to admit to and often we don’t even realise that we are procrastinating. It can take the form of doing non-urgent activities ahead of urgent ones, or it can be in the form of just not doing anything instead of the work that needs to be done. Procrastination is a mental battle in which your innate resistance to difficult tasks wins against your urge to get things done.

Procrastination is usually preceded by a feeling and a justification that the workload or a particular task is overwhelming. If you can address the negative thoughts that create this undesired behaviour.

“There is just too much work, I’ll never get it done” → “I’ll get as much done as possible in the time that I’ve got”.

“That’s one tricky problem – I can’t see a way around it” → ” The more I chip away at this problem, the closer I get to a solution”.
Reframe your mindset to be positive and productive.

Time remains a constant but how we react to the pressure of time determines our success. Once you make time a fun concept, managing it becomes easy and you gain special moments.

 

Eve Ash has developed a wide range of strategies and resources to improve performance and develop a winning mindset (Rewrite Your Life!). Her company Seven Dimensions provides DVDs, online assessment tools and streaming videos to improve individuals, teams and businesses.  http://eveash.com/

Top tips for managing your day

From The Energy Project:

  1. Whenever possible, do one thing at a time. Multitasking increases the time it takes to finish any given task by 25%.
  2. Take a break every 90 minutes to stay most focused and productive. You can get real renewal with just a minute or two of deep breathing.
  3. Define clear stopping points at the end of the day, so when you’re with your family and friends, you’re really with them.

Setting the right goal

Extract from Taskmaster – Startupsmart 24/11/11

What do you key goals look like? Are they specific (“We will increase sales by 25% in the next 12 months”) or are they a little more fuzzy (“We’ll be one of the leading firms in our sector in two years”).
 
The process of goal setting isn’t easy, but listening a Matt Kesby webinar (the execution practice leader at the Australian arm of education and training group Franklin Covey) Matt had a simple strategy for setting a goal that looks something like this …

(Verb) (measure) from (X) to (Y) by (when)

Sounds a little bit strange, but when you put it into a real life situation it works really well:

Increase (verb) sales (measure) from $1 million (X) to $2 million (Y) by the end of 2012.

Give the model to your people and get them to start trying it out. It’s a great way to get consistent goals set across your business.

Get it done – today!

100 Great Business Ideas

by Jeremy Kourdi
Isbn 978-462-09960-6

Another book to add to your bookshelf – well at least to your library list to have a read of!  Each chapter is limited to 2 pages and concludes with an “in Practice” to help you implement the ideas in business.  While the ideas vary from running a business, managing a team, marketing the business irrespective whether you work in a business or own a business I think there is value in this book.

My favourite chapters were Bumper-sticker strategy, Information dash boards and monitoring performance, Balancing core and the context, Built-in obsolescence, Precision marketing, Rethinking the budget, the balanced scorecard, Value innovation, and The leadership pipeline.  Now while you might be thinking “I’m up on all of these topics”, I find each of us have so many things happening that having a short reminder and a practical way to assist you to implement a great idea is always refreshing.

One of the ideas that I have implemented involved re-writing the closing page of each of my face-2-face training courses to include a paragraph on how participants can go to my online learning site if they want to get more information.
Another topic that I have implemented is creating a weekly dashboard to monitor my life. 
The dashboard has indicators that let me know that I’m on track with my personal and business goals.

What do you do at conferences?

A conference review instead of a book review this month!

As you may have guessed, I believe education is an important element of my business success.  I allocate 40 hours per year to my personal and business education and make it an event that needs to be planned, budgeted and scheduled each year.  

For me, like many business owners and employees, my available time and budget determine my attendance at seminars and conferences.  Therefore, I endeavour to make the most of the opportunities available to me.  When you attend a seminar/conference, what do you do?  Do you attend the sessions of your selected speakers and then hide during your breaks with your mobile phone?  Or do you proactively talk to speakers, other delegates and/or the exhibitors? 

At the Innovative Industries Conference, I attended this month, I encouraged several of my colleagues to proactively ask pre-prepared questions at each presentation and then to stay back and ask additional questions or better still meet the presenter during a break for further information.  Why not have your own one-on-one with this insightful person who is a success and from whom you have chosen to listen and learn?

After each Conference I prepared a quick (never any more than a one-page) summary of the key points I learnt from each presentation.  So this month I’m going to share with you two summaries from the Innovative Industries Conference.

My first summary is from the presentation by Matthew Michalewicz. Michael is a Polish immigrant whose success story is based on the belief that while you can learn success from following in the steps of another person (he tried to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘How To’ guide), you will be more successful if you have:

1. Clarity – what do you want to achieve?  Michael suggests using a pyramid approach to designing your goals – starting with the small ones that lead into the next level … eventually building to your ultimate goal.  NB: The pyramid should constantly be updated, as once you have achieved the lower level goals the next level will become your low level goals.

2. Desire – how badly do you want it?

3. Belief – do you believe you can have this?

4. Knowledge – if you don’t have the skills then invest in yourself to obtain the knowledge to make this happen.

5. Confidence – do you have the confidence to walk in the shoes of what you want?

My second summary is from Robert Gerrish’s presentation.  Robert is a co-author of the book ‘Flying Solo – How to go it alone in business’.  I’m a fan of Robert’s book and website, so if you have not seen either of these go to your local book store and pick up a copy or visit his website soon (http://flyingsolo.com.au).  In his presentation, Robert shared five clear messages on attracting opportunities:

1. Work with the appropriate level of language.  Interestingly most people work at a level of 8 to 10 year olds! Before you blanket all communication to this level, please check out your audience.

2. Get noticed – people to like to know what you do, so do it!

3. Have the right action at the right time.

4. Check out your competition. When did you last do an audit of your competitors?

5. You have to get out from behind your desk – when was the last time you came up with an idea sitting behind your desk? 

A review that I haven’t time to share with you but encourage you to check out the work of is Roger La Salle.  Roger presented some great techniques for innovation in your business.  Have a look at his books and if you get the opportunity to see him in action do it.  Your business will not look back.

Finally, my last rule for Conference attendance is to meet with one or more attendees at the conference and talk about what, how and when I’m going to make any changes based on the best ideas and suggestions I absorbed at the Conference.  If you did not attend the Innovative Industries Conference I suggest you chat to a friend about one or two ideas that you might like from either Michael’s, Robert’s or Roger’s work and discuss how you can incorporate these into your business.

Organizing from the Inside Out

Each Xmas holiday starts with this book as it is my bible for organising my office.  But please be warned, if you are not prepared to commit 2-3 days in your office doing this or 1-1.5 days per room in your house, then I don’t think this book is for you!
 
“Organizing from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern (isbn: O-7336-1350-O)
Julie’s philosophy is – organising must accommodate your personality, needs, situation and goals rather than creating systems for systems sake.  Julie suggests three straightforward steps:
 
1.  Analysing: Taking Stock
In this step, you need to ask and answer five basic needs-assessment questions:
 
1.1 What’s working?
Julie says “Identifying and preserving what’s working offers you many advantages.  First, it saves you an enormous amount of time and energy.  Second, give yourself credit where credit is due (and your self-confidence gets a big boost).  Third, by studying what you like about those systems and why they’re so easy for you to maintain – you learn what appeals to you as an individual and what you will want to replicate.”
 
1.2 What’s not working?
By taking stock of the whole picture is to be sure you solve all the problems, not just some.  That is, if only some are fixed, the areas that remain disorganised will soon begin to spill over into your newly ordered areas, causing the whole system to erode before long.
 
1.3 What items are most essential to you?
If you have a hard time zeroing in on what to keep, imagine that there is a fire in your office and you only have thirty minutes to save your most important items.  What would they be?  Your answers will tell you what really matters most to you.
 
1.4 Why do you want to get organised?
By taking the time to articulate what’s driving you to get organised before you start, when you’re at the peak of your motivation, you create your own coaching tool to turn to for inspiration when the going gets tough.
 
1.5 What’s causing the problem?
Julie acknowledges it is not uncommon to have several causes of clutter but believes these causes stem from three basic points:
1. Technical errors
2. External realities, and the big one…
3. Psychological Obstacles: Hidden, internal forces that make you gravitate toward disorganisation, no matter how much you crave control.  Unless you are aware of them, they can lead you to sabotage any system you set up.  Through awareness, you can find a way to work around these issues and achieve organising success.
 
 
2.  Strategising: Creating a Plan of Action
Working without a strategy is like trying to drive across the country with no map, no idea of what your destination looks like, and no sense of how long the trip will take!  Julie has 2 secret weapons to assist with this step:

2.1 Using the Kindergarten model of organisation which involves:
a. Dividing the room into activity zones, thus it makes it easy to focus on one activity at a time
b. Sorting items to be used at their activity zone
c. Making it fun to put everything away, use brightly coloured and clearly labelled containers to store activity items in.
d. Creating a visual menu of everything that’s important.  For example, if you are using categories for your (electronic or manual) filing, create an index of what goes into what category so other members of your team know where to store items.
 
2.2 Acknowledging the time that is required.  Most people either dramatically overestimate or drastically underestimate the time required.  When overestimating the job, means you are likely to procrastinate forever and never get the job started, whereas underestimating the job, means you will start see little or no results and walk away well short of the finish line grumbling “This isn’t worth it.  It can’t be done.”  Remember my introduction to this book review!
 
 
3  Attaching: Getting the Job Done
Even this step requires a methodical approach and Julie recommends the SPACE formula to make it easy:
•  Sorting: It is critical that you handle everything.  Pick it up and ask yourself: Do I use this?  Does this make or cost me money? What category does this belong in? The idea here is to group similar items together
•  Purging:  Here is where you decide what stuff to get rid of, and how (toss it, give it away, sell it, or put it somewhere else).
•  Assigning each item a home: It is important not to be vague and indecisive about where to put items.  Consider accessibility, safety, and the zone and sequence it is to be used in.
•  Containerise: Container make it easy to keep your categories of items grouped and separated within their assigned zones so that retrieval, cleanup and maintenance is a breeze.
•  Equalise: After 2 weeks Julie recommends making an appointment with yourself to evaluate how well your system has been working.  “Is everything as easy as you’d like it to be? Are you following your system?”

The 4-Hour Work Week

By Timothy Ferriss   (isbn: 978-0-09-192353-2)

On my initial read of this book I thought that Timothy was selling virtual secretarial services in India (not a bad idea for sole operator that is, having a virtual secretary to support you in your business and personal life).  Then I thought the book was about selling products on the Internet (another great idea which I am working on) but no, the book is about YOU.  That is, “How you can find the time for you now and not when you retire”. 

The book contains heaps of great quotes, questions and tips (I have nearly coloured in every page).  So I would encourage you to get hold of this book from the library and check it out (I bet you will buy it).

An example of each:

  • Do you own thinking independently.  Be a chess player, not a chess piece. (Ralph Charell)
  • The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals”? but “What would excite me?” 
  • Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects.

PS – Check out Timothy’s comments on setting goals in Chapter 4 – System Reset

ASAP – what does this mean!!!!

Have you EVER woken up and wanted to scream about something?   Well today there are two things I want to scream about!

Firstly, people who send emails expecting you to be waiting with bated breath at your desk to answer them.  Now WHILE some people have (what some may consider) the luxury of sitting at a desk all day (in air-conditioning), not everyone’s job is tied to a desk or involves having their email on and reading it constantly!   However there are people out THERE that send emails and expect a response “today”.  My tip to this is, if it is that important then pick up the phone and talk to someone.

This Leads me to my next gripe, “your answer is expected asap!”.  Now what does that mean?  Yes I understand “as soon as possible”, but as soon as possible to who? 

This little acronym is used so frequently in communication it has lost the impact originally intended, that is “as soon as possible”.  Why do people shy aware from writing a date and time that they expect a response.  Is it because they were not organised themselves?  Or they are scared that you will not be able to meet the deadline that has now become so important to them because they left it until now?

Sorry, I also have a third gripe “No response will be taken as an acceptance of this ..”.  No response by when – today, tomorrow or at the end of the month! 

You can see that I have been receiving some challenging emails this week.  If you are sending an email that you Would like a response to, please put the required responses date and time in the body of the email and I would also recommend including it in the subject line ,so that people are aware of the deadline that you are experiencing.  Also, if you require a response the day you send the email – give a courtesy call to check that the addressee has received it and is able to help you.

OK – I feel better now.  Off to send another email.

How do you stay motivated?

Someone asked me last week – “how do you stay motivated to keep doing it” (you see – I have been doing ‘it’ now for 12 years). 

This is a very good question, because there are times when I don’t feel motivated.  I will be honest and say there are days when I wake up and I think:

  • Why should I get out of bed today?
  • Would anyone notice if I didn’t turn up today?

Now, these questions don’t come every day, otherwise I would definitely not be a micro business owner.  But they do happen!  So – how do I deal with them?  How do I kick myself in to gear, put on a smile, and do it?

Some time ago I watched a documentary that showed identical twins being given a completely different start to their day.  One had sad songs played on the radio, the other one had hip songs played, and the variation to their days went from there.  

After watching this program I decided to reflect on what happens to me in the mornings of those days when I jump out of bed and do it is easy.  It may come as no surprise that I found I had previously prepared for the day: I had breakfast cereal (and milk) on hand, I knew what I needed to get done, where I was going for the day, what I was going to wear (as this can be based on the client I see), etc.  In other words – I had a plan for the day.   My great days are days when I don’t have to think too much about what has to be done, I just need to get out of bed!  Whereas, I realised, the days I question “what am I doing” are the days for which I haven’t adequately prepared. 

As a result of this reflective process, at 6pm each day, I make a date with myself to have my first task for the following day identified.  I think of the people I am going to see so I can plan my wardrobe, and I have breakfast catered for.  If the cupboard is bare, then I make a date with myself for one of my favorite coffee shops for breakfast (which means I have to get out of bed earlier – huh).

But I do have an extra weapon in case there is a little self-limiting self chatter going on – I start every morning with a mantra:  “I am the only person responsible for my attitude; therefore I must pull it together”.  Then I put on 3 hip songs, which means I start to dance about (not a pretty site) and then I get on with my plan for the day.  Happily!

The Holiday Handover

It’s that time of year again!  The sun is shining, the shopping centers are gearing up for panic buying, and our thoughts are turning to our holidays.

Two things strike me when I think of organizing oneself for leave:

  1. How can we make sure we clear the decks, and by extension our minds, to allow us to relax and enjoy our holidays without any work-related thoughts intruding?
  2. How do we best manage this process for our clients/customers?

Let’s start with clearing our own decks/desks!  The answer here, as with so many things, is organisation.  Our key words should be systems, clarity and communication.

  • Clearly communicate with your colleagues your departure and return dates, and itinerary if necessary.  Do this in writing to ensure greatest clarity.  
  • Complete as many projects as possible.  Those that you are unable to complete you will need to hand over to the appropriate colleague in the most appropriate way. 
  • Schedule a meeting prior to your last day of work and make sure you have all relevant documentation and information to hand over.  Ensure that you commit to paper any of those vital details that you keep locked in your head!
  • Make sure your work systems are functioning properly, and that whoever is taking over from you understands how yours work.  Write out clear procedures wherever necessary.
  • There may be clients whose needs will be looked after by someone else during your absence.  Where possible, speak to each of them before your departure, and let them know who will be looking after them.  Reassure them that you have fully briefed your replacement.

And last but not least:

  • Have a wonderful and relaxing time, and come back happy and refreshed