Last week, I attended a time management course at SCORE, which is a nonprofit small business advice service based in Seattle.
The course was delivered by a chap called Greg Paley, who has been a successful business person within the field of digital media.
The reason why I felt compelled to attend was because as a new business owner myself, I’m always trying to make sure that my time is being is spent as wisely as possible.
I’ve always been the type of person who is a bit of a procrastinator. In fact I self diagnosed myself about a year ago as a maladaptive perfectionist. Now a maladaptive perfectionist is someone who likes to have everything just so, but because they know that not everything is going to be perfect, they delay until the last minute in actually getting anything done, thus exacerbating the fact that the results of their work will not actually be as perfect as they want them to be.
Sounds crazy? Yes! Tell me about it!
During my time at LookSmart (from 2000 until 2003) I used to get myself in quite a state, always feeling like there was too much to do and too little time. My boss at the time, Rob Pearson, called me into a room one day and suggested I take a time management course. (Yes I have now been on two, but they were 10 years apart!)
The day I entered the classroom, in a tiny office above Tottenham Court Road in London, change my life! The guy teaching the course was an ex-British Airways steward who had decided to get into corporate training. At one point during the course he started talking about the “circle of influence and concern”, something that Steven Covey talks about in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. You can read more about that at this post, as right now I’m in a hurry to explain how having an excellent grasp on your own time management can help enhance your personal brand!
During Greg Paley’s presentation he talked about the prevailing attitudes that we all have towards the amount of time there is to get done what we need to get done.
- No matter what I do, I still don’t or won’t have enough time
- I work better under pressure
- Time management is just common sense
- I use an appointment calendar and a to do list: is not good enough?
- I don’t have time to learn how to do all of this
Any of these sound familiar?
Flickr Credit AToach
Greg also poked a little fun at all those people who seem to spend so much time telling everyone how busy they are, so much so, that it actually makes them underperform.
If there’s one thing seven years of Microsoft told me, it was how to plan my time, plan ahead, and plan with other people’s agendas in mind. My personal tactics are to use Microsoft Outlook is my calendar, use my inbox as a to do list of actions, emails, or things I have to read, and I have a real world notebook and pen in which I not only write notes from meetings, but also copious amounts of to do lists.
It really doesn’t take much to use these few tools in order to look forward now and again (at least once a day) to what meetings you might have coming out, deadlines you have looming, or people you should be contacting or following up with.
Getting a grip on your day-to-day activity, anticipating that other’s may not be as organized as you are, and sending an email or making a phone call couple of days in advance of the meeting or deadline, can not only help them prioritize their own task list, but also potentially save a last-minute scramble.
I honestly used to think that I thrived off stress; that being in a rush to the finish line at the end of every project, meeting, brainstorm, or reporting cycle, somehow made the work better. But it’s only now in my 13th year in the digital industry that I feel somewhat in control of how I manage my time, and therefore how that time management affects the other people across the projects that I’m involved with.
Like many others, I have a lot to do, but I always try and keep everything prioritized to keep ahead of the curve so that I don’t impact anybody else’s work life balance or their stress levels. There are a few things worse in our business lives than having a deadline looming and worring that there will be some kind of crazy hiatus coming down the line that could’ve been avoided.
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given during my time at Microsoft, was to never accept the meeting request that did not have an agenda attached to it, and to never accept meetings that were in hour-long. The advice said that nothing that could be said in an hour couldn’t be thrashed out in 45 minutes, and by giving yourself that 15 minutes back, meant that you have time to reflect on the meeting you just been in and plan for the meeting you might be about to go to.
This is been invaluable advice to me, advice that I’ve held even more dear since starting Delightful Communications. The fact that I try and keep meetings to a minimum, means now I have more time to actually do the work my clients are paying me to do.
Having more time to do the work, means I’m more productive, and I hope the results of that much more sweeter for the client.
Before starting my business, I was encouraged to read “Million-Dollar Consulting” by Alan Weiss. In this remarkable book, Weiss states that true wealth comes not from the amount of money you have, but from the amount of time you have to enjoy that money. I’ve never understood the attraction of “pulling long hours” in order to get a project finished, or this very idea that unless you’ve spent many many hours producing a report, or writing some technical spec, it can’t be very good.
Getting a grip on your time, providing timely responses, planning ahead and anticipating your workload’s next direction can really help improve your quality of life.
Trying to chip away at Greg’s “prevailing attitudes” and using all the tools available to you to keep you on an efficient and productive course will enable and not hinder your future professional growth, your family will love you for it, and your co-workers will see you in a new and endearing light.
Having excellent time management skills is so important to how the people that work with (and for you) perceive your professionalism and productivity.
Isn’t it time you though about spending more time on things that really matter?
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