As an executive coach and generally busy person, I often get asked about time management.
People, and small-business owners especially, all want to know how to squeeze more productivity out of every day and are hoping Ill have some secret about multitasking or scheduling meetings on the half-hour or some amazing new smartphone app that will change their lives.
The truth is, theres no such thing as time management. An hour will never have more than 60 minutes. And within those 60 minutes, we have to make various trade-offs, such as deciding how much time to spend on important activity A versus important activity B.
So, dont just manage your time. Be the boss of it. You call the shots on how you spend your day.
Here are some tips:
Pick your purpose
The first step in taking command of your time is deciding what you want.
Established and aspiring entrepreneurs should usually begin by envisioning the big picture, meaning their whole lives. What do you want your life to look like and feel like, both personally and professionally? What do you want to leave behind as your legacy, or even your epitaph?
One business owners goal might be a thriving local service business that allows them to work out of the house so they can be physically present when their children come home from school.
Anothers might be taking a company from startup to IPO, even if that means 80-hour weeks for 10 to 15 years.
Then work backward to arrive at your near-term goal. For example, if you want to hit $1 million in annual revenue, you might set a milestone of finding 10 new customers in the next 3 months.
Play to your strengths
Every company founder has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. No one is equally good at or equally fond of all business activities. So, allocate your time toward doing the things at which you excel.
You will increase your chance of success by deploying your time doing the things at which you are best.
Take for example a client Ill call Brian. Brian is a successful financial adviser with all the right letters after his name. However, Brian also happens to hate computers and can barely work the CD player in his car.
While a more Web-savvy adviser would succeed at optimizing and redesigning the company website for more clients, thats not the case with Brian.
However, Brian is brilliant at getting referrals from his existing clients.
Its worth his time to continue playing to this strength, by keeping these new and continuing clients satisfied with his work.
Know when to say no
While you cant make more time, you can make more time available for your highest priorities.
What time and activities can you cut back on? This is an intimate question that no one can answer for you.
Is it acceptable to you to give up television, bowling night or cooking for your family? You may decide you can switch to online grocery shopping, but have to maintain your weekly visit with your parents.
Bottom line, if you are clear on what you are saying Yes to, youll have a much easier time saying No to other things.
In the end, listening to podcasts in the shower will only get you so far. True time management comes down to making some tough decisions.
The good news is, once you know your priorities, your time will manage itself.