Time Mastery

One of the biggest obstacles to success is something that shouldn’t be an obstacle at all. It’s the perception that there isn’t enough time to do everything in your business you want to do.

I say perception because the reality is quite different.

You can find the time, manage more projects successfully, and keep on top of all the details and to-do’s if you have a good system for managing time and projects.

Most people have no system or a poor system. Every day they are faced with a mountain of things to remember, schedule and implement. And there never seems to be an end in sight.

Many get to the point where they *always* feel behind, no matter what they do. Stress and frustration mount, and the big projects never seem to get off the ground or fall by the wayside.

What ever happened to that website upgrade, your monthly eZine, and your speaking plan? They probably got buried with several dozen other projects you’ve been trying to keep on top of.

OK, if this describes you, I have a three-step system for you.

This is an offline system that requires pen and paper. I suggest you start with a thin 3-hole binder and two dividers. This system may translate to a digital or online system; I just haven’t found one that really works for me.

You keep this binder at your desk, at hand to look at when you need it. But you only have to look at it once a day and then once a week for your weekly planning. Here are the steps:

1. Create a Project List for every project you have in progress

This is simple. Start with the first project you think of. Just a title will do – “Web Site Upgrade” or “Jones Training Program.” Most usually discover that they have more projects in motion that they realize and that they don’t have project sheets for most of them.

Now go through the Project Lists one at a time and start adding to-do items. It may be a few, it may be many. From ten project pages you may have a total of 100 or more to-do items.

Remember, you were keeping most of these in your head every day or perhaps on one big, long list. Now you have them separate and distinct from each other. Some are higher priority than others. In fact, some may be no more that ideas you haven’t gotten around to yet.

One of your Project Lists will be a “Miscellaneous” or “Someday Page” This is a list of things that may turn into projects or simply to-do items that don’t yet belong or your Weekly or Daily Lists.

These project pages are your “big bucket” of things you have to do, organized by project and easily scanned on a weekly basis.

2. Create a Weekly List drawn from your Project Lists

Next, what you do once a week is draw from your Project Lists and transfer to-do items to your Weekly List. You do this in a weekly planning session that takes from 15 minutes to an hour (depending on how much stuff you’ve got going on).

By the way, if you don’t think you have time for this planning, you are deluding yourself. For every hour you spend planning, you save from five to twenty hours. No kidding. It’s that powerful.

It’s a bit of an art planning your week. You need to transfer items from your various Project Lists so that a few things happen:

One, you want to transfer the highest priority items. Two, you want to transfer not too many and not too few items. Three, you need to let go of all the other Project List items for this week.

What you’re left with is a list of twelve to twenty items on your Weekly List. And the game for every week is to complete most of, if not all the items for that week.

If they don’t get done, you transfer them to the next week’s list when you are doing your weekly planning. And sometimes you will decide to put some items off until later (or even eliminate them).

It’s important that you put “Urgent and Important” items on your list each week plus some “Not Urgent and Important” items. Marketing projects often fit into that category. Try to leave off “Urgent and Not Important” items. Those are little things that come up daily that you need to fit in.

By the way, your Weekly List goes at the front of the binder and behind a divider go all your Project Lists.

3. Create a Daily List drawn from your Weekly List

Now every single day you spend a few minutes planning your day. You only look at your Weekly List, not your Project list. You don’t have a hundred things to consider, just a dozen or so.

Then you transfer the items from your Weekly List to your Daily List. And this list is very short, only three or four items. Rarely more than six.

How many you transfer to your Daily List depends on your daily schedule. If you have two teleclasses and three client appointments that day, you’d put fewer items on your list, and on a day with a more open calendar, you’d put more on your list.

Each day also becomes a game to complete all of the items you have on your list. The things you don’t do get transferred to tomorrow’s Daily List.

Finally, you might put your Daily List in front of your Weekly List in the binder with a divider in-between. Alternately you might put your Daily List in a desk calendar or other time management system. But the key is to be able to see that list throughout your day – ideally in conjunction with your daily schedule.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed using this system:

  • Immediately I seem to have more time. I am not overwhelmed by a hundred things a day (that are rattling around in my head) but only a few vital things.
  • When an idea for a big project comes up, I can quickly put it on my “Someday List” or take a few minutes to create a Project List for that project. I don’t have to worry about doing it now or forgetting it later. (These are the kind of things you can put on your PDA as well and transfer to your lists later)
  • Big, not urgent, projects actually get started and the follow-through is easy because I only need to worry about one action item at a time as it hits my Daily List.
  • I can be more creative because my head is not so preoccupied with all the stuff on all those lists. I can focus on the item I’m working on right now, knowing all the other things will come up to be handled in their own time.
  • I end up eliminating a lot of projects before I start work on them. This prevents “project seizures” that pop into my mind that I start to work on before I’m sure it’s a good use of my time. I now let them ripen on my list before jumping in with both feet.

What about email and all the little stuff that comes at you point-blank every day?

Well, those are things that can go on your Daily List. “Handle eMail” is a to-do item you can work on at designated times during the day. It’s always best to complete one item at a time with as few interruptions as possible.

That’s how I write this eZine every week. I schedule it for Monday, keep my schedule free of appointments and don’t check email until it’s done.

The power of this system becomes apparent as you start to put it into action. Give it a solid month to work for you and I predict you won’t be using lack of time as an excuse to not do your marketing!

The More Clients Bottom Line: If you are getting behind, feel overwhelmed and stressed and never feel you are on top of things, you need to put a system into place to manage everything you have to do. If this system doesn’t work for you, work at finding another. The best system is one you actually implement.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.