Bringing Order to Chaos
Fitness. Lifestyle. Bringing your dog to the office. Finding a great business idea. A disparate list, no?
While I will plead guilty to writing about that which interests me, it was by design that the topics appear disconnected. That is often how business works. You plan a series of meetings for advancing your next marketing initiative and instead spend the whole day handling a personnel crisis. Entrepreneurs must cultivate agility in their thinking.
This week I am going to focus on synthesizing a couple of issues. It may seem contradictory to promote fitness while also noting that the entrepreneur’s lifestyle does not afford us more free time. Indeed, striking a balance among work, family, and fitness commitments is probably the biggest challenge we face. How do we do it?
Robert Burns may be right when he wrote in To A Mouse:
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still planning and time management are crucial to fulfilling all of our responsibilities. Some tips:
1. Plan your day the night before
By doing this you will not waste time in the morning deciding what you need to do. Whatever you did not complete that day has to be completed during the coming day along with whatever else has to get done that day. By planning the evening before you will set your mind to work on the challenges ahead rather than focusing on what went wrong in the past. I am not suggesting that there is nothing to learn from our mistakes, only that we view them in terms of how they can propel us forward.
2. Do not do it unless it will move you closer to success
Reflect back on today and the day before. What things did you do that were a waste of time either because someone else should have done them or you were avoiding an unpleasant task? Schedule only those activities that will advance you toward your goals.
3. Commit to completing the tasks you have planned
Tasked yourself to call on ten potential clients or cold call for two hours? DO IT. It does not count if you stop after the eighth rejection or take two fifteen-minute breaks as part of the time. By the way, it also does not count if you have a particularly productive marketing session and decide to quit early. Keep in mind that the extraordinary success that day compensates for a fruitless day. Geoffrey James has 14 ideas for getting “insanely motivated,” and some may help you stay committed.
4. Do the things you dislike most first
Hate admin work? Get it done when you are fresh and motivated. Cannot stand cold calling? It should be the first task on your list. If you are easily demotivated, bookend the disagreeable task with a couple of short ones that you know will go well in order to launch you in a positive direction and give you something pleasant to look forward to so you will persevere.
5. Kill two birds with one stone
Simon Wood-Fleming, the CEO of Pandora Media Inc., has some great thoughts on this topic and time management in general in a wsj.com article (the online version of The Wall Street Journal). One of the topics recently addressed in a number of business publications and blogs I read is setting aside quiet or contemplative time. Steve Jobs conducted meetings while walking. Especially after an important conference call or meeting, I run for 45 minutes to ruminate on what happened and/or to stimulate creative thoughts. Many times our mental or spiritual fitness plans can be combined with a family or business commitment.
6. Be on the lookout for time saving ideas
My nickname when I was a navy chaplain in Okinawa, Japan was OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) because I was constantly looking for ways to improve the Base Chaplain Office’s efficiency. But even this old dog learns new tricks. About a month ago I read a blog post by Michael Hyatt on how to handle email more efficiently and it has saved me at least 30 minutes a day, not to mention eliminated the nagging concern about unresolved emails.
The key when adopting a new process, as well as better managing your time, is to commit to using it for a specific length of time, say two weeks. If it does not work after that time, perhaps you can modify it in a way that better fits the way you operate. If not, discard it and move on to the next one. In general I recommend you work on one time management skill at a time, make it a part of the way you operate, then add the next layer on top of it. Rather than trying to take on too many new methods and having the whole plan explode, build slowly but surely and you are more likely to make progress.