Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Just yesterday, when I was working with Sandi, a small business client, who was worried about time management, I was reminded of the above title to the popular song by the band, Chicago. In business, successful people know what time it is, and how they’re using time to get to their goals. Here are a couple points that I shared with Sandi.

By Paul Jermain, Entrepreneurial Training Program, www.entrepreneurialtrainingprogram.com

Just yesterday, when I was working with Sandi, a small business client, who was worried about time management, I was reminded of the above title to the popular song by the band, Chicago. In business, successful people know what time it is, and how they’re using time to get to their goals. Here are a couple points that I shared with Sandi.

First, focus, and concentrate on being effective, then efficient. Lots of folks think that good time management is about getting 10 things done in the time it usually takes to do 5. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad goal, however, the key is getting the important things done, activities which are really going to make a difference in the business.

Before our discussion, Sandi was investing her time in talking to potential prospects and referral sources such as clean-out specialists, movers, and auctioneers, and the demands of dealing with so many different people and groups, simultaneously, were feeling overwhelming.  I suggested that since her business was at the beginning stage, where she still had a lot to learn about her target customers, that she would be best served by focusing on connecting, live and on the ground, with a few seniors in need. Working shoulder to shoulder with them for a few days, even if it required doing some activities on a pro-bono basis, and created  daily blocks of “empty” time between helping activities, would be smart.

This approach would bring her not only considerable “insider” knowledge which she could put to immediate use on her proposed website and in local newspaper ads, but more than likely, additional leads within the tight-knit seniors community that could quickly pay off in profitable jobs. Now, working the referral sources was a good idea, really a great idea- long term, but the immediate task at hand was to get the engagements rolling, and it was a better idea to be more focused on that goal, even at the potential cost of a little time that was not used efficiently, than to spread herself too thin, checking off action items, but not making any real short-term progress.

Second, plan ahead and customize your time management approach to meet your personal needs. Everyone thinks differently, just ask the next person you talk to what they’re thinking of for lunch and compare it to your thoughts. However, most people find that using their mind to plan ahead usually leads to better results.

With this as a backdrop, I asked Sandi if she was planning ahead and how. She shared that she was basically moving from day to day, scratching ideas down on scraps of paper. Needless to say, this wasn’t proving very effective for her. I shared my method- plan weekly on Sunday night before the week, and plan daily by outlining key activities the prior evening.

This approach which I have used for years, takes advantage of the mind’s constant activity, even while sleeping. Once given direction, the mind will try to line things up in the most practical manner possible, which supports the goals of effectiveness and efficiency. Just as a pro football coach does not scratch up the master game plan after the game is in progress, effective business people plan ahead to make the most of their time.

Importantly, while I have adopted an effective personal time management approach, which includes writing activities in a paper-based planner, there are many other approaches-planning different time periods, using electronic tools to support the process, etc., and no one approach is best for everyone. But, by choosing the tools that feel most comfortable and using them to do some sort of planning, significant improvements can be gained in business results.

To sum it up, time management is important to business success. There are a lot of different aspects to the field, and the points mentioned here are just two among many. However, many business people, especially those starting out, wrestle with time management, and improperly handled, it can bring a business down. If you focus, concentrate on being effective, and plan ahead, using the tools that feel most comfortable to you, similar to Sandi, you’ll see significant improvements in your time management, and be pleased with the business results.