You know, I seem to always find time to get it all done. I often look at my calendar, and hear from my staff, and field problems and issues, and I wonder if I’ll get to everything on my “to do” list. Somehow it always comes together. There were times early in my career, however, when it wasn’t always like that–I had to make difficult choices and leave some things undone. Life is only busier now, with a larger company to run and more employees, yet I’m less stressed and more productive. The reason is simple: All that experience has made me more efficient using some timely tips from the trenches.
So, starting today and running for the next few weeks, I’ll blog about a few of my favorite lessons over the years. For people running companies or departments, I offer up these tips from the trenches, hoping you will find something to add to your existing time management skills.
1. Do the Hard Stuff First
When making your “to do” list, put the most difficult tasks at the top of the list—and then do them! Many of you, who have read Stephen Covey’s best seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, will remember his famous illustration of the stones. The visual aid went like this: A large, wide glass vase is placed on a table, and a bucket of large pebbles, smaller stones, and gravel is in a bucket next to the vase. Each stone represents an item on our “to do” list—the larger the stone, the larger or more important the item.
The task is to get all of the stones from the bucket into the glass vase. During the first pouring, all the little pebbles and gravel shift quickly to the bottom, and there is not space for the big rocks. They all fit, and so do the stones. Not all the gravel fits this way—but how important was the gravel? Do the hard stuff, and the big stuff, first. You’ll be surprised how much you vase can hold.
Of course, we don’t always want to do the hard things first. I’ve found that if I’m really struggling with something that seems difficult for me, it helps to take a moment to list out why it’s important. Motivate yourself! For example, for many of us, paying bills is drudgery. There is little to inspire about watching a checking account dwindle as we pay what we owe. This is where we need to change the way we view the task. Instead of thinking of bill paying as draining your energy and your account, think how ethical and satisfying it feels to be honorable and fulfill your financial obligations. If you are running a company or in management, timely bill paying means fostering important relationships of trust with the companies and vendors you do business with. Your signature on that check is literally your own good name. Likewise, think of making payroll or reimbursements within your own company as a beautiful way of providing for the families of employees who are loyal and dedicated to your dream.
Try this and let me know how it works. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of my other observations, including the following:
2. Only touch something once
3. Block out time
4. Stop impromptus
Challenge: What are the big tasks which challenge me most? How can I shift my thinking to inspire myself to get it done up front?