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Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

Take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge

I have taught time management for over 14 years. I could argue my training is great. In earnest, it is probably just equal to other good trainers, the main difference being that I teach people to build their own system and to not use mine or the time-management gurus’, because we are all individuals. This led to a breakthrough for me on time management.

Making a Breakthrough in Time Management After Time-Management Training for 14 Years

Recently, I have stumbled on something that is a game changer in time management. It’s not mine. It’s not anyone’s. It feels a bit like how the internet grew: one piece at a time until it all came together.

This information just needed to be brought together. Most time-management tips, lessons and tricks, are about discipline, focus, or small pieces, like writing a daily to-do list, but at the heart of an effective time-management system are seven fundamental game-changing pieces. Get these right and the whole system just works, like the story of the internet.

If you can master these seven pieces, you will significantly upgrade your time-management system. Let’s be positive and call them hurdles, because when you start to jump them, the race to be a better time manager has begun. Find out more about each hurdle below.

Time Management Hurdles

    To Jump Each Hurdle Is Only One Exercise per Week for 30 Minutes

    Jumping these seven hurdles will significantly upgrade your time-management system.

    You can’t do part of it. You can’t do one hurdle. You can’t do a bit and come back to it. It’s take the challenge, do the race, or don’t.

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    My advice? Decide why you are going to spend 30 minutes per week doing these exercises. This is because when you need to “choose left or right” (deciding to do this or do something else), you need a compelling reason why. The answer cannot be “to be a better time manager.” To achieve that goal, find one easy and simple time-management tip on the web, e.g. start each task on your to do list with a verb. Job done. We know from Edwin Locke’s work on goal setting that challenging and specific goals work best.

    This goal setting requires some reflection. Decide why. What problem will it solve? Will it help you get home one night on time? Is the goal to be more calm, more in control?

    Then the goal is to hear people in the office unprompted saying, “He’s more calm/She seems much more in control.” Write your reason, your goal, on a sheet of paper and keep this close to you. Remember goals need to pack the three Ps, as Muhammad Ali did — “I am the Greatest” — Present, Positive, and Personal. For example, “I am much more in control. People have said so unprompted,” or “I am working on my big projects and my boss has noticed and commented positively to me.”

    Now it’s time to take the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

    Week 1 — Jumping the Capturing Hurdle

    How much do you capture of what comes into your world, and into your head?

    Jumping the “Capturing” hurdle is about being able to grab any time demand that comes into your world. The more obvious is your email inbox. The less obvious is capturing stuff that you think of when you are driving.

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    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write ALL the capture points (entry points) of your time-management system that you currently have. For example, email inbox, phone calls, and meetings.
    • If you have too many, delete one. For example, you have multiple notepads doing a similar job.
    • If you don’t have enough, for example, you are still relying on your memory in the car, in meetings, in corridor conversations, add one.

    Week 2 — Jumping the Listing Hurdle

    How well do you get things out of your head and onto a list?

    Jumping the “Listing” hurdle is about getting stuff out of your head and onto a list. “The most successful people are the ones with the emptiest heads.” Leaving room for thinking, decision making, and problem solving, not for remembering (storage).

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the lists that you currently have. For example a daily to-do list.
    • If you have too many lists remove one. Particularly the lists that you do not trust. For example, the Outlook reminders list.
    • If you don’t have all of the following lists, add one; particularly the daily to do list (not a stream of actions), or the call list, project list, waiting for list, weekly list, monthly list, or a some day maybe list.

    Week 3 — Jumping the Emptying Hurdle

    How good you are at emptying those capture points?

    Jumping the “Emptying” hurdle is a little like emptying the dishwasher. If you don’t, then it just builds up until you cannot see the dishes for the kitchen sink and then you have to load the dishwasher and wash-up what’s left. Emptying frequently and appropriately is key.

    • Using your list of “Capture Points” that you created in Week 1 decide when you will empty each one of your capture points. Add a column two. For example your email inbox will be assessed once an hour for 15 minutes, or after each major piece of work. Not continuously.
    • Add a column three and identify a trigger for each capture points that will help you to create the habit. The best way to form a habit is to “piggy back” another habit. For example, when I broke my foot, I had to do exercises everyday for 5 minutes. I piggybacked brushing my teeth. Your example might be emptying your in-tray once a day as you log off from work or with each cup of coffee.
    • Read this short post to help you, “Say Yes Wisely” because most people struggle to say ‘No’, which drains their time hugely. Use this learning to say, “No” to at least one task this week and each week from here on in.

    Week 4 — Jumping the Deleting Hurdle

    How much you ask yourself the right question: “What is the impact if I don’t do this?”

    Jumping the “Deleting” hurdle is about getting rid of more of the time demands that enter our world. Plus, it is about not accepting every time demand. Being clear on what we are here to achieve and eliminating more of what does not achieve that.

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    • Understanding how to use advanced search is the key to finding emails quickly. Learn how to use advanced search.
    • Unsubscribe from a minimum of four external email lists that you are on and that you do not use. And unsubscribe from a minimum of three internal distribution lists that you are on.
    • Commit from this week to dealing with copied-in emails more quickly. Do this with the ABC tool: A. A CC email?, B. Briefly read it, and C. Clear it. Delete, unless you reply, but this must be by exception.

    Week 5 — Jumping the Storing Hurdle

    How effective you at storing the right information in the right places for later?

    Jumping the “Storing” hurdle is about having the right information where you need it, when you need it, and keeping it easily accessible, a little like the documents at home. For example, the house insurance: is it in a big pile of important stuff? Or the next business trip tickets — where are they kept?

    • Using a clean sheet of paper, write down ALL the storage points that you currently have. For example, the wall by your desk is a storage point and your “day notebook” and your desk.
    • If you have too many storage points remove one. Maybe you don’t use or rely on the reading pile storage point. Decide how you will manage now that this storage point has been removed (Combine with another storage point?). If you don’t have all of the following storage points, add one; especially for physical documents (e.g tickets), and then consider books to read, websites to refer back to, or papers to read, book shelf, reference folder, tickets, or tickler file.
    • Identify for each storage point the frequency and the trigger and add these in as columns to your list of storage points above.

    Week 6 — Jumping the Scheduling Hurdle

    How great do you schedule, beyond using your diary just for meetings?

    Jumping the “Scheduling” hurdle is about having one diary and using it for more than just booking meetings. Scheduling important work on big tasks that we shy away from because they are big frogs.

    This is the toughest hurdle. Maybe the highest. Some fail here.

    • Identify why you are on the payroll. This is your “Key Result Area (KRA).” Here’s some help — it is not the long list of stuff, from managing clients, to meetings, to presenting, dealing with queries, managing your team, etc. It is one to three things. In a commercial company, your reason for being on the payroll will be to increase sales and profit. For sales people, it is easier; they have a budget. This is their KRA. For others, it will take a little thought to identify a few measurable things that you do that proves that you are worth your salary. For example, for a waiter it might be the TripAdvisor scores.
    • Identify the three projects/large chunks of work that will have the biggest impact on the reason you are on the payroll/KRA’s.
    • Get “stealth mode.” Find a way to get away. Book a meeting room, work from home, or close the door. Whatever you can do to be in stealth. Schedule into your diary 90 minutes next week, and a recurring appointment where you will do only those projects in that time.

    Week 7 — Jumping the Acting Hurdle

    How awesome you are at choosing left or right?

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    Jumping the “Acting” hurdle is the key one. It is why you are paid to do what you do. This is where decisions are made: choosing left or right a thousand times a day, knowing what you are worth. Divide your salary by 2,000. This is your hourly worth. Don’t do stuff that is worth less than this value per hour.

    • Decide on the length of your “short amount of time.” The “Do It Now!” piece of time. It might be 5 minutes, 4 minutes, or 3 minutes. The difference might not be much, but you decide what it is. For every time demand/task that comes into your system, do it now if it can be done in less than your short amount of time. Commit to this. Do not kid yourself that you can do a task in the short amount of time and still be doing it 20 minutes later. This is because your brain will soon know what you are doing and stop you doing it.
    • For longer amounts of “doing” time, learn the Pomodoro technique (2.2 minute video) to help you focus and use it once per week. Maybe during your scheduled project work.
    • Place the reason you decided that you are on the payroll (KRA/’s) in Week 6 in a place that will disrupt your behavior. For example, a post-it note on your laptop/screensaver/desktop image. Not on the wall because we go blind to what is on the wall — “Corporate wallpaper.”

    Pulling It All Together

    This is how the seven pieces of an effective time management system fit together:

    Time Management Hurdles Overview
      Finished the Race? Congratulations!

      Excellent news. You did it. You jumped all seven hurdles and nailed the 7-Week Time-Management Challenge.

      You now have a significantly upgraded time-management system. To download the whitepaper, “Take the 7 Week Time-Management Challenge,” with tables to complete and more advanced exercises, check out my bio.

      Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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      Darren A. Smith

      Founder of Making Business Matter - Training Provider to the UK Grocery Industry

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2020

      How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

      How to Be More Self-Assured and Get More Done During the Week

      Time is a great leveler isn’t it? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Even if you’re self-assured, the day may never feel quite long enough.

      Why is it that some people can be so much more productive and achieve so much more in a typical day, while others struggle to achieve anything apart from feeling time crunched and overwhelmed?

      Everyone I know and work with wants to make the best use of their time. They want to learn how to be more self-assured, happier, and work less—all while growing in their career.

      How effectively we use our time—and how we actually work in our business—can make a huge difference to the amount we accomplish in a day or week. It can also make us more focused and more confident.

      Do you want to have more thinking and creative time? Do you want to spend more time working on your business rather than working at or in your business? In this article, we’ll show you how.

      Get More Done by Gaining Confidence

      What if you had a strategy for making the best use of your time that brings you more joy and allows you to focus on the biggest activities and opportunities in your business? You may find the following outline below to be helpful:

      1. Create an Exciting Vision

      If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you get there?

      You want to be more productive and spend more time getting the right stuff done. Well, you need to create a compelling and exciting vision of your future.

      What does this future look like? How will you feel when you get there?

      Creating a new vision, especially one that is a lot bigger than where you are right now, has a way of igniting your passion. It may be something that feels hard to achieve, but every step you take towards that bigger vision will certainly build your confidence.

      Create a vision board to feel more self-assured.

        Commitment to this vision, and accomplishing continual daily progress depends on your ability to look at any situation you’re faced with or currently in, feel self-assured, and see something bigger ahead.

        Also, when you know where you’re headed, you will instinctively start to see all the new opportunities and connections that will get you there.

        Make a vision map to get you started on the path to better productivity. This doesn’t have to be fully actualized, but you should know at least what direction you are heading.

        2. Build a Strategic Plan

        Once you have your future vision mapped out, the next step is to build a strategic plan to get you there.

        Your future vision may be for 3 years or 5 years, or you may choose a longer time frame. Any timeframe over 3 years may feel like a long way away.

        You may wonder how you are ever going to feel confident and motivated on this bigger future years from now when you feel as though you have so much to accomplish today.

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        The first step is to decide on some specific goals for the next 12 months. Don’t list too many or you may begin to feel overwhelmed.

        The magic number for me and my clients is usually five annual goals.

        These are big goals that will create massive change in your business and life and bridge your current situation to your bigger future; accomplishing these goals one by one will help to increase your confidence on a daily basis.

        3. Get on Goal Planning

        Get yourself a piece of blank paper and a pen and divide the paper into 4 columns: A, B, C, and D.

        Ask yourself the question: What is great in my business and life right now? Write these things down in Column A. This might be a couple of things, five things, ten things, whatever feels right to you.

        Then ask yourself: What things are happening right now that I don’t want in my future? Write these things down in Column B.

        This is your opportunity to take a step back and look at the things that are simply not working. You may list people that are bringing you down or projects that you don’t want to work on any more. Maybe you’ll include a service offering that’s going nowhere. It could be the people you’re working with, or it could be your pricing.

        Now, let’s look at your personal strengths. Write down everything that you’re great at in Column C.

        These could be things that you’re doing right now and having success with. It could also be things you know you’re awesome at but you’re not spending enough time on.

        Column D is for your biggest opportunities. Is there a new service/product you could offer your ideal customers? Is there a new innovation you could bring to market? Just take some time out and really think and list these things in Column D.

        Once you’ve analyzed everything you’ve written down, take some time to really think about what goals you want to set for your business and life in the next 12 months.

        4. Set Outcomes to Build Confidence

        You now have your goals, and you’ll feel self-assured and raring to go. They are written down and you’re committed to achieving them. You feel self-assured and motivated.

        But how do you ensure that you stay on the correct course to achieve these goals?

        Managing and juggling day-to-day projects can get in the way. Dealing with problems can get in the way. Staying on top of orders, managing cash flow, and handling day-to-day stuff can move your ship off course.

        You want to be productive and achieve your goals, but you also need to ensure the day and week runs smoothly.

        One way to ensure this happens is to set 90 Day Outcome Goals; within those Outcome Goals, put some specific process goals that need to be undertaken.

        Let’s say you want to get 10 more speaking jobs in the next 90 days, and you know that you typically convert 50% of opportunities.

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        Therefore, your process goal needs to be to have 20 conversations in the next 90 Days to deliver the 10 new pieces of work. You will then work out who you can have those conversations with.

        It’s smart to overshoot, so you will more easily hit your target. This is a clear plan to work through because with every win, your confidence will grow.

        5. Completely Commit to Your Success

        If you are not truly committed to achieving your goals, then chances are that you won’t reach them.

        Motivation can only take you so far. It is the intentional commitment[1] and emotional investment in your future success that will move you forward.

        Think back to any time that you really committed to achieving something. There must have been a reason you actually achieved what you set out to achieve. What motivated you?

        Were you fully invested? Why did it matter? Did you have to be really courageous to achieve it?

        How did it feel when you achieved it? What difference did it make?

        When have you felt truly self-assured? When you are committed to something, then you are propelled into action. Your mindset is focused, and your body follows; you want to get it done.

        And, when you do get it done, your confidence goes through the roof. You feel a level of certainty in achieving the goal you set out to accomplish.

        6. Focus on Your Strengths

        To feel self-assured and build up the confidence needed to achieve our biggest goals, we need to focus on our strengths.

        What are you best at? What are your unique skills? You want to spend as much time as you can working in the areas that you’re great at.

        Multiply your strengths. These areas are where you add the biggest value. They often bring you the biggest amount of joy, and you feel more and more confident when you are using your unique skills.

        If you think there is a specific capability you need to learn or be better at, spend more focused time in that area.

        Many of us want to do it all. We want to be good at everything. We want to offer a lot of services. But, in reality, there are some very specific things we are great at; nobody is good at everything!

        Spending more time adding value in the areas where you excel can create breakthrough results and boost confidence.

        7. Embrace the Present

        Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the future or worrying about the past that we forget the present moment[2].

        Are you spending most of your day reacting to things, or have you taken the time to think about what your perfect day looks like?

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        We all have the opportunity to create rather than react, to decide what we do with our day. All of our future success can be created in the present moment if we just take a step back and take action.

        Sometimes, doing it now is more important than doing it perfectly. There are hidden opportunities in every moment. We need to make sure we don’t miss them if we want to feel self-assured.

        8. Calm the Whirlwind

        The day-to-day life in business and life can be hard, which leads us to feel less self-assured.

        Your mind may be full to bursting with all of the things you feel you have to do. The phrase “I don’t have time” has almost become an instant reaction by so many people when new opportunities are presented.

        There is a whirlwind happening inside our minds.

        Appointments, notifications, tasks, phone calls, errands, cash flow, staffing issues, networking, marketing all can clutter up our timeline. The sheer volume of things we feel we should do creates procrastination, stopping us from pursuing the projects and people that matter.

        Many of us feel we have to do everything within our business.

        Rather than simplifying things and doing less, we do more. We work longer, which creates a lack of energy and focus. Because of this, we lose clarity on our biggest opportunities. If you feel this way, take some well-deserved time off.

        Look at where you’re spending your time. How much of your time is being spent moving your ideas forward?

        In the next 90 days, if you could delegate or outsource more daily tasks and spend more time focusing on where you add the biggest value, what difference would it make?

        Calm the whirlwind by slowing down and doing less.

        Focus on areas that you add the biggest amount of value. By doing this, your energy levels will increase, your confidence will grow and you will have more success.

        9. Take More Time off

        This may seem counterintuitive, but taking more time off to recharge and refocus can pay huge dividends.

        If you are constantly fighting fires and caught up in the myriad of different activities that you have to do each day, then how can you move your business forward?

        You may be being pulled in difference directions without any focused time on your biggest projects. If that’s the case, then it’s almost impossible to gain any real momentum in moving your business forward and hitting your goals.

        The best way to get off that treadmill is to take more creative time out of the business.

        Could you realistically take one day off per month to work on your business? If you could, what would you do with this time?

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        Just imagine no distractions, only focused time on the strategic development and growth of your business.

        Every day off per month could have a different focus: New product innovation; Thinking about your biggest clients; Improving operations.

        Add to this a quarterly review to check in with your goals progress, and this could have a dramatic effect on where you spend your valuable time.

        10. Celebrate Wins

        Sometimes you just want to get through the day, right?

        You have so much to do. There are so many things on your task list that you just complete what you can and then start another day. But what would happen if, at the end of each day, you took some time out to look at what you’ve accomplished?

        Celebrating success keeps you motivated and helps you become more self-assured. It is not just another day. It’s a day that included things that should be celebrated.

        If you’re struggling to feel motivated, try celebrating a couple of wins each day.

        Celebrating success combined with the gratitude you have for achieving those wins will boost your confidence and inspire you for the next day.

        11. Give Yourself More Space

        When was the last time you gave yourself time to think?

        Within the hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to give yourself a little bit of space and time to just think[3].

        Imagine giving yourself just an hour a day to just let your mind wander or think about a specific thing.

        If you think about it, we can all free up an hour a day for something without really losing any efficiency or really impacting our business.

        In fact, that hour could be transformational for your business and life.

        A new idea for a product could form, or an idea for adding value to your existing clients could materialize. Perhaps you could do a check in to your ideal future and your goals. You could decide that you want to take your business in a new direction.

        Try this: Just sit alone for an hour with a notebook and let it be your creative thinking time. See what happens.

        Final Thoughts

        Ultimately, being self-assured happens when you have a clear direction.

        This, coupled with having clear goals and working in your unique skill-set, gives you the biggest opportunity to be more productive and get more of the right things done.

        The old mantra that “less is more” is right on the money. By giving yourself more time to work on your goals, you will inevitably increase your confidence; at this point, your ideal future can be anything you want it to be.

        More on How to Be Self-Assured

        Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

        Reference

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