My last post started with

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” Iron Mike Tyson

And I am going to start with it again, as this Post is really ‘Part II’ of last weeks, which you can read about at Managing Your Energy, Not Your Time

I work with a lot of companies and entrepreneurs and it never ceases to amaze me how much energy people spend on trying to manage their time however the application never works out as planned.

In the last post you learnt how the importance of managing your energy and the key areas to focus on and going back to the first point made above that is exactly why. Many people become those crash and burners and just let their day control them as opposed to them controlling their day! Business is tough enough at the best of times and there are so many things being fired at you every hour of every day, you tend to wonder, what’s the point?

However there is a point and it’s not as difficult as you might think!

There are many theories out there about how to manage your time, some of which are so complicated in design that you end up doing nothing when you read about them and some consultants charge a lot of money to teach you things they believe they need to so they can justify their time. When you want someone or group to do something, the key is to make it as easy as possible, the easier it is, the more inclined people are to do it.

Time Management should really be about priority management. So step one is defining your priorities. So what are the priorities in your business? Well lets look at the usual suspects.

  1. Activities directly related to generating cash TODAY
  2. Developing Future Business (CASH TOMORROW)
  3. Product Development
  4. Team development
  5. Admin
  6. Fixing problems

Your list maybe different, however like you have developed categories for your energy management, it’s the same here and in fact you can consider these sub categories of your energy management. Then fit the above categories into your energy management categories so again you are executing the right activities at the right time to best suit your energy levels and actual business requirements.

Now for the tricks!

As I’ve already pointed to the fact, there is no one size fits all for everyone, everyone is different, everyone’s requirements are different, so with that you need to play to your strengths.

  1. Blocking time off

As business requirements are always changing, so should be the time you spend in the above areas. This is not about doing this once and not changing it. Every week will pose different challenges and different requirements. For example, this week could be mostly about Developing Future Business, so a lot of your time will be broken down to activities relating to business development. However next week could be more about Team Development so you are going to block a lot of time to focus on those activities. So block accordingly, however always block off time for each area and never let one area suffer unnecessarily. Now while you may have some time blocked off on a Monday afternoon and for whatever reason you are forced to spend time in another area, that’s fine, just move the blocks around. The key is to make sure you spend time in the required area and this is something you have to RUTHLESS about. This is the discipline of being effective and this is crucial to your success. Every week develop your weekly time block system. When starting off, you may not be accurate, however that’s fine, they key is to get it started as opposed to get it right and very quickly you will learn what the business will require from you and when, bearing in mind your energy management. Colour code each area to make them more visible

Here is an example if you are working in a Sales Environment. This was part of plan I developed with a recent client of mine and all types of activities were colour coded. You will also note there is a frequency column in terms of how often they should happen, and remember, this is dynamic and should be reviewed regularly as things change, therefore requirements will absolutely change.

Sales Activity Plan

And remember, when things don’t go according to PLAN (and that you can be assured of) swap the blocks, so nothing get missed. With that, you can actually decide to have some blocks in there that allow for problem solving, downtime etc so you can make this even more realistic.

  1. Focus only on a few items at a time

While I am a time management expert, would you believe I don’t formally use time management? Sounds a bit contradictory, however it’s actually completely complimentary. See I only ever allow a few items in my system at a time. Not everyone can get it down to this level, however the key is to keep your activities very controlled. Why? So you can focus on actually getting tasks completed as opposed to having 8 things open at once, 3 of which will probably never get done. Focus on COMPLETING activities.

While some people, who are very time bound, the above works very well, however everyone is different and that includes me. With that, I have my own bespoke system which you can see below. It’s a little more advanced that blocking hours per day, however the same principles apply.. the most important criteria as I have said above, is to only a few activities in your work in progress at any one time.. why so you can GET THINGS DONE!

Shay FLow

But I have a massive ‘To Do List’ how can this work?

Well remember, you will always have a massive To Do List, that’s a given as a small business owner. However only allow a few activities in your workflow at anyone time and focus on getting things done! I allow 6 things in my workflow at anyone time. Now that doesn’t mean I will be doing 4 things at once. However they are the 6 TOP Priorities at that particular time. And until I fully complete 1, I don’t allow anymore in. You can still use a To Do List, however only to allow another activity in when one has been completed. The key is only to keep a few things in your Work In Progress at any one time. So let me give you an example.

Enter motorway driving

m50The best way I can describe that for you is to think of when you are driving on a motorway, during off peak times, you can go about your journey in a predictable fashion. You get on, cruise and get off the motorway as the ‘Work In Progress’ is relatively low and essentially you flow through. However during Peak times, many other vehicles are entering the motorway, and what happens? Speed reduces drastically, problems can occur, journey times increase and essentially you stop flowing.

So can you see, the more your try and do, the less will get done?

In your business when you try and do too many things at once, everything stops flowing. Business success requires your to KEEP THINGS FLOWING!

  1. Pay Attention To Distractions

Distractions happen and that’s fine. And sometimes they can break your rhythm with your energy and time management. This can stop you from achieving one of your pre planned activities. If that activity wasn’t on your block of work for the week, it essentially stole some time from you. If it’s something that should have been there, that adds value in one of the categories you have agreed upon, that’s fine, you have learnt to pre plan something else for the future. However if it’s something that has no value, e.g. firefighting, pressing problems, interruptions etc. it’s imperative to take note of it and going forward how can you ensure that this won’t happen again. A good example of this is a client sending you on a wild goose chase thinking there is a problem when there is not. So a solution would be, should they believe they have a problem, ask them to complete a form. If it’s a genuine issue, they will complete it, if it’s not, they will leave it be. This is a great way to filter out the real issues that you must attend to from the ghost ones.

  1. Continuous Improvement – The 5 min Power Planning

At the end of every week, take 5 minutes out to review your plan and see how effective it was. Ask questions like what worked well, make note and continue these in your plan. Then ask what didn’t work well and see what tweaks need to done to make them better. If it was a client call as in the previous point, for example you can turn off all connection points, phone, email etc to ensure you are totally focussed on the task at hand. You can even put up an autoreply on email saying you are unavailable between certain hours. I also encourage you to conduct some creative brainstorming here and pilot your ideas, sometimes you will be amazed at what you can come up with. Some of my personal favourites are

  • Only open emails at set times during the day – maybe 2 times 1 in morning and 1 in afternoon and train your clients to be aware of this
  • Don’t answer private numbers
  • Become ‘Disconnected’ for key periods during the day, for your ‘Golden Hour(s)’ of productivity. That means no phone, email, social media etc
  • Don’t allow people to ramble and don’t ramble to people, respect yours and their time

Over To YOU

So what are you going to do from today forward to start prioritising your activities?

How are you going to take control of the activities that are controlling you and adding no VALUE to you or your business?

Good luck with your Energy & Priority Management and remember it’s not static, continue to pilot, tweak and improve!

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