One of the biggest challenges that business owners and leaders have is not having enough time to get to everything that’s on their plate. With all the pressure for your attention on top of your regular duties, it can be hard to keep up. They key to gaining control of your time lies in Self-Management.
Manage Your Thoughts
Start by accepting a simple truth: You will never have enough time to get everything done, and that is a good thing. Running out of things to do in a business is bad. If you believe in the concept that you are either growing or dying, then when you run out of things to do, you are clearly going to fall immediately into the dying category. This is true of both businesses and people. What this means to you is that for the most part, you should stop worrying about not getting to everything, because you simply will not ever get to everything, and it is okay to accept that. Once you accept this fundamental truth, you can let go of some of the stress that comes with believing that somehow you should be getting it all done. Let it go.
Manage Your Priorities
The second step of Self-Management is making decisions on how to allocate your time. Since we now believe we can’t get to everything and that it is okay not to get to everything, we have to be absolutely sure we are getting to the right things. The key to doing this well is to make decisions regarding your time based on your priorities.
So how do we set priorities? It starts with Values and Beliefs, which define what is important to us, and I mean REALLY important, and what our strongest beliefs about life, business, and people are for us. We build on our values and beliefs with our Vision and Goals, which define where we want to end up, and our basic plan for how we intend to get there. The last ingredient is a small dose of reality, the situation at hand.
If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten clear on your vision, goals, and priorities, then you are more likely to lose control of your time to things that aren’t important. I recommend setting your goals and priorities once-a-quarter, at minimum, to keep your focus where it needs to be.
Manage How You Give Away Your Time
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our business and in our lives is also one of the most common. This mistake is letting others set our priorities for us. Whether it is our biggest customer, our loudest employee, our family, or just the group of friends we hang out with, the biggest mistake I see again and again is letting someone else, or “the world” set our priorities and make our decisions. The biggest problem with this method of prioritization and decision making is that the world very rarely prioritizes or decides in our favor!
Saying “no” is an important self-management skill. Before you offer up a significant chunk of your time to anyone, ask yourself if it aligns with your priorities and goals. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely selfish, but rather more strategic and protective of time. Your time has value, you have value, and ultimately people will respect you more if you guard your time wisely.
Manage How You Respond
The world throws interruptions at us on a regular basis, and we need to account for them in the daily execution of our plan. The key to self-management is to learn how to Respond to these interruptions instead of Reacting to them. When we react, the world wins, when we respond we can all win. The difference is simply allocating the time to consider the interruption at the right moment (which is not always immediately), assess the interruption against the priorities for the day/week/month that you have already established, and make an intentional decision on how to allocate time to the interruption. The alternative option is to let the world decide, and as I stated before, the world rarely decides in our favor.
So to be a pro at self-management, define your priorities, make decisions based on those priorities and not the priorities of others, and accept the fact that it is okay to not get it all done. There will always be a tomorrow for growing businesses and people.
Author: Mark McNulty, Business Coach in Louisville, KY