Part I: Where DOES your time go?
A Time Vampire is simply a mindset that keeps you from using your time wisely. They may seem harmless enough, and often mask themselves in terms that make you believe you are really doing yourself a favor, like “hyper-productive”, “super-busy”, and “unstoppable”. And while I love the confidence that these self descriptions may inspire, (because don’t we all need to be productive?), the reality is that we 1) can’t be everywhere at once, and 2) we can’t do everything at once. Taking on too many projects, for example, can lead to burnout and fatigue. Time, like our energy and health, is finite.
And that’s why we’re so frustrated. It often feels like “everyone else” is getting so much more done, while we’re spinning our wheels. Intellectually, we know that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but yet we also know that each of us has the same number of hours each day as anyone else.
Repeat after me: I am NOT a hamster, and my life is not a whirl-o-wheel!
Time Vampires, then, cause us to be ineffective and unproductive. It’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s that we’re not using the time we do have, we ALL have, in a way that is most productive for each of us.
Which brings me to the next point: we all work differently. Have you ever thought about how you really spend your day? Not the timestamps of when you wake up, eat breakfast, and arrive at work, but how you really get work done? Do you work best alone, or with a group? Are you a morning, afternoon, or night person? The answers to these questions are key because you’re trying to define what works best for you.
For example, I know that I work best before 3 PM every day, but I also have a creative brain burst in the evening. What that means for me: I have to get up and get moving in the morning, jump into my projects (especially the ones that are time sensitive), and slow down midday. However, the best time to write, for me, is in the evenings. Not only do I feel like I think clearer, but my family obligations have slowed to a stand-still: my family is fed, dishes are done, and my kids are at their sports’ practices or doing homework. This may not work for everyone, but it’s what works best for me, and that’s OK.
So before we move on, I encourage you to look at your day, know your rhythms, and really think about works best, and how you want to be. Only then can we move on to finding and destroying those time vampires!
I love this article! #2 is my absolute favorite for daily/weekly productivity, and #4 is the best advice for long-term goals. Comment below and let me know what you think!
Some days the to-do list seems bottomless. Just looking at it is exhausting.
We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. I certainly want the answer.
So I decided to call a friend who manages to do this — and more.
Cal Newport impresses the heck out of me. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked. He’s insanely productive:
- He has a full-time job as a professor at Georgetown University, teaching classes and meeting with students.
- He writes six (or more) peer-reviewed academic journal papers per year.
- He’s the author of four books including the wonderful So Good They Can’t Ignore You. And he’s at work on a fifth.
- He’s married with a young child and handles all the responsibilities that come with being a husband and dad.
- He blogs regularly about productivity and expert performance.
And yet he finishes work at 5:30 p.m. every day and rarely works weekends.
No, he does not have superpowers or a staff of 15. Okay, let’s you and I both stop being jealous of his productivity for a second and learn something.
Below you’ll get Cal’s secrets on how you can better manage your time, stop being lazy, get more done — and be finished by 5:30. Let’s get to work.
1) To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. Why?
It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.
Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.
Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.
Experts agree that if you don’t consider how long things take, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I can hear what some of you are thinking: But I get interrupted. Things get thrown at me last minute.
Great — build that into your schedule. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Things will change. But you need to have a plan, otherwise you’ll waste time.
Want to stop procrastinating? Schedule. Here’s Cal:
Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.
Does this sound too mechanical? Overly structured and not much fun? Wrong.
Research shows that it’s even a good idea to schedule what you do with your free time. It increases quality of life:
This study was designed to identify the relationship between free time management and quality of life, exploring whether the amount of free time or the way people using their free time relates to their quality of life… The result has found a positive relationship between free time management and quality of life.
(For more on the schedule the most productive people use, click here.)
Okay, the to-do list is in the trash and things are going on the calendar. How do you prioritize so you’re not at work forever?
Read entire piece here.
Originally published September 18, 2014
In a question-and-answer session following a recent speech, I was asked the following question: “How should we respond when we’re constantly asked to do more with less?”
My answer might not have been particularly comforting, but it was honest: “The challenge to do more with less is industry agnostic,” I said. “Virtually everyone, everywhere is being given that challenge. And I expect that will be an ongoing mantra far into the future.”
Judging by the expression on the questioner’s face, I suspect that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
But I wasn’t finished. The good news, I told him, is that the “do more with less” challenge presents a golden opportunity for smart, proactive people.
Most anyone can do less with more. That’s a no-brainer. Doing more with less requires strategic sorting of priorities. It’s fairly common for business people to tell me that in their organizations “everything is a priority so, therefore, nothing is a real priority.” That’s the equivalent of saying you’re too busy driving to stop and get gas.
Read more here.
Source: Forbes Magazine, Roger Dean Duncan, December 4, 2014
Small business owners are full of initiative, motivation and drive (if you’re not, check in on that – you may need a re-boot, which is a different story). So why do I hear so often “I’m stuck” or “I’m not making any headway”? There are a couple of reasons I hear over and over; let me share those and give you some solutions.
- It won’t be good enough, or I don’t know how to do it well. Business owners love knowledge, so many
turn to self-help books or “expert” websites to find the answer. The catch here is that these experts don’t know your situation, what you want to accomplish, and can’t answer your specific questions – what’s really standing in your way. I have two solutions:
Don’t get tied up in knots – learn how to be effective and take the next step!
- Decide just how “good” you need to do the task. Is a “B” good enough? If so, define how much time you will spend to accomplish the task and stick to it. For short term tasks, set a timer.
- Hire the task out. There are people out there that are better at almost every business task that needs to be completed. Not only will they get it done more quickly, but they will also do it better than you can. Think: newsletters, bookkeeping, website creation and upkeep, order fulfillment. Zero in on your unique abilities and spend your time using those abilities; the rest – find someone else to do it.
If budget concerns prevent you from hiring out, determine what amount you can afford and start with that. Any step forward is better than standing still.
2. “I just can’t get myself to sit down and do it.”Small business owners are creative; ideas often run rampant through their minds. When it comes time to mundane tasks, well… there’s always tomorrow, right? Call it ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or just plain ants in your pants, repetitive, routine tasks are often downright painful for many small business owners. Chances are your need for flexibility and a varied schedule are part of why you chose to own your own business. You know they need to get done but you struggle to get them done. I’ve seen clients repeatedly postpone billing every month until it becomes a cash crisis. Here are some quick tips:
- Break these mundane tasks into small pieces.
- Identify your best “mundane task” time of day and week. Stick to that schedule; if it is ADD, you will thrive with routine (although you will go there kicking and dragging your feet, you will love it once you get there).
- You’re great at the big-picture, right? Hand off the detailed stuff to someone who loves the details. As hard as it is for you to believe, there are people out there who love it.
Look at the tasks that stay on your desk, the “To-Do’s” that you repeatedly postpone. It honestly breaks my heart to see small business owners struggle and stagnate; if you’re on the struggle bus, make a decision today to get off for good.
The idea of business systems often connotes large corporations, complicated flowcharts, and lots of money spent. For small business owners, though, simple systems can mean the difference between paperwork in the office or reading a book on the porch before dinner. Personally, I prefer time on the porch.
The other day I was chatting with a business owner about how her customers pay her, and I asked her why she had chosen to not accept credit cards. Her response was that her husband was encouraging her to grow the business bigger, but she was happy with it as it is. Funny – I hadn’t said a thing about growing the business, only about making her payment process easier. When I said, “Systems don’t necessarily mean bigger, they can just mean easier” it was like the proverbial light bulb went off for her. We chatted about implementing credit card processing to her business, and what it could change for her – namely, no more customer payment reminders (never fun) and more timely and reliable payments.
In the spirit of finding more time – whether it’s for summer fun, relaxing, or time spent on business tasks to grow your business – here are the top simple systems you can implement to add minutes, or even hours, to your day:
- Online or outsourced payroll processing;
- Credit card processing or Point of Sale (POS) applications;
- As an aside: If your employees rely on tips as part of their compensation, adding Square (www.Squareup.com) as a payment option will also boost their tips.
- Social media scheduling apps, such as Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com);
- Scheduling applications for everything from home repair to landscapers and dog walkers;
- Financial dashboard data collection, most likely in your industry specific software.
There are millions of apps out there, and chances are if you have a task that consumes more time and frustration than you want, someone else has experienced the same and has built an app for it. Adding an app or a business process does not necessarily mean that you have to grow your business; it can just mean that you will have time better spent on a more meaningful task or some extra personal time. And, it does not necessarily have to be tech related – it could be a better system for opening mail, sending out correspondence, or contacting your clients. Before that can happen, your first step is to stop and recognize your business process pain points and then to define the priority (because you will have several points you want cleaned up!).
Yep, there’s a system for that.