Time management: do you know the ten commandments?

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Few management strategies or self-improvement concepts stand the test of time. The original Ten Commandments is an enduring set of easy to understand life rules. Suppose there was another set of Ten Commandments focusing on time management. Bryce Sanders tell us more.

I  I am thy primary project. Thou shalt work on no other projects before me.

Interpretation: For several years management theory praised multitasking. It often leads to having several incomplete projects instead of a prioritized list delivered on time. 

Action Step: Prioritise projects. Break each into smaller segments. Assign realistic time estimates. Buy a kitchen timer. Assign a time period, set the timer and work exclusively on that project.  Repeat.

II Thou shalt not underestimate the time it takes to get a project done. 

Interpretation: Ambitious people are often optimists, building lists for each day. The list never gets completed because we wildly underestimate time requirements. Today’s unfinished list rolls into tomorrows. Little progress is made.

Action Step: Rank projects by importance and due dates. Structure your calendar, including projects due by day’s end week’s end. The workload is more manageable.

III Remember to ring the cash register. 

Interpretation: It’s easy to lose sight of the goal when faced with multiple projects, new initiatives, fire drills and emergency meetings. At year end you are measured on certain metrics. These determine your bonus, promotion prospects or continued employment.

Action Step: When evaluating a request or new project, consider it within the context of the criteria used in your performance evaluation. Does this project support one of these metrics? Does it drive revenue? Always be a team player, but remember to focus on what you are paid to accomplish.

IV Honor thy lunch hour and thy weekend

Interpretation: Dying people don’t say: 'I wish I spent more time at the office.' People consider working through lunch and weekends a sign of dedication. They are shortchanging themselves and their firm. Your body needs downtime.

Action Step: Get out of the office at lunchtime. If your business sells to the public, have lunch in a café or pub. Talk with people. Become a regular. You will learn how consumers think. On weekends spend time gardening or bicycling. Your brain gets spectacular flashes of insight when disconnected from work.

V Thou shalt not kill time

Interpretation: Clients and colleagues are often late for meetings. You have no idea of the extent of the delay. This segment of time is a gift. Once gone it can never be reclaimed. 

Action Step: Keep a list of projects that can be accomplished in small amounts of time. Compose letters or respond to e-mails. Clean out your e-mail inbox. You feel virtuous.

VI Thou shalt not think it’s easier if I do it myself 

Interpretation: Often we feel it’s easier do a project instead of showing another person how to do it. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” (Various attributions) Delegating projects frees up your time. You are not paid to do routine tasks if others can share the burden.

Action Step: Build a list of a typical day’s projects. Could someone else do this project? Must this project be done by you and only you? Why? Licensing or legal issues? Expertise? Delegate as much as possible. Focus on where you must be involved.

VII Thou shalt not let others steal your time 

Interpretation: Our assistants are far better at time management than managers themselves. They enter your office and announce 'This form must be completed in the next 15 minutes.' If you work with clients: 'Mrs. X is on the phone. She will only talk with you.' They succeeded in clearing projects off their desk by dropping them on yours.

Action Step: Suppose you were out sick with laryngitis. How would that form get completed? How would Mrs. X’s issue be addressed? These immediate problems would wait until tomorrow.  Explain you are working behind closed doors and don’t want to be disturbed for 30 minutes. Setup in the conference room to avoid ringing phones and other distractions. 

VIII Thou shalt not lose concentration

Interpretation: When it comes to losing focus, the Internet is the major culprit. When we want to avoid something, the Internet and social media provide plenty of opportunities to waste time.  

Action Step: If you have unpleasant calls to make, plan to get them done first thing in the morning. You are fresh. Now they are out of the way. If your job involves generating revenue, get those calls done before lunchtime. Prioritise your most important tasks for the morning.

IX Thou shalt not covet thy colleague’s secretary, personal assistant, support staff, office, cubicle or even stapler.

Interpretation: It’s easy to conclude another colleague’s success is due to their better level of staff support or prestige in the office. Envy consumes you. This negative trait hurts your career.  The time it consumes is lost forever.

Action Step: If you compete with others, change the rules. Compete with yourself. Enter your office, eliminate distractions and focus on opening new accounts or getting greater wallet share from current clients. Don’t concern yourself with how well or badly others are doing.

X Thou shalt not forget to build the case why I should be promoted

Interpretation: Companies reorganise. Managers get promoted. Out of crisis comes opportunity. You have at least one performance review annually. Why do you deserve more money, stock options or a better job? Can you demonstrate how you met and exceeded your goals?

Action Step: When asked to work on projects, keep notes. Keep 'thank you' emails received from those managers or send a note to them to generate one in return. Quantify your goals. Senior management likes target vs. actual result reporting. Did your actions drive revenue or contributed to a project’s success? Toot your horn at the appropriate time.

We get comfortable with routines.  Focusing on time management benefits everyone.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides High Net Worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book: “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” is available on Amazon. 

About Bryce Sanders

About Bryce Sanders

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides High Net Worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry.

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