8760 – That’s how many hours we each get during a year. 24 hours every day for 365 days. And yet, despite the fact that we each get the same amount of time, some people accomplish far more than others. Why is that?
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll know that I believe it is because we have lost focus on the “Forgotten Foundation” of time management. Too many of us fail to set goals and plan the path we are going to take to reach those goals. As a result, we end up wandering aimlessly through each day; wasting time instead of making use of each minute.
I have identified 7 common practices that too many of us fall into that waste huge chunks of our time and kill any momentum we may have towards reaching our goals. Many of these will surprise you. As a general theme, what I have observed is too many people taking good, solid practices and turning them into near obsessions. More is not always better, as we can see here:
1. Over planning
During WWII, Winston Churchill once said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”. We have adopted this sentence and other derived from it as strong business advise ever since. It is absolutely true but, like almost every other good advice, can be taken to extremes. I have seen too many otherwise competent business men and women get bogged down in the planning stage because they want to plan everything to the minutest detail. Your plans should be broad strokes. Think of bullet points or an outline, not a manuscript. This leaves you with more room to be flexible and adapt to changes along the way.
2. Seeking Perfection
If you look at everything in minute detail and then delay projects because things are just not good enough, you’ll never finish anything. Things will never be 100% perfect. Don’t aim for perfection; you’ll never attain it. Waiting for business conditions or your personnel or whatever else is holding you back to be ideal will just leave you waiting because your ideal conditions will never appear. Good enough is good enough.
3. Worrying About the Competition
I know business people who are so concerned with what their competition is doing that they spend all the time watching the competitors and have lost sight of what is happening in their own companies. By devoting so much time on your competition you are, in essence, playing not to lose rather than playing to win. Devote your time and energy on how you and your company can be better and soon you will find that the competition is spending their time keeping an eye on you.
I have found and, unfortunately, occasionally still find myself stuck in useless meetings for hours at a time. Yes, collaboration between managers and receiving input from various members of your team can be critical but I see a growing tendency to include too many people in endless streams of meetings to reach decisions. Also, the practice of having an agenda and following that agenda seems to becoming a lost art. Plan your meetings for a specific purpose, stick to an agenda and allotted time schedule and include only those critical to that decision to avoid wasting too much time in unnecessary meetings.
5. Waiting for Other People
There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for people. When you make an appointment, that is the time you are meant to meet, not the time you leave your desk or run out the door. Over my career, I’ve wasted numerous hours waiting on people. Now, if someone is running late and hasn’t called me with an update, I wait 10 minutes before moving on to something more productive. If people are too rude to not turn up on time, show some self-respect and don’t hang around wasting even more time. Make sure you show up on time and not make others wait and make sure people you have contact with understand that you expect the same.
6. Getting Lost in Social Media
I can almost hear my friends in Social Media Marketing sucking in their breath as the read this. I expect I’ll get a few calls or messages from a few of them on this topic. Social media and its proper use is one of the hot topics of the day. Let me begin by saying that any business that does not have a presence on the Internet and in Social Media is missing out on an important tool for reaching and maintaining contact with your customer base.
That being said, Social Media is quicksand. It can suck you in and, before you know it, a major portion of your day has disappeared. It is easy to get caught up in conversation threads and posts that have little or nothing to do with the success of your business. Successfully utilizing social media takes discipline – you must allot specific times for updating and stick to that schedule.
7. Watching Stats
Here’s another one that may get a reaction from many of my peers. Don’t get me wrong, using data and statistics to monitor the health of your business is critical. Watching for changes and trends is an important activity for every business owner to optimize his or her operation. The problem comes when you become bogged down in looking at numbers. It is easy to become mesmerized by all the data available.
Decide what numbers have meaning for your business and how often they need to be checked to spot any trends. Allocate time in your schedule for these activities and stick to it. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and lose track of how much time you spend looking at them.
Keep a diary for 1 week to track how much time you are spending on these activities. Review and schedule how much time should be designated for each. I think you will be surprised by how much time you can save.