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Busy professionals can be constantly time challenged.  The question is …are they being efficient or effective?

Efficient means that you are doing the job right. Effective means that are you doing the right job.

I often find that a huge amount of professional time is wasted by our focusing on the wrong things. Working with many of my clients they consistently raise the issue of ‘time management’ being a problem.

My mentor and friend, the great Dr. Denis Waitley once said that ‘Time management is a fallacy – you can’t manage time. One cannot make an hour longer than it is or bring yesterday back’.

He said that it is our focus that we should manage and not our time. Manage your focus and time moves with you.

Would it not be fair to say that as professional advisers and consultants (where time and expertise are often our only resources) we too often get absorbed into the business and lose our sense of what also matters in life?

As a result we may find ourselves wishing there were 24 hours in the working day. We may find that we are re-acting and fire-fighting rather than being pro-active and in control. Not enough time for the important things like self and family.

If you’d like to get more power over your personal organisation and make more time to sell or spend time doing the important things in life then here are a few ideas on how to get back on top on your time:

 – Schedule “Virtual” Meetings.

Ask yourself this question…who is your most important client?

If they wanted to meet with you, right now – you’d meet them, wouldn’t you? You’d drop everything to be there for them wouldn’t you?

But how about reflecting on the fact that YOU are your most important client?

How about planning a regular weekly ‘client’ meeting with yourself – your “virtual self” – sitting opposite you at the table and wanting to know where things are and what you need to do to get the most out of things?

Create a time in the diary every week when you have that meeting.  Create a written agenda for what you want to “discuss.” And this is one meeting that NEVER gets de-prioritised or re-scheduled.

Every one of us can benefit from the ability to create some enforced reflective space.  But unless we diary it and treat it like an important client meeting, it never happens.

Without investing in ourselves, pretty soon we run out of the energy to invest in others – and in our business, that’s crucial.

– Delegate!

Every senior professional or business owner should be able to delegate, but few know how to manage it. So here are some suggestions;

First, make a list of what exactly you can delegate.  Think about what each hour of “routine stuff” that you can hand to someone else can earn you if you are working on the “money stuff.”

Second, make a list of the talents of your team members, associates, colleague or sales support.

What are their strengths? What are their career goals? How can you help them grow – provide a reward – by allocating a relevant project or task to them?  Let them show you what they can do for you.

Third, involve them in the solution of how best to handle the matter.

Discuss with them what exactly you want and invite their views on how they can make it happen. It doesn’t always have to be your way. That which we co-create, we own. The more they shape how they will handle it, the more likely they are to take ownership and responsibility for it.

Lastly, agree to check back with them at regular intervals, and then let them get on with it.

– Make Personal Time. Why do you do what you do? Taking time out for you is the best way to re-charge, and it is something we all fail to do.

Years from now it won’t be the late nights at the office that we will fondly remember, but the moments and memories with family and friends that forge the life we want to reflect fondly on.  Family and friends may respect what we do, but it’s us they love and want with them, not our work.

Surveys have shown that the most successful of business people routinely plan the vacations they intend to take at the start of each year.

Knowing they are taking regular breaks helps them to stay motivated for a specific, intense period of time.  Then they go get rested – and come back with even greater energy.

Even weekly personal time can be beneficial…..all it takes is a decision.

Try this experiment. Head home, two days a week, every week, for the next three weeks at 5pm – no later.  Start as early as you like, but lead the traffic home two days a week and plan something with family and friends.

– Manage Your Focus and Your Professional Boundaries.

It’s tempting to chase all the business there is, to go from contract to contract, deal to deal – especially if you’re focused on the money matters. It’s tempting to say ‘we can do it’ to every request that comes from clients or even colleagues.

The problem is that we quickly find that we are being very busy but not every effective. Then we blame time management as the problem.

The real challenge is managing our focus – what we really should be doing and why we really should be doing it. It’s a bit like business meetings. How many business meetings do you attend that really are a waste of time.

Try this filter for the future:

Must Do – Nice to Do – Deferrable/Delegate-able and see how you win back more time for the important things.

Learn to push back by saying ‘No’ elegantly. Say ‘No for Now’ – do not accept things simply because they are out in front of you. Push back a little.

Ask does this need to be done now? OR

‘I am busy right now but I could get to it tomorrow would that be OK?’ OR

‘X is the real expert in this area you really should reach out to them…’

Just because people ask doesn’t mean we always have to take something on board.

Remember while our work is important – both to ourselves and our clients – we work to live, not live to work.

Take just some of these 4 steps and watch your energy rise, and realise something …your business and professional productivity increases when you take adequate personal time to recharge…and you take back control.