How to Make the Most of Your Time

We all would like to accomplish more in the time that we have. If you have taken a time management course, you probably are aware of many of the techniques that I list below. This list is a reminder of what you should be doing. If you put these reminders into practice, you should achieve more, worry less and have more time to spend enjoying your life.

Evaluate How You Use Your Time. Do you really think that you are making the best use of your time? There is only one way to know. Record how you spend your time for a day or two. Then decide how you could have used your time better.

Identify those activities which waste your time. For many of us, some of the biggest wastes of time include TV and the internet. By reducing the time you waste on non-productive activities, you will have more time to concentrate on those activities that will make the biggest contribution to achieving your most important goals.

Planning More Efficient Meetings. Meetings can easily get out of control resulting in a big waste of time. If you are the one organizing the meeting, here are a couple of ideas to make better use of the time in them:

  • Establish a beginning time and an ending time for the meeting.
  • Outline a specific agenda.
  • Limit the amount of time for each agenda item.
  • Stick to the schedule.
  • Conclude by reviewing any decisions arrived at during the meeting.

Prepare a “To Do List” Daily. When I worked as a construction manager, I ended each day writing my list for the next day. What often happens in list making, is that your list often requires more time than you have. That’s why you need to prioritize your list. At the top of your list should be those activities that you absolutely, positively must get done. Sometimes these are the most difficult tasks that you would like to put off until later. Instead, these are the activities that you need to work on first. Writing a “To Do List” also helps prevent urgent or important tasks from slipping through the cracks.

In the grand scheme of things, what is most urgent in your day may not  be what is the most important for your business long term. The really important activities on your Things To Do List are those that align with your primary business goals.

In prioritizing your list you should also identify those tasks that are not that important to your business now and probably will not be significant in the future. In all likelihood these are the tasks that you will not have time to do anyway. If the tasks are not urgent and not important, you should either put them on the back burner for another day or eliminate them all together. Devoting your resources to insignificant assignments, wastes time. What’s worse, is can  sap your energy and distract you from the important and urgent activities.

Instead, focus on those important projects that are essential to growing your business. These key activities will usually demand concentration, time and planning. In fact, these activities are often so involved that they require that you set aside a significant part of your day in which you can close your door and focus on the task without any interruptions or distractions. Your phone is likely one of your biggest distractions. For that reason, when you need to concentrate on an important project, hide your phone.

For these complex projects, an effective practice is to divide them into several, more manageable parts, each with a separate deadline. By doing this, a major project will seem less overwhelming. As the saying goes, how did the ant eat the elephant? One bite at a time.

Plan Your Phone Calls. Sports Agent Mark McCormack, who founded International Management Group (IMG), said that he tried never to spend more than five minutes on any phone call. That’s easier said than done. We all know how phone calls can get out of hand. To make the most use of your time on the phone, plan your calls in advance. Do this by outlining those points that you want to cover in the conversation.

Another way to be more efficient on the phone is to make a list of all of the calls that you must make and then make them one after another in one block of time.

Delegate. There are some tasks that only you can do. But there are many more that you can delegate. As you review your Things to Do List, decide which tasks that your employees can do. When you delegate a task, explain to your subordinate what needs to be done, how you want it done and when it needs to be done.

By delegating activities you will not only free up your time for what is most important, you will also gradually train your employees at the same time. Little by little as they learn more about the business, they will become more valuable and gain more confidence. Eventually, by delegating more and more responsibility they will require less direction.

Use a Calendar. Use a calendar, such as Outlook or Google Calendar, to plan your activities and keep you on schedule. Also use the calendar to mark deadlines for projects.

Be Punctual. Famed basketball coach John Wooden had three rules for his players. One was “Never be late.” It is important that we not only make the best use of the time that God had has given us during our brief stay on earth, but that we respect the time of others. Early in my career as a salesperson, a manager impressed upon me that my prospects would judge me on several factors which included appearance, professional communication skills and punctuality. These factors will also make an impression on your employees.

Learn to Say “No”.  “Yes” is so much easier to say than “No”. As a result, too often we commit to doing things that distract us from focusing on and achieving those objectives which can make a significant difference in our businesses and our lives. There is a polite way to say no. Repeat after me: “I would love to help you, but I just don’t have the time right now.”