I looked up at the clock and 45 minutes had already gone by, those minutes certainly were not in line with theI had put in place for myself.
Like so many other people, I had donated 45 minutes of my time to a Facebook news feed that was blowing up with a controversial story in my industry. That is almost excusable, since it pertained to my work (sort of), but I can think of countless other times in the past when it has been crazy videos, funny memes or something that in the grand scheme of things was not going to change my life.
Now don't get me wrong. There is certainly a time to let down your hair and play. Unfortunately too many entrepreneurs never get around to getting the important stuff done, because so much of their time is wasted on places like Facebook. Statistics show us they are not alone…
“There’s no need for a definition of Facebook. All there’s left to say is that there were 728 million Daily active users in September 2013 and 1.19 billion Monthly active users as of September 30, 2013. “
One of my mentors, Chuc Barnes of minutescount.com, made this observation in a recent conference I was attending.
Sneaky thieves are anything with a screen!- Chuc Barnes
We've become a society that is bombarded with information 24 hours a day 7 days a week. No longer do you have to be sitting in front of your television or computer to become distracted. Technology like tablets and smart phones have allowed us to take our distractions on the road with us. This constant barrage leads to a severe lack of focus and reduced productivity.
Today's entrepreneur finds themselves working longer hours, yet they struggle to make headway on the tasks that will keep their business profitable. A sighing “I need more hours in my day” is often their weary war cry. In all reality what is truly needed is not more hours in the day, but a strategic plan that maximizes productivity and efficiency.
The Importance of a Priority Management System
Time is the most valuable resource any man or woman is given.
When money is spent it can always be earned again; however, when a second, minute or hour is spent it is gone forever. Those moments can never be recaptured, making them the most valuable resource you have been given stewardship over. When your time is invested wisely it pays substantial dividends. By the same token, when that time is squandered it can never be reclaimed.
Highly successful entrepreneurs value their time. They understand the importance of making each moment count.
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg taken from goodreads.com
Creating a priority management system is built around the greater objectives of the vision for your business. If you are not perfectly clear on your desired outcome, you will continually struggle with managing your priorities. The more clarity you have, the more effective your system will be.
A priority management system allows you to bring the future into the present on a daily basis. Your system should be both written and simple. As you develop your plan it is critical that you remember that the “how” of the plan is less important than the “what” of the plan. The key to making your system work is the linking of your long term vision to your daily activities. Your plan will define the daily action steps that you will take, pushing you closer to your objectives.
A Priority Management System Is Not Simply a Day Planner
Many people mistakenly believe that merely keeping an appointment calendar or using a day planner is the key to priority management. There are many people who use these tools, but still fill them with activity that is not contributing to the fulfillment of the overall vision and objectives of their business.
In making daily plans it is critical to differentiate between:
- What must be done
- What is not a necessity
From there you will want to order numerically those things that must be done by priority (1, 2, 3) and then append for priority among those priority listings.
If you don't schedule your priorities, they simply won't get done. They will ultimately get put off by the time thieves in your life or the tyranny of the urgent.
If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.
– Lee Iacocca
The truth is that you won't find time for your priorities, you must make time. Achieving your goals is not a process of chance, but is instead the continual, daily process of focused action.
Developing Your Priority Management System
As you begin developing your system, it is important that you ask yourself this question:
“What is the highest and best use of my time?”
For the entrepreneur the answer may surprise you…Thinking.
Taking time to think, dream and create is the absolute best use of an entrepreneur's time, because it is from those times that new products, marketing initiatives, content and valuable insights are created. Sadly, most business owners have so crowded their schedules, that they never have time to think, dream, plan and develop strategy. They typical entrepreneur finds his or her life being dictated by the crisis of the moment. This puts them into a reactive mode instead of the proactive mode they need to be in.
Taking control of your priorities and scheduling your day accordingly puts you, the business owner, back in the driver's seat.
In my own business, I train aspiring entrepreneurs how to make extra money online using internet marketing strategies like blogging, video marketing and paid advertising. As I began to evaluate the highest and best use of my time, I realized that it is the time I spend in personal development that brings the highest value to my students, clients and customers.
Unfortunately it was the time spent in personal development and furthering my education that was being crowded out of my day all too often. In my non-stop business building activity, I was actually missing out on the one component that made the rest of my activity the most profitable.
As you consider the highest and best use of your time, identify 3 income generating activities that you need to be doing for your business. As you consider these activities look for those that are the most productive. This means you want to identify those activities that offer the greatest returns for the time invested.
Once you've identified those activities examine how leveraged those activities are. A leveraged activity will utilize either a system or the efforts of others to increase productivity and efficiency on an exponential level. If you find that those activities are not leveraged, then ask this question:
“How can I leverage my time”
Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.
– Archimedes taken from brainyquote.com
Leverage comes through the utilization of systems and the efforts of others. When you leverage your time, you are seeking to get multiple minutes of work for every minute you invest.
Here are 7 great tips for leveraging your time from lifehack.org…
“In life, we can leverage our time, and here are seven ways to do just that:
- Get it out of your head. If it’s in your head, chances are it’s taking up valuable storage space that you can be using to get things done. Every time you think of a task, to-do item, or idea, write it down. Getting it out of your head not only lets you focus energy elsewhere, rather than trying to remember things, it also helps you clear your mind so you’ll be more effective when you do try to tackle that massive list of chores.
- Organize your day. Do you go to work and just “jump in” to all the work that’s in front of you? Try this instead: organize your day into chunks of time–10-15 minutes for emails, an hour for that large project due at the end of the month, etc. Focus on knocking out the most important things on the list, earlier in the day to increase your productivity. As your day draws to a close, the easier or shorter items on the list will require less effort, allowing you to de-stress at the same time.
- Use other people’s time. One of my favorite entrepreneurial tactics is leveraging other people. This doesn’t mean using other people–no one likes that. Leveraging other people means empowering and allowing coworkers and employees, or even outsourced help, to help you with some of your routine tasks throughout the day. If you run a website, consider hiring someone to maintain the server, site, comments, and emails.
- Focus on the prize, but work in “chunks.” Don’t let the looming pressures of finishing that massive report get you down. Focus on how awesome it will be, but actively seek to “chunk” it into manageable parts that you can work on steadily. Give yourself a small reward every time you finish a chunk, and yes–give yourself a large reward when you finish the final project!
- Allow time for yourself. One of the most overlooked aspects of the American working life, leading to stressful people who are spread too thin, is giving time to yourself. Plan and write down a segment of each day that you can take 10-15 minutes (at least) to just unwind and do nothing. Don’t think, don’t check email, don’t call your friend. Just sit, relax, and let your mind recharge. You’ll come back refreshed and more able to leverage the time you have. In addition, take a breather for one day a week or every other week if possible to increase your productivity. Do some easier tasks or the “fun” parts of your work, but don’t let yourself get carried away turning Sunday afternoon into another workday.
- Use technology. Technology is an evil temptress for productivity–it can suck us in with promises of simple task management, planning, and keeping us in the loop. But we can easily get caught in the vortex of more, more, more tech. Use a simple task manager if it suits your work style, but give yourself limits on social networking sites, checking email, and even text messaging (if that’s your thing). Ironically, there are really cool apps and software packages that help increase your productivity, so be careful and mindful of how you’re leveraging their help.
- Keep learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop producing good stuff. Keep reading, trying new things, and implementing them. To leverage your ability to read, start listening to audiobooks in the car to and from work, and during workouts. Don’t let your RSS feed reader bog you down during the day, but make sure you keep tabs on your favorite blogs and news sites a few times a week, if for no other reason than inspiration.”
7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity – lifehack.org
In my business I utilize automation tools and outsourced labor to obtain maximum leverage for my time.
Automation systems I use include tools such as email auto-responders, social media scheduling tools and research software. These tools give me maximum benefit for every minute I invest in their usage.
My greatest gains in time leverage have come from the utilization of the efforts of others. For any entrepreneur, the use of outsourced labor allows for the recapture of precious time that can be used for other higher priority tasks. In my business I use outsourced labor for content creation, graphic design, website development, content syndication, managing social media profiles and other time consuming tasks.
To find good outsourced labor check the following sites:
Putting Your Priority Management System to Work
Once you've defined these variables for your priority management system, it is time to put it into place. In my business I use Google calendar. My day is scheduled by priority (here's a screenshot).
My personal development activities are scheduled into the start of my day. These include such things as prayer and Bible study, daily affirmations, personal development reading and audio and my daily workout.
The next part of my day deals with my income producing activities. These include a daily email to my marketing list, a new blog post and a new video for my video channel. These are the activities that must be done consistently to keep my business moving forward.
The afternoon is left open for research, social media, returning emails and phone calls or other “urgency” type issues that may have arisen… the things that used to crowd out the most important activities in my business.
Most of the principles of creating a priority management system that I have learned have come from my involvement with my online business. Through this business I have learned how to build a business while still having a life. Click the button to learn more.