The mystic art of Time Management

Take charge of your time, or it will take charge of you

I get asked all the time: ‘How do you find time to blog?’ Or ‘Running a radio station, two kids, blogging and everything else, how do you manage to play golf every week?’ The answer is simple for me – I want to do it, so I do it. Time management has never been a mystery as far as I can see. It’s just about motivations. You either want to do something, in which case you do it, or you don’t want to, in which case you don’t do it. Simple.

Everything else is about making excuses.

There are always choices

It amazes me, all the people I talk to that can’t find the time to do the things they feel are required in some way to make them (more) successful. But probe a little more deeply and they all have ‘something’ they do that they ‘make’ time for. Time management is as simple as that I think. Making time for something, and being honest about it.

As a manager, my job is essentially to ‘make’ time for things. To assess the importance of the communication or task that’s presenting itself to me, and act accordingly. I’ve always been a devotee of the ‘deal with it, delegate it, dump it‘ school of thought. I either do it right then, ask someone else to help, or bin it completely. Every choice is weighed based on the specific set of circumstances at play.

A client meeting v. a sales persons request for some support? It’s a big client, they spend big bucks, but maybe the sales person is responsible for lots of overall billings? Maybe their continued well-being will have a greater impact that the client in isolation might ever have. Solution? I’ll deal with the sales exec and delegate the client management of to a colleague. Or vice versa, depending on the factors at play.

Red circle / Orange circle

Another thought is to count everything that is client facing as ‘Orange circle’ time and then EVERYTHING else as ‘Red circle’ time (no reason why its Orange or Red that I’m aware of). And then your utmost focus is to spend as much time as you can in the Orange circle, rather than being distracted into the Red circle. I like this way of thinking as its OK to think of non-essential tasks as being important, like your paperwork / admin, but it requires you to be firm, and minimise your effort on Red circle activities.

And that’s the thing, being firm. Realising that this stuff is about making a choice. You make a choice to be distracted every time you get distracted, and you need to be honest with yourself that the fact is, you are happy that it happened. Or at least happy enough to be willing to allow it to happen.

‘I was going to ring the client, but I needed to check on the status of the brief first’.

‘Yeah, its in the diary to do Thursday, just need to get my ducks in order first’

‘Its on the list, I’ll do my utmost to get to it’

Please. Be honest. What you are really saying here is that there is something you’d rather do instead. At least at that time. Something that in the super fast, micro negotiation you do with yourself every time you are faced with these choices, is some how more appealing. Maybe it’s not as scary, or boring, or in some other way less onerous. Maybe it involves dealing with someone you like, rather than some one you can’t bear. Maybe its something you can do verses something that challenges you and takes you out of the comfort zone.

I like the way things are

Sometimes its just about the status quo. It’s a law of thermodynamics that every system seeks its own equilibrium. A stable situation where everything is at its correct level and co existing happily with everything else. Everything is ‘just so’. Once found, its difficult to create a change – change requires a catalyst, an outside agency, something to spark the reaction. Without the catalyst the ‘system’ sucks you into equilibrium, a state where it’s so hard to make any changes.

That catalyst needs to be you, making the choice. Taking control, and having responsibility for yourself. And having the honesty to accept that the other state of affairs, if it is indeed the case, is your prefered state of affairs. If that’s true, why would you condone any action that leaves you in it?

Need time to blog? Find it. Want to see more clients? Do it. Need time in the evening to train at the gym? Make it. You’d be able to find the time to watch TV, go for a nice meal, or make a special shopping trip – it’s the same thing.

Otherwise don’t find the time. And stop complaining about it.

Other tips:

 If it’s not in the diary, it doesn’t happen. And keep your diary with you at all times (easy to do these days) and put everything in there.

Diarise lunch, if you need to have it. Diarise relaxation time, gym time, reading time, even ‘flex’ time, where you schedule time to account for overspill!

Stick to the time allocated – if it needs more time, diarise it. You’ll soon tie things up quicker, if all you ever do is diarise more time for meetings you’ve just had.

An oldie, but a goody – have meetings standing up – it really works, as long as everyone buys into why you are doing it.

Don’t waste time – it’s the most precious commodity you have in some senses, treat it like that.

Don’t allow others to ‘steal’ your time. A firm, assertive, not aggressive, ‘lets schedule some time together’ will solve that little issue – Or just get them to send you an email. They may have time to waste, but you don’t.

You’d be amazed at how much you’ll be able to accomplish once you have control of this stuff. Any other ideas? Leave your tips in the comments below and share with the gang.

  1. Mike Bersin
    Mike Bersin says:

    (And the committee work too Tony) Weirdly: the average Brit is the most time-poor worker in the world. The average Brit watches 3 hours of telly a day. Which? I used to think Time Management was about managing your time, it’s actually about stopping yourself wasting it on unimportant things. Love it, Tony.

  2. Charley
    Charley says:

    I read a book once that suggested absolutely everything that you do (or don’t do) comes down to two choices; essentially “yes” or “no”. This even stretches to your coping strategy for how you’re treated by others:

    A colleague/friend abuses your good nature, do you stand for it, or stop allowing them to do so?

    A relationship is strained because of your partner’s attitude, do you allow the situation to continue, or take the bull by the horns and cofront them?

    It’s applicable to everything. Pretty much everything can be boiled down to two options and the only person who has control over them is you.

    This blog reminded me a lot of that book. I liked it 🙂

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Tim, I think that this topic simply boils down to this issue. In my experience, when we want to do something, we do it, and vice versa! As a friend of mine, Soren on Twitter said, it’s about focus and motivation

      • Tim Mushey
        Tim Mushey says:

        Focus and motivation are key Tony. We can talk about doing things forever and never do them. The people who succeed in life certainly have the ability to “suck it up” and take action! Thanks again..

        • Tony Dowling
          Tony Dowling says:

          Another good point Tim, I’ve always thought the ability to ‘get through’ is what defines us – anyone can succeed, its how you fail that counts

  3. mrsmoti
    mrsmoti says:

    Fine common sense again Tony.

    Being a bit of hippy, I think you can stretch time by what you want to put your energy into. Sometimes we don’t accomplish something because just the prospect of doing it makes us feel knackered. In which case, rather than worrying about it – it’s better to redirect our energy into doing stuff we love…

    In other words, we cure stress by doing more – and this blog is an amazing example of how doing more of what you love builds mastery,very quickly.

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Pippa, great to have you back! I agree, you’re certainly a bit of a hippy! I also agree with your time stretch idea, and I love the fact this blog and ‘mastery’ are appearing in the same sentence! Thanks as always