Nine Radical Time Management Secrets

Time management

One of the things I’m proud of, is the ability to get a lot done.  There is a science and an art to being highly productive, and one of the key secrets is having good time management.  If you don’t have good time management, you won’t get much done, it’s that simple.

Today I’ll share 9 time management secrets with you, which I guarantee if you follow, you’ll get tons more done than you do now.  So harken on to me and implement!  Ready?  Here goes:

1) Realise time is THE most important asset you have:

People think money is the most important asset a person can have – wrongo! It’s time.  If someone stole BD 100 (about USD 375) from you, it’s annoying, but you might gain it back the next day.  In fact, you might gain double or triple that – or even ten times the amount later.  But what if someone steals (wastes) an hour of your time, can they ever give it back to you?  Nope.  Once time is taken it can never be regained.  We all have the same 24 hours in the day, day in, day out.

So the first thing you have to do to have good time management is to treat time with utmost respect.  Look at it as your most valuable asset, and make sure to spend it wisely.  In my not-so-humble opinion, one of the reasons most people don’t reach their goals is because they have the wrong attitude about time, and don’t give their own time the respect it deserves.  By the way, make sure to view other people’s time the same way.  I try to never waste anyone’s time because I hate it when someone wastes mine, which is one of the reasons I’m virtually never late to meetings.  I don’t like waiting for others and make sure others don’t wait for me.

2) Be disciplined:

Once you have the right attitude about time, and realise what a scarce resource it is, start getting your act together.  Work on being more disciplined, just like working out makes your muscles better, working on being more disciplined, helps you achieve more and be more productive.  So if you plan to wake up at 6:00 am for example, then wake up at 6:00 am!  If you say you’ll be somewhere at a certain time then be there at the time you say you’ll be.  If this is new for you then start practicing, you can do it if you set your mind to it.

And by the way, if you really want to be a high achiever, the earlier you wake up the better.  I wrote about this about a year ago.  Here’s what I said in the blog post:

[…] wake up early.  In one of his books Donald Trump mentions that he wakes up at 4:00 am.  He expresses surprise that it takes his competitors so long to wake up.  He also says that this is one of his secrets to success.  In his book Automatic Wealth: The Six Steps to Financial Independence, entrepreneur and author  Michael Masterson has a heading entitled “The Early Bird Catches The Golden Worm”.  He says “getting to work early is such a common virtue of successful people that I’m tempted to call it the single most important thing you can do to change your life.”  I couldn’t agree with him more.  For example, today I woke up at 4:00 am.  I got so much done by the time I came to writing this post.  I don’t necessarily recommend that you get up at 4:00, but you might consider getting up earlier than when you are right now, it’ll really boosts your productivity.

3) Do a time-usage audit on yourself:

Sit down without distraction (turn off the phone, no IM, FB, Twitter etc) and write down how you spend your day.  You’ll probably find lots of gaps there that can be closed.  See where you’re not utilising your time well and make changes.  You might be surprised how unproductive you are.

4) Time chunking:

One of the best time-management concepts I’ve ever encountered.  I talked about this in the aforementioned post.  Here’s what I said about it:

This is a method where you dedicate a chunk of your time to one task only. This is a big secret to productivity.  Multi-tasking is really overrated.  It might sound and look impressive, but you won’t get much results.  Whenever I’m working on something I dedicate anything from an hour to three or four hours to just that one thing.  I don’t check my email, make (or receive) calls, instant message, Facebook (that’s a verb now, right?) or anything else.  I work straight through.  You get so much more work done when you’re focused.  I don’t remember the exact time, but I think it takes 20 minutes for the brain to re-focus on a task once it’s been interrupted.  Think of all the interruptions you have during your work day.  I hardly have any, and I own several businesses, have 20+ people working for me and have three kids!

If you implement nothing but the time-chunking concept, you’ll have gained a lot.  Trust me on this.  When I read, I only read.  When I write, I only write, and so on.

5) Ween yourself off the technology:

If you’re under 30, I guess you don’t know what it’s like not to be connected all the time (am I stereotyping here?) But if you want to get things done, you have to work on the Facebook, Twitter et al addiction.  I now have friends whom I cannot have a normal conversation with.  They’re constantly connected and look away mid-sentence while I’m talking, nodding and looking at their BlackBerries, iPhone’s  or what have you.  It’s positively rude.  Behaviour that would not have been acceptable 10 years ago, or even 3 years ago.  So, if you’re into social media (as I am) then determine not to check it all the time, check it just once an hour – or even better just a few times a day.  Do you think you can handle that?  Try it and see your time management and productivity sore.

Do the same for email, I check my email only a few times a day, and if I’m not checking, Entourage (Mac’s Outlook equivalent) will only check for email once every 8 hours.  And when I do get an email, I’ll decide when to answer it, which is almost never right away.  I usually check my email first thing in the morning, and then start work, and when I have a break I’ll answer the emails that require an answer fairly soon.  Otherwise, I might not answer an email for a day or two.  I’m not being rude, but remember what I said about the attitude towards time?  If I have more pressing matters I’ll let them have my attention (time), then I’ll answer an email when I get to it.

Further, I don’t have email on my smart phone (I know, kinda beats the purpose of having a smart phone, but who wants to have a dumb phone these days?)  Do you really (really) need to be reachable by email 24/7?  Some friends tell me that their management insists that they have mobile email.  Give me a break!  Surely you can resist this request, especially if you’re a high achiever (if you’re not, you will be soon once you implement these principles).  If they need to contact you, they can CALL you for God’s sake.  If you’re an entrepreneur and you control your own destiny, then don’t fall into the idiotic trap of thinking you have to be reachable all the time.  Who are you? Ghengis Khan?  The Queen of England?  Trust me, you’re not important enough to be reachable 24/7.  Don’t be, and get rid of the mobile email.  It will distract you.

When it comes to actual calls, if I’m in the middle of something, I rarely pick up the phone, just because it was convenient for the caller to contact me at that time, doesn’t mean it is convenient for me.  I’ve often seen people stare at me in disbelief when I don’t jump to answer the phone.  They think that’s really odd.  No my friend, what is odd is to be a slave to modern technology and to not have enough self-discipline and respect for time to not answer the phone.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate ditching people, I almost always call back, but only when it suits me.  And please don’t think I’m being rude, whenever I call someone, the first thing I ask is if they’re busy, and if they are, I apologise and call then back later.  I make sure to give their time the respect I give my own.

6) Ditch the time vampires:

I love the term “time vampire”, which I read in the book No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, by Dan Kennedy.  I don’t have the book with me now, so I can’t quote it, but the basic premise is to get rid of the people in your life that suck up your time, or suck the life out of your time.  Let me give you an example, several years ago in Zen-Do I had a part-time instructor working for me.  Nice enough guy.  Every afternoon when he came in he’d come into my office and say hello.  We’d probably have a 10 minute chat.  Five times a week that comes to about 50 minutes.  Now don’t get me wrong, this guy was not a time vampire per se, but he did take 10 minutes of my time per day on small, idle chit-chat – not counting the time it took to gather my thoughts again after he left.  So we’re really talking about maybe an hour and a half worth of time per week.  That makes 6.45 hours a month, and assuming 48 weeks a year, that’s 312 hours of lost productivity.  Time lost that will never come back.  The equivalent of  13 days.  13 days a year lost due to idle chit-chat.

Now multiply that number by all the people who waste your time like that.  Are you beginning to see how powerful this is?  Once I started reading about and studying time-management more seriously, I stopped the daily chit-chat.  I called my Team into my office, and politely explained that I was very busy and trying to get a lot done and that I wanted to minimise distractions.  I told them that when my door is closed, to please not disturb me at all.  And whenever the door is open, they could come in.

They were fine with it and no one was offended.  And let me tell you, it worked wonders for me.  My productivity sky-rocketed just by implementing this step.  On days when I was not so busy, I’d keep the door open and the Team could come in if they needed anything.  The important thing to do if you have people working for you is to make sure to explain what you are doing, and more importantly why.  I heard of a manager who had a small traffic light at his office entrance.  When the light was red, it meant that he should not be disturbed, and when it was green, if was okay to enter.  How cool is that?

But there are much more dangerous time vampires out there, the really emotionally draining and energy sucking types.  Ask yourself, do you really need them in your life.  Or at the very least, can you minimise the time interacted with them.  It’s okay to fire people from your life you know. (On a slightly related topic, see my controversial “spiritual insects” blog post here.)

If you work in the corporate world, and you’re not in charge, don’t despair, you can still implement some of these concepts.  Best-selling author Tim Ferris used to put on head phones pretending to listen to music so that people would leave him alone.  There’s nothing wrong with telling the colleague that likes to chat a lot that you’re busy and need to get things done, after doing that once or twice they’ll get the hint.  Don’t worry about offending anyone, if they really care about you then they should respect your time, and respect the way you want to use it.

7) Lump activities together:

Don’t rush out of the house/office whenever you need something.  Leave one day a week, that you do your errands and shopping on.  On that day buy the things you need, go to the post office, drop off your dry-cleaning etc.  Don’t waste valuable time doing them on separate days of the week.

8 ) Prioritise:

Make sure you’re only working on high-value activities.  If there’s a lot on your list of things to do, go through them carefully and decide which ones are the most important.  Give them letters A, B and C.  Do the A’s first, then B’s, and delegate the C’s or don’t do them at all.  Or leave them when you really have spare time.  If you’ve not read it yet, read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits.  Habit Number 3 (Put First Thing’s First) is great when it comes to prioritising.  (You can see a video review of the book I did here, and you can hear a radio interview here.  Learning how to prioritise your activities is FUNDAMENTAL when it comes to proper time management.)

9) Use technology that helps:

There are a lot of good tools out there that help with your time management.  I like OmniFocus for Mac.  There are also several Getting Things Done (GTD) tools out there, but I’ve not tried any personally, but the GTD concept seems to be quite famous.

Well, that’s all I can think of for now.  I’ll add some more if more occurs to me.  Now go ahead and do a “time-usage” audit and stop wasting my time 🙂

Talk to you soon.

7 Responses to Nine Radical Time Management Secrets

  1. Osman Safdar 13 August 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    I really needed this, especially the advice about time-chunking…. thanks!

  2. Salman 20 August 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    a very nice advise about TIME VAMPIRES.I really need to get rid of them in a polite manner!

  3. Adel AlSomali - KSA 22 August 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Suhail ,

    Thank you very much for the tips. They were really helpful & great. Please keep up posting such stuff as i’m enjoying it and learning. Btw, i used to run to my car right after finishing work to catch your show with Krazy Kevin, so plz get back to your listeners 🙂

    All the best

    • Suhail 22 August 2010 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks guy. The show will re-start in September inshallah after Eid. Thank you for listening!

  4. Naif Alwably 6 September 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    I done the “time-usage audit” and the result was disappointed 🙁

    I think it al comes dow to “self disciplined”

    Thanks Suhail.

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