One of productivity’s biggest killers is our tendency to allow other people’s priorities to determine our schedules.
We become ineffective if we do not filter every opportunity or task through the lens of our personal and work priorities.
We must be ruthless about our time. It is the most precious non-human resource we have at our disposal. The way we use our time predicts our relationships, our work outcomes, and our health.
When we allow others’ opinions about what we should be doing at a particular moment, we give up our overall effectiveness.
Will we please a particular person at a particular moment? Maybe.
Will we be rewarding their bad behavior so they will continue to butt in on our days with a sense of entitlement to our immediate jumping when they request we jump? Most definitely.
It’s a Balancing Act
If you’re reading this, then you are probably in sales or marketing and you are responsible to clients, managers, and other stakeholders.
Consequently, you must balance others’ very real needs of your time and effort with your commitment to producing long-lasting results.
The question is how to do this. How do you make sure to enter info into your customer relationship management software while still taking time to prospect into new opportunities while quarterbacking a servicing need for an existing client? Two of which always seem urgent (guess which one always gets put on the back burner).
Keeping all of these priorities (because they are all things that need to get done) is a skill that can be developed through developing some key habits.
Practices to Help You Develop Time Management Ruthlessness
We are all different, so I will not be prescriptive here. As a matter of fact, I continually play with different practices and habits to help me win in this area. I struggle with people pleasing in the worst way and find I must be vigilant about my tendencies to “Yes” myself to death.
What follows are mindset shifts and tactical practices to help.
- Be Intentional: Most of us live in our inboxes. And we feel busy. Inbox triage all day long is the opposite of intentionality. Develop an intentional mindset. When you do something, ask yourself if it serves your key responsibility areas, your primary goals, and your ultimate personal priorities.
- Be Willing to Say No: You must be willing to say “No” or “Net yet” or “I’m not the best one to do that for you.” We can’t usually disregard a request completely, but we can put it in its proper place on our calendar or delegate it to the best priority.
- Be Selfish: Learn to take the first few hours of the day to plow through your main priorities and tasks. Don’t feel bad about waiting until 10am or 11am before bouncing around like a pinball according to others’ priorities. Treat your first couple hours as if you had a client meeting. And your client is yourself.
- Time-blocking: Duh. But do you do it? This fits hand in glove with being intentional. Determine the best days and times of the week for certain important but not urgent tasks. Block time for making prospecting calls. Block time for creative work. Block time for strategic planning. Treat these times as appointments and meetings. There’s nothing that someone needs from you at 9am, that they can’t wait for until 10am or 11am.
- Process Creation: Identify where your work can be broken down into processes. Codify those processes. Inform others. Creating processes does two things: (1) It helps you create a habit around a task so you don’t need to think about it every time, and (2) it gives you an easier way to say “No” or delegate or put a false-urgent into the calendar because you have a “proven process” to handle such requests.
- Email Avoidance: Many people balk at this one. Just try it. Turn off your automatic send/receive for at least 30 minutes two times a day (and expand as you can). You can still send emails or review any relevant emails for a project you are working on. Most email clients allow you to send manually without receiving messages.
How Do You Protect Your Time?
Let me know in the comments. The six items above are quite general and basic, so I’d love to hear how you specifically ward off time thieves.