Once you get past the college-years, one of the biggest things that “changes” is that for some reason time actually becomes a finite resource. Every year after that, it gets more and more scarce, and consequently more valuable. Once you get in your 40’s, it actually starts to get scary how fast time flies by.
Somewhere along the way (the earlier the better), it’s a good idea to learn some time management skills, techniques, and habits. The earlier you start with it, the earlier you’ll reap the benefits. And you’ll get better at it the longer you practice your time management skills and you’ll be able to use it in so many areas of your life.
Remember, as a business owner, you want to be spending your time wisely and productively. Spending a little bit of time each day organizing your thoughts and prioritizing where you spend the rest of your time is an extremely keen investment. So how does one learn to use their time efficiently?
Getting Things Done
That’s what it’s all about, right? Getting things done. It’s also the appropriately titled book by David Allen which is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to start when it comes to time management. There are tons of other books out there on the subject, and I’ve read several. But I can honestly say that for almost anybody getting started with time management, this is the only book you need. And for those who have different degrees of exposure to time management principles, this will be a concise refresher and you’ll probably pick up something new along the way.
As a side note, I confess to having 3 physical copies of the book as well as the audiobook of this. (A hard copy for me & one for my wife, plus one that we got because she had misplaced her original copy at one point). I also noticed there are half a dozen summaries of the book available on Amazon, which is crazy since the book is a quick-reading 259 pages (with lots of diagrams and wide spacing to make it flow quickly). I find that I’ll refresh my memory by re-reading GTD ever 2 years or so. I always find something new in it that didn’t stick out previously
The book is broken into 3 key parts:
The Art of Getting Things Done (which covers mastering workflow and project planning)
Practicing Stress-Free Productivity (which covers putting the stuff from part one into functional practice)
The Power of the Key Principles (which cover 3 key principles: The Collection Habit, The Next-Action, and Outcome Focusing)
There’s no way I’m going to summarize the book here as that would provide quite a disservice to my readers. Every small business owner is going to take away different things from GTD that will help them become more productive.
For me, much of it is distilled into the key principles that Allen discusses in the 3rd part of the book.
The Collection Habit
Essentially this means you want to create a system that you can unload your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, to-do items, and projects. Usually this is going to take the form of several lists that you use to get it all written down before you either forget about it (consciously) or forget to do it. It also multiplies your brain power because the lists can be quite detailed and large. That’s how life and business are. But the brain has a tendency to get bogged down or overwhelmed by all those little things floating around in there. Putting it down on paper allows you to tackle lists one item at a time.
What’s The Next Action?
Once you get all those to-do’s and ideas out of the randomness of your brain, you can make a decision on what’s the very next action you should take. This may be a baby step in light of the whole project. But these are the things that move you towards the completion of a project or goal. My wife often gets bogged down with the colossal size of projects we come up with. When she looks at the whole thing, she ends up DOING nothing. It just seems to big to accomplish. But when you refocus on “What’s the Next Action?” usually, it’s just a single thing. You don’t have to finish the project in one sitting. Or even a day. But it will never finish without completing the next action.
Think of it like this: My project is to create a coffee table. The steps are to: design the coffee table, making plans for it. Figure out how much wood it will take to build it. Figure out what other items may be necessary. Buy the wood. Buy the tools or hardware. Then I’ll make one piece of the table at a time. Then assembly. Then staining. Then finishing and air-dry. The same thing goes for putting together a record month in direct sales. Design flyers. Print flyers. Book parties one-at-a-time. Book fund-raisers. You get the idea.
The Power of Outcome Focusing
If you have a goal in mind, it goes without saying that spending more of your time and effort directed towards achieving that goal will get you there quicker. That’s much easier said than done in real life. Are you actually choosing the best Next Action to get you where you want to be? Facebook may be a great tool for the direct sales industry, but is what you’re spending your time on actually moving you towards your desired outcome? (Or are you just delaying your real next action step?)
Finally, almost everything about this book is also applicable to the going paperless topic I covered in my last few posts. That’s what started me thinking about the topic. You can combine going paperless and becoming more efficient and effective with your time at the same time and multiply your efficiency.
How do you currently manage your time and decide what you will do next?