How many times do you think did the following happen to you?
You think about something like getting more traffic to your Web site, or finally writing an article. Then you start doing it, but next you bail out at the first opportunity. You stop and do something else. You dig even deeper into the next task just to create an excuse and gain confidence that you are doing the right thing.
Most likely this next task is more enjoyable and less important at the same time. You get it done, but you don't achieve as much, when you repeatedly put off more important tasks.
The more often you put off the “first” task, the more difficult it will become next time and instead of working on it, you probably start to look for another “less important” task right away.
Does this sound familiar to you?
If this happens in your job, you probably have your boss fiercely showing you the right track. If this is the situation in your home-office-style business, then you are in trouble. Nobody will help you to get on the right track. Well, what about your family and friends? Don't count on them for helping you out. They are actually the best candidates for convincing you to let go, and make you spend your time not building your business. You are definitely on your own. You need to learn and discipline yourself to use your time more efficiently.
Good time management rules are actually kind of universal. They apply to a wide spectrum of circumstances. You might be a prospective home business owner, who wants to make some extra cash on the Internet. You might already have a small or medium size company or you might be a manager, who is responsible for the results of some department. In this case it is your co-workers, who are certainly doing a better job distracting you, than help you stay focused and get your stuff done.
All this said, I just post two simple rules for the beginning.
Touch It Once
Important Tasks First
Let me explain.
You might have already read a couple of blog posts, Web sites, books that are proposing the best time management system ever. But did you follow? Did it stick? No, certainly not, if you answered my second question, “Does this sound familiar to you?”, with “Yes”.
You read about setting priorities, delegating things, creating a plan, lists, folders for weekly, monthly, …
It will take a little bit more of writing (from me) and reading (from you) and actually doing it, to come up with effective tools and habits (!) that help you to spend your time more efficiently. For todays introduction into my time management series of articles I decided to choose two no-brainers that you can start to incorporate into your life immediately, without thinking to much about it.
Touch It Once
It is quite self explaining, isn't it. When you start something follow through. Don't let little hurdles move you off track and put it back on your pile of things to-do. You already probably spent 5, 10, 15 minutes on it. At the next try, you will need that time again just to get to the same point where you are right now. That argument should sell itself.
Another example, don't start something, when you know that it will take more time that you have right now. It is probably an email with some important (but not urgent) information that needs to be reviewed carefully. Don't even open it, instead “plan” a proper time slot for it and make sure that you will not be disturbed. Do it next morning, because important tasks go first. If it is not so important, it should not take much of your time anyway and you could have done it right away non stop.
Little side track on emails: Get your Email subjects to the point and train your employees and business partners to do the same. It will help everybody to make a better judgment about what to expect in an email. I see a lot of email correspondence (many replies, forwards, ...) that carries the same subject, while the topic is changing over time. Well, I change topics, if applicable and I write rather two or three emails instead of putting too much into one email. It certainly makes life easier.
Just from following the “touch it, do it” rule you should start getting more focused and get more things done in an easier way.
Update on 2007-09-16:
The next issue of this article series about time management will be online on Friday, Sep. 21st, 2007. Don't miss it, subscribe to my RSS feed via Feedburner or get on my Newsletter/Blog Announcement List.
P.S.: What a coincidence. Michel Fortin — direct response copywriter, author, speaker and consultant — wrote on his blog today, “Get More Done Faster With These 6 Tips (↑)”. Good time management is indeed a hot topic. You may want to read the full story, which comes with a handy example from his copywriting business. Let me summarize his tips.
Procrastination and laziness are your worst enemies, fight them and take action. Little steps at a time are better than no steps.
Break larger projects down into little pieces with deadlines of their own. That makes it more controllable and gives some extra rewards, when you meet the mini-deadlines.
Write it down. It's important to be able to see, where you are in the process and what is ahead of you.
A written plan actually helps to increase your focus on the current task. You don't need to worry about the rest. It will all work out. It's laid out nicely.
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