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The Frustration List

The first step in taking control of the items that you allow in your day is to identify the things you are not accomplishing that you really want to get done. These are the things that are important but not urgent; things that are continually trumped in your day by the "tyranny of the urgent"; things that are pushed down the list by less-important but seemingly pressing tasks that must be done.

If you take a step back and think about it, it is relatively easy to put together a list of important things that are not getting done, and I call this the Frustration List. This list comprises a combination of both tactical things that you simply can't seem to get done and strategic initiatives that may have been overlooked, postponed or even shelved.

The process is really pretty simple. It is the first one we have people tackle in our workshops and the worksheet we use can be found in the Time Edge Appendix. In using it, some of the places that you can look for items to go on this list are as follows:

· Big issues that worry you

· Strategic areas that you aren't able to give their proper attention

· Tactical issues that you are too busy to address

· Tasks not completed

· Procedures not written

· Goals that you haven't met

· Initiatives that lay stalled.

Items for the list lie in every area of your business. This is an opportunity to go through each area and do a mental audit to identify items that belong on your list. Some specifics that my clients have put down over the years are as follows:

· Sales - lack of pipeline analysis to create meaningful revenue predictors

· Marketing - no written plan to drive campaigns to increase business

· Hiring - no process to improve the probability of hiring the right people

· Employee Development - no reviews or process for showing employees a career path

· Financial - poor financial management and no KPIs to identify performance trends

· Planning - no strategic plan to direct the company's direction and goals

In going through your audit, put down everything you find so that it is exhaustive. Then, when you have completed the list, identify your top five and start analyzing why you can't get to them. Think about what not doing them is costing you and the actions that you should take in order to be able to get them done.

 

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Time Management Tips

  • When somebody interrupts you when you are busy, don't let them interrupt your train of thought. Ask them to come back and see you at a specific time – you may be surprised that they actually figure out the answer and don't come back to ask you.

  • Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.

  • It is all too easy to waste time on phone calls. Keep an egg timer next to the phone to keep track of exactly how long you are talking. It will keep the time you are spending in the forefront of your mind and will help you handle the call more efficiently.

  • Never go to the bank to deposit checks, it is a Time Bandit way below your pay grade, and claiming it is therapeutic and gets you out of the office is deluding yourself. Send somebody else!  Better still, get a check scanning machine...and make sure the bank pays!

  • Organize your office so the door isn't in your immediate line of vision. The big payoff is that people can't appear at your door, hover, catch your eye and distract you. If you make it harder to interrupt you, people may figure out answers themselves rather than asking you.

  • When you have to give out an e-mail address to somebody who's going to send you things you don't want in your inbox, give them a special "junk" e-mail address. Then set up a rule so that everything to that address goes to a folder you review on your timetable.

  • When somebody interrupts you to ask you a question always reply with a question back. Ask them how they would deal with it, and make them think proactively rather than just relying on you. A good technique is to ask: "If I wasn't available today, what would you do?"

  • If your key customers expect you to answer the phone at all times, get an Internet phone line and give them a "VIP" phone number to call. Set it up with a unique ring on your system and you'll know that calls on that line are from your most important customers.

  • Most people have a “To Do” list to record the tasks they need to "Get Done", but it doesn't help identify what you shouldn't do yourself. For that you need a “To Don’t” list. Identify the culprits, put them on the list and defend your time by assigning them elsewhere. 

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone now as the most dangerously effective of all Time Bandits. Turn off your e mail alert and check your e-mail only four times a day....do it on your schedule not the schedule of the people who are interrupting your more productive work.

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone as the most dangerously effective of all time wasters. The worst thing is the e mail alert that pops up on your computer screen. Don't let other people interrupt you in this way and take back control of your time by turning the alert off

  • When somebody interrupts you while sitting at your desk, stand up. It changes the pace of the interaction and sends a message to the interrupter that they have invaded your time. The more you can send this message, the more effective you will become at protecting your time.

  • When somebody comes to you with an issue they should figure out themselves, don't allow yourself to relieve them of the burden and take it on yourself. Instead of saying "leave it with me" when this happens, say "never delegate upwards" and ask them for their solution.

  • Entrepreneurs wear so many of the hats in their business that many of the tasks they carry out are at a level way below the real value of their time. Are you working below your pay grade by not handing off menial tasks that should be done by others?

  • When you are hiring new employees, ask candidates about their time management abilities. The best employees are those that can prioritize their work and handle interruptions, so be sure to ask relevant questions to probe in those areas so that you hire somebody who has those skills.

  • Email has become a huge time-waster and taking control of your Inbox is becoming more critical than ever. The ideal state is only to have things in your Inbox that are important, urgent or time sensitive, and to put everything else automatically into folders using Rules governing what happens when they come in. I’ve been using Outlook Rules for a number of years to sort specific topics, but I recently came across a new rule that makes a dramatic difference.


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Most people have a “To Do” list to record the tasks they need to "Get Done", but it doesn't help identify what you shouldn't do yourself. For that you need a “To Don’t” list. Identify the culprits, put them on the list and defend your time by assigning them elsewhere.