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Change the Grains

Now that you have identified your Platinum Activities and set your Time Gain Goal, it is time to start the Time Edge process As laid out in Time as a Commitment, this involves changing the activities that you allow in your day, and the next step in the process is to start to replace the grains of sand falling through your personal hour glass with higher value activities.

The driving concept behind The Time Edge is that your personal time is like an hour glass. There is nothing that you can do to stop time passing, to stop the grains from falling through the hour glass…but you can proactively change the grains that you allow into the top half of your hour glass and change the value of the grains that do fall through.    

Put simply, the root of most people’s “Time Management” problems is that they are simply trying to do too many things and what they need to do is to redefine the things that they allow in their day. To develop your Time Edge and become an effective time manager you have to change the grains in your personal hour glass - get rid of the activities and commitments that don't belong in your day to make room for the activities and commitments that do. 

Only by doing this can you really get control of your day. This means ruthlessly eliminating as many as possible of the things you find yourself doing that don’t fit within your Platinum Activities. It is difficult to get things out of your day, and it takes some work. Different things work for different people, and later in this section we will examine some different techniques that you can employ.

There are two major difficulties that will hinder you from starting to identify tasks for elimination and stand in the way of your success. Before looking at the different techniques you can use, it is important to understand these two major impediments and how to overcome them. They are:

  • the analysis paralysis that occurs when we bundle together the activity to be eliminated and the actions needed to eliminate it
  • the way the tyranny of the urgent requires that we just get things done now instead of taking a more strategic approach to eliminating them.

The secret to success in eliminating inappropriate activities boils down to two simple concepts that will overcome these impediments: the first is to Unbundle Identification From Action and the second is to Control the Tyranny of the Urgent by writing down every task to be eliminated and create a To Don’t List…… a fearless inventory of tasks identified as candidates for elimination.

In the sections that follow I will examine these two problems and then lay out the systems and processes that you can use to overcome them.


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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 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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Did you know ?

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.