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The Commitment Review

It is important to review all the commitments that you choose to make, and a good place to start is to look at everything that you do that is not specifically related to your business. What I mean by that is activities that involve meetings or events outside the office that are not directly connected to everyday work issues.

The list will comprise, but not be limited to such activities as:

  • Networking
  • Charities / not for profits
  • School boards / PTA
  • Religious organizations
  • Political and other organizations
  • Sports coaching

Develop the list on an Excel spreadsheet and include everything you do that involves any kind of meeting or event. Be sure to list everything whether they are business related or personal commitments that you have made that involve meetings or events outside of business hours. Then create two columns to identify whether the activities are business or personal. If they are both business and personal, then put an X in both columns.

You will also need a column to identify the number of hours that you spent on each activity over the last 12 months. This should include not only the time actually spent in meetings or at events, but also any time spent preparing, telephone or e-mail communications, and any follow-up work that is necessary. You may be surprised by the results here!

The next step is to create columns to record the benefit that you have received from each activity during the last 12 months. In identifying the benefit, you will need to think of it in terms of dollars for business related activities, and the column to do this will be headed "benefit $".

This does not work for activities that are in the personal column as things that are strictly personal may have a value related to children, political interests, spiritual interests and a whole variety of other things. If some of the things that you do give you tremendous satisfaction then obviously they are not likely to be things that should be eliminated from your calendar. The best way to handle this is to create a "benefit rank" where you empirically identify on a scale of 1 to 10 the non-financial value that you get from each activity.

Click here for a template of The Commitment Review worksheet.

Once the spreadsheet has been completed, you are in a position to sort it by any column to come up with a meaningful analysis. You might want to sort it initially between business and personal and then look at the relationship between the amount of time that you spend on the activity and the benefit that you receive, whether financial or in some other dimension.

The results of this exercise can be very telling. You don't have to do anything immediately with the information, but the ranking should identify for you those things that you really do need to eliminate from your day at some point.... whether now or in the future.

The final step in this analysis process is to create a written plan for each activity that you want to eliminate.


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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.