Where does your time go? How is it that you can come in at 7 AM and then at 6 PM suddenly realize that the day has completely passed you by? How did you miss dinner with your in-laws? (Okay, you may want to plead the Fifth on that one, but you get the idea.) Time is the one resource you cannot replace but use and allocate the worst. So, what happens to your time? How does it get away from you? What steals your time?
Time Bandits are responsible for stealing the better part of the day away from you and your business. They can include anything from answering the phone, having a cluttered desk, or having an unscheduled meeting. They can and will be different for everyone, but in the space below, you will find three common bandits that may be stealing your time.
Email - It seems that everyone gets a large amount of email every day. Some of it important, some of it not important. Are you a person that checks every email as it comes in? Do you stop in the middle of other activities when a notification of a new email comes in? Have you thought about how much time that takes in the aggregate? If you were to receive 50 emails in a day and it took 1 minute to review every incoming email, you would be spending nearly an hour of your precious time. Worse yet, the interruption of workflow costs additional time in getting back into what you were working on. What do you need to do to put a stop to these senseless interruptions? First, turn off the email notification in your email program and then set up specific times throughout the day to check your email. If there are no chimes going off or pop ups appearing on your monitor, you are likely to be more productive. Second, design specific times on your calendar for reviewing and responding to emails.
- Over Committing - Many business owners and leaders are active in the community. Whether it is the local Chamber of Commerce, coaching a son or daughter's team, or volunteering at a favorite charity, you have to be conscious of not over committing. Author of "The E-Myth Revisited" Michael Gerber said, "Time is just another word for life." To have more life, you have to learn to say "No." If you feel you have over committed your time, start by looking at the things in your life that interfere with a healthy work-life balance and eliminate them from your schedule. There is nothing wrong with saying "No." In fact, the use of time becomes a zero-sum game: every time you say "Yes" to something, you need to say "No" to something else. It is a choice that you must make if you want to have more life.
- Employee Interruptions - How is that open-door policy working? Do you constantly look up from your desk to see an employee waiting for your undivided attention, no matter what you are in the middle of? Are employees constantly walking into your office with questions they should be answering themselves? You have to set ground rules for dealing with the bandits that want to steal a piece of your valuable time. First, you can block out "Do not disturb" periods for yourself. These should be periods of time that your only interruptions are true emergencies. Another possibility is to set up a "Closed-Door, Open-Calendar" system that allows employees to set appointments during times you have available. When setting the appointment, ask how long the appointment will last and set the meeting duration to a time you feel is appropriate. Second, if your employees are interrupting you to ask questions; stop giving answers. Respond by asking questions. Answering a question with a question will support your employees in thinking their way to solution - instead of looking to you to give them the answer. Simple questions such as: where would you look to find that, what would you do, how would you handle that, or, what do you not know that would help you get what you need, can all focus an employee on arriving at the answer themselves. Such questions serve as catalysts for conversations that teach employees how to think through to solution.
The three Time Bandits discussed above only scratch the surface of what could be stealing your time. But take heart, you can combat these bandits. Benjamin Franklin said, "You may delay, but time will not." The time is now to take action and identify what is stealing your time. Through the rest of this month we will provide you with tools that will help you to ferret out these Bandits so that you can take back control of your time.