Time, Your Scarcest Resource!

You Can’t Save It! You Can Only Spend It.

Photo by noor Younis on Unsplash

Recently a colleague stated, “You are always so organized”. Boy, do I wish that was the case because there are whirlwind days where nothing gets done. More than once, I stared and thought “How did it get so late so soon?” (Dr. Seuss).

A consultant’s day is frequently interrupted with disruptions pulling you in disjointed directions. If you’re frazzled, someone, in an effort to be helpful, might state “Create a ‘to do’ list. Make sure you prioritize the items on the list and you’ll be fine.” The problem is that creating the ‘to do’ list does not help you feel fine. As a matter of fact, there could be so much on the list, your feel worse.

Time management is more than a prioritized “to do” list. Time management is how you manage your entire day, week, month, and year. Time management is about how you manage your life. It includes the image you display to your clients and perspective clients. It necessities deciding how much time and when you will work on a specific activity. It requires dedication and commitment because you need to periodically say NO.

Here are ten (10) time management processes and techniques that I find help me manage my time. Hopefully, you will find one or two that you want to incorporate into your day.

Take Charge of Your Agenda

Manage the work by creating a realistic written “to do” list. Start by creating a “to do” list for the week and backing into a daily list. This helps with managing complex tasks that can’t be completed within a day. Then prioritize the items by focusing first on any task that requires concentration. Tackle the task first thing in the morning while you are fresh and rested. Chances are this is also the time of day when interruptions are minimal. Second, focus on your clients because you want to keep them satisfied, and then focus on tasks that help build the business. Other tasks are allocated to any remaining time or delegated to someone else.

Designate Productive Time

Go a step further with the “to do” list and designate blocks of time for each task. Add start and end times to each task. As you think about the time consider the level of effort or time to complete the task without any interruptions versus the actual or lapse time required to complete the task.

Focus on One Task at a Time

Don’t multi-task. Turn off your technology. This means ignoring email, phone calls, and, if necessary, closing the office door and placing a “do not disturb” sign on it. You want to ignore everything that takes you away from what you should be doing at that point in time. The goal is to eliminate as many interruptions as possible so that you remain focused and productive.

Schedule Breaks in your Day

Be sure to schedule breaks, even if only 5 minutes, every 45 to 90 minutes. Stretch your legs, let your mind rest, and get a glass of water. Research has proven that when you return, you will be refreshed, more focused, and more productive.

Create Day Types

Consider breaking up the days in the week and month into four types: Client, Business, Miscellaneous, and Relaxation. Client days are where you focus on your clients and serving them. Business days focus on tasks related to maintaining and building the business such as accounting, marketing, and sales. Miscellaneous days are slack days. These are days set aside to complete client and business tasks that just did not get done for any number of reasons. And the most important type-relaxation-days- enable you to recharge your batteries. At a minimum, there should be at least one relaxation day per week.

Manage the Time Stealer-EMAIL

It is easy to get caught up in reading and responding to email which results in lost productivity. Establish set times for reviewing email such as first thing in the morning, a quick check at noon for important, can’t wait emails, and then close of business for the day. At the end of the day, address all emails with a respond, delete, or flagged for follow-up. Investigate productivity saving options available with your email solution such as Microsoft Outlook’s rules feature. As emails are received from clients, rules can automatically redirect the emails to a specific folder established just for that client.

Exploit Information Technology

Do not skimp on software and hardware. It is important to have the right tools for the job and the right tools lead to increased productivity and efficiency. For some consultants, an Excel spreadsheet works fine as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool while other consultants need a CRM application. If a CRM application is going to increase productivity and efficiency, get one and use it. The same is true with hardware. For some consultants, a laptop is adequate but there are other consultants that require a workstation with dual monitors to be efficient, and still others need both a laptop and a workstation. Your information technology needs depend on the type of consulting you provide.

Create Journals

Keep a journal and notes on your activities and thoughts. Journals are great reference tools because your notes are in one location. Depending on your consulting practice, you might consider keeping a journal for each client. Consider keeping a journal just for your ideas. If you attend a meeting and hear a great idea, jot it down in the journal for future reference. I have Post-it notes in just about every room in my home and as an idea pops into my mind, I jot it down, later recording it in my IDEA journal.

Create Operations Manuals

As a business owner, you might want to create an operations manual(s) of business processes. Did you ever have to contact a technical help desk to resolve a problem or accountant with a bookkeeping issue? Document the resolution. There is a good chance the problem will happen again. The busier you are, the harder it tends to be to remember everything.

Eat, Sleep, and Exercise

One of the most important, if not the most important time management technique is taking the time to eat, sleep, and exercise. Why? Just like a car or a home, your body needs to be taken care of and it needs nutrition. Eat balanced meals. Quit working at a reasonable time so that you mind shuts down and you can get a reasonable night’s sleep every night. Start the next day refreshed and alert. Don’t hesitate to take a 10 to 15-minute (but no more) power nap during the day to give your body a boost. You might be amazed as to how refreshed you feel after the power nap. Exercise, even if just a walk around the block, because it gives your body a break and re-energizes you — it gets you back in the present so that you move forward.

Are there other time management processes and techniques? Yes, but these are my top ten. I try not to violate them, but I do. It happens because life is busy. The goal is to try to be dedicated and committed to managing time and using your time effectively and efficiently to be more productive. Accept the fact, that there never seems to be enough time to do everything and wonder “How did it get so late so soon?” (Dr. Seuss).

Like this article? Please like the article and share with someone who might find the points helpful.

Hi, I’m Laura (Dallas) Burford. I help independent business professionals (consultants, contractors, freelancers, service-based professionals) and boutique consulting businesses get clients and make money.

What I do: I partner with professionals and businesses on clarifying their focus and then work with them to get clients that they want to work with so that they make money and grow their businesses.

How I do: I leverage a simple and flexible framework known as The Consultancy Model©. For those new, stalled, or reentering the consulting world I have a signature program known as Consulting JUMPSTART Blueprint©.

Why I do what I do: I want to see people to succeed and not fail. Sometimes all that is needed is an extra hand.

Check out the Free Resources page on Laura’s Consulting Guide for free consulting resources.

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Laura Burford

Helping Business Consultants & Freelancers Get Better Clients, Make Money and Build a Profitable Business on their Terms| Founder-Consulting JUMPSTART program |