It’s What Time?!

It's What Time?!Do you find yourself chasing after so many things that before you know it, it’s the end of the day and you’ve gotten very little accomplished? Welcome to business in the 21st century.

With all of the avenues available for communicating, networking, and learning it can be more challenging than ever to manage your time effectively and productively. Even all of the so-called ‘productivity enhancing products’ can become time stealers.

So what do you do when you find your productivity has vanished? Implement this 3 step process to get yourself back on track.

1. Discovery

Before you can fix the problem you should have a clear view of how you are actually spending your time, what you aren’t getting done, and what you need/want to accomplish. Sounds simple. The point is you can’t go to the resolution step if you don’t know what needs to be resolved or where it is you want to go. In addition, you should give some real thought to how you operate effectively. Some people use technology to keep themselves organized and effective. Other people need to use paper – as in making lists. And still others use a combination of paper and technology to create a system.

Whoever you are, use the system that works best for you. Trying to use web based productivity tools may not be the best method for you. Don’t use them if you aren’t wired that way (so to speak).

For the longest time I felt frustrated because I wasn’t getting my writing done. When I finally went through the discovery process I realized the following:

a. I write best in the morning

b. I was scheduling meetings and clients in the morning

c. I was getting in my own way and had created a situation that was an obstacle to my writing

Voila! I now knew why I was unproductive.

2. Decision

Once you complete Step 1, it’s time to figure out how to change your processes so you can improve your productivity.  It may be as simple as changing when you do certain things. Of course, it depends on what was getting in your way.

I determined after some investigation that the best way for me to improve my productivity was to schedule clients and meetings in the afternoon. This way I could block out most mornings for writing. I was realistic regarding the meetings that were out of my control. The key was to deal with the mornings that were in my control.  I also decided to wait to open my email until I had accomplished some tasks. I created a list the night before of all the things I needed/wanted to get done the next day. When I get up in the morning, I write and then I hit the list. I do not open my email until I have completed the most critical items. I can tell you that it is amazing how much you can get done if you are not checking your email all the time.

The point is this – I discovered that email was a distraction. It kept interrupting my train of thought. By postponing it I was able to be more productive. I still use this method.

Knowing who you are is critical in the decision phase. I’ve tried to use web based productivity tools. They didn’t work so well for me. I now use Outlook tasks, calendar, and to-do lists. That helps me stay productive. I also use pads of paper. The combination is a winner. That’s me. Your job is to decide based on your honest assessment of what works for you.

When you’ve identified how you work best, investigate the options available to you based on that information.

One comment about Social Media here – this can be a HUGE time stealer. My advice is to schedule the time you will devote to Social Media and what you will do with it. Any Social Media strategy should be built around what you hope to achieve through the use of S.M.

3. Deploy

Now it’s time to put your plan into action. I’m not a big fan of major overhauls because they are hard to implement while trying to run a business or maintain a sales process. So, try one change at a time. Create a plan that will take place over a week or so. Gradually implement that plan and keep an eye on how you’re doing.

The best policy in my estimation is to take it one day at a time. Don’t worry about how you’re going to proceed two days from now; just get through today. Before you know it, you’ll have a system in place that has helped you increase your productivity. Then continue to monitor your behavior so you don’t find yourself in a situation where your performance falls down again.

If you find your plan isn’t working well, tweak it. This is a work in process. As times change and your business changes, you may find you need to change your process. That’s okay. When you are monitoring it, you’ll know fairly quickly what you need to do.

The easiest way to deal with productivity is to never let it get so out of hand that you need a major overhaul to repair your world. Paying attention, on a daily or weekly basis, to how you are meeting your goals and obligations will help you adjust before things get out of hand.

We all encounter times in our lives where we are challenged with maintaining a reasonable level of productivity. In this quick changing world it is easy to get caught up in minutia and lose a day. I don’t think many of us can afford to lose too many days. The quicker you discover what’s in your way and how you operate most effectively you will be able to decide on a plan of action to correct your process.

Once that decision is made, deploy – get cracking! Revisit this 3-step process whenever you find yourself losing momentum and productivity.

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Diane HelbigAbout the Author: Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day Coaching. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Sales Experts Panel at Top Sales Experts.


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

9 Reactions
  1. Diane,

    Great post! It will give me food for thought and inspiration for a follow-up post on productivity (“Productivity Tools For Your Worklife” – September 29) that I am planning to write for Open Forum in the near future.

  2. What a great, practical approach, Diane. I believe that men (women can decide on their own) won’t make big changes after they turn 50 unless their families are in danger or they have lost their remote control. So any program that requires wholesale change is DOA for most people. Just look at all the fitness and weight loss “systems”.
    Your piece lays out practical advice for anyone that has it 80% right! Nice job.

  3. In a typical workday for anyone that’s work ethic, we find ourselves accomplishing much, but realizing we could have accomplished more at the end of the day if it wasn’t for those tasks that provided the least value, therefore that is when you finally come to a conclusion and list which activity provides the most value, rate them from 1-5, and make plans to delegate the low value activities so that you can maximize your time value.

  4. Thanks for the timely article (in more ways than one). I’m rather buried with work these days – which is a good problem to have – but the times that I’m busiest can also be my most non-productive because I have a tendancy to work at bit on everything (a master of multi-tasking). I’ve found my best time to get more in-depth work done is the evening, after dinner. No work interruptions. Family is settled in front of the TV or doing homework or ? I can generate about 3 hours of good quality work during that time; it works well for me.

  5. Being a Zen practitioner I have spent allot of time pondering time. How ironic! It does amaze me how many people (myself included) say they have no time. If you want more time than you can handle, sit on a cushion and not do anything, suddenly time grinds to a halt!

    As you mention, systems are very helpful in managing time pertaining to work. I think self discipline is the big hurdle in this regard. It has become a nasty concept among the so-called self empowered crowd.

  6. You couldn’t be more correct about how email and social media can be a distraction and time-sink. Both come at us randomly and seem to command immediate attention, but my experience has been that an immediate response is rarely required.

  7. Hi there. It looks like some of your organizational and filing needs could be solved with the use of some clever software! There are a lot of options for filing software. We do document management and filing for a living with clever twist. The Paper Tiger Filing System is a proven tool and we are ready to help you in any way we can to meet your filing needs!