Not all hours are created equal. Some hours produce more net value–for you, your customers and your firm–than others. As my old partner liked to say, "Some of my hours are priceless and some of them are worthless."
In looking at the most effective executives, leaders and business owners I know, I notice many of them are very careful with their time. This includes the appointments they set or take, the meetings they have, organizations to which they belong and the activities they fill their day with.
Look at your appointment calendar from last week. In every day there were probably only two hours of high productivity. Use the following steps to make the most of them.
1. Figure Out Your Time
Rank your activities over the course of the week into three categories: High Value, Low Value and No Value. The value standard is what produces value to the customer. Most of us do not think about our jobs as what we get done, but rather what we do. But highly productive people think in outcomes first and activities second.
2. Decide What Is Valuable
I was recently working with someone whose time literally fell into thirds when measured against those categories. Getting to a place where you spend 100% of your time in the High Value category is probably unrealistic. But what if you could move one hour per day out of No Value into Low Value, and one hour from Low to High Value? You would be trading up the value curve in a very big way over the course of a year.
3. Cut Your Time Wasters
Let's look at your Low Value and No Value categories. These probably include things like generating reports, regularly scheduled meetings, clerical work, communication management (think email shuffling) and mandatory events.
You want to trade these things for the types of activities that generate revenue or provide service for customers and prospects. So look at those Low or No Value activities and determine if you can do one of the following to each: consolidate, automate, delegate or eliminate.
For example: Weekly staff meetings can be moved to every other week. Ninety-minute meetings can be shrunk to 60 minutes. Reports can be made available online rather than hand-generated, printed and distributed.
4. Track, Check & Protect
The only way to get the most out of your time is diligence. You have to track how you are spending your time on regular basis (I recommend weekly). Then you need to check it against your goals of value. Finally, you have to be diligent in protecting your time from the insidious virus of bureaucratic creep.
There's a reason there are so many books written about time management: It is crucial to success. If you can recapture and re-leverage hundreds of your hours over a year, the results will be well worth it.