Time management master Laura Vanderkam has written several books, including the best-seller 168 Hours, on how even the most in-demand leaders maintain incredible productivity. She and I agree that the most precious resource you have isn't money, but time.
I got a chance to connect with Vanderkam when she spoke at the recent American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. She shared three master tips to strong time management:
Write down how you spend your time: Create a time journal, not unlike people concerned with their eating habits create a food journal. How can you maximize your time if you aren't sure how you're really spending it?
Vanderkam admitted that she thought she worked 60 hours a week but, after keeping a time journal for several months, realized it was closer to 40 hours a week. By keeping a journal, you can squeeze out the inefficiencies and better understand why you may not feel as productive as you think you should be.
Do a (time) portfolio review: Do a portfolio review of how you spend your time, just like you would for stock performance. In this case, however, you are looking at the allocation of your time assets. Are you spending 10 percent of your time sending and tracking invoicing? Then we're talking five to six weeks out of every year.
Vanderkam found that virtual assistants, interns and smart software can help immensely - and the financial outlay pales compared to the time you save. How else could you be growing your business with the proverbial 10 percent of your year you'd get back?
Done is better than perfect: The ultimate time suck is perfection. Spending too much time perfecting a product or service not only can hurt your business, but it can create opportunity cost for the other great, new things you could be working on (the brilliant, conflicted artist Kanye West is a perfect example).
Vanderkam highly recommends this: "Let it go. Done is better than perfect." Think about the last time you spent an inordinate amount of time for an incremental improvement on a completed project. Now imagine all the other things you could have been doing with that time. At a certain point, spending more time on something will provide significantly diminished returns. Being honest about when you reach that point is perhaps the toughest, most important skill in great time management.