When left to our own devices, time management is sort of like a buffet. You have dozens of different options in front of you. Should you spend the next hour working on payroll? Finding a new assistant? Working on that new marketing project? Scrolling through Facebook? Shopping for new shoes on Amazon? The options are abundant. But of course, there are some tasks that will yield a better result.
Unfortunately for many of us, our first inclination is to fill our business plate with high calorie, value tasks. These are other peoples urgencies and low level tasks that don't bring a lot of value to your business. These are the "fires" that tend to pop up throughout the day. It is satisfying to check tasks off your to-do list (as is that plate of mashed potatoes). But what you should be aiming for first is the vegetables and protein. The nutrient dense tasks that help you scale and grow your business.
One of my biggest challenges as a business coach is getting the top leaders I work with to break the connection between one hour worked and one hour of value created. A successful attorney who gets paid $500 an hour for each billable hour worked, for example, may think that's the highest use of his time. But in fact it's the time he puts in securing a new client who will bring in hundreds of billable hours over the relationship, or deciding which niches to focus on, or which to ignore, or growing his legal team to be able to systematically get more valuable work out the door faster and at a higher quality.
So when faced with the business buffet delima, you have to think of that plate of food in terms of highest value. You don't get paid for the hours you work (or the plates of food you consume). You get paid based on the value you create. So you have to ask yourself - is that bite of time really worth it?
One of my favorite ways to ensure healthy time management is with the creation of Focus Time.
Once a week schedule yourself a recurring weekly appointment for a 3-4 hour block of "Focus Time. During that time shut off your phone, turn off your email program and focus on the tasks that create value for your company. Let others in the company know that you are not to be disturbed during this block of time. Then focus your energy nourishing your business with the items that will help your business grow and thrive. When the four hour block is up, feel free to indulge in a "cupcake task" if you must.
All it takes is a few small changes. Think of it as choosing wisely at a buffet. Most of us tend to load up on junk food first: desserts, fried food, or whatever is on offer at the pasta bar. But when you eat a plateful of nutritious food like vegetables and proteins first, you can go back and load up on any crap you want. Knowing that you have nourished your body (and business) first.