When I recently asked a room full of business owners what their biggest challenges were, one of the themes that rose to the top was the problem of not having enough time, most of them labeled it a Time Management problem. Well the good news for everyone out there who thinks they have a Time Management problem is that I can solve that one easily! There is no such thing as Time Management, so therefore no problem! However, there is still this problem of not having enough time to get everything done, and that can also be solved, but only if you recognize the source of the problem. The source is not time, the real source of the problem is YOU, and the problem is more appropriately named Self Management.
There are two key steps to becoming better at Self Management, the first is the most important, and it is simply accepting a basic truth: You will never have enough time to get everything done, and that is a good thing. I firmly believe that running out of things to do in a business is a very bad thing. If you believe in the concept that you are either growing or dying, then when you run out of things to do, you are clearly going to fall immediately into the dying category. This is true of both businesses and people. What this means to you is that for the most part, you should stop worrying about not getting to everything, because you simply will not ever get to everything, and it is okay to accept that. Once you accept this fundamental truth, you can let go of some of the stress that comes with believing that somehow you should be getting it all done. Let it go.
The second step of Self Management is where you need to develop your personal skills, and teach them to your teams as well. This step involves the process of making decisions on how to allocate your time. Since we now believe we can’t get to everything and that it is okay not to get to everything, we have to be absolutely sure we are getting to the right things. The key to doing this well is to make decisions regarding the allocation of your time based on your priorities.
There are many ways to determine your priorities, and I can’t possibly cover them all here, but let me start with one of my biggest priority watch outs. One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our business and in our lives is also one of the most common. This mistake is letting others set our priorities for us. Whether it is our biggest customer, our loudest employee, our family, or just the group of friends we hang out with, the biggest mistake I see again and again is letting someone else, or “the world” set our priorities and make our decisions. The biggest problem with this method of prioritization and decision making is that the world very rarely prioritizes or decides in our favor!
So how do we set priorities? I believe that there are a number of components to setting the priorities for ourselves and our businesses. It starts with Values and Beliefs, which define what is important to us, and I mean REALLY important, and what our strongest beliefs about life, business, people, etc…, are for us. We build on our values and beliefs with our Vision and Goals, which define where we want to end up, and our basic plan for how we intend to get there. The last ingredient is a small dose of reality, the situation at hand.
The world throws interruptions at us on a regular basis, and we need to account for them in the daily execution of our plan. The key to Self Mastery is to learn how to Respond to these interruptions instead of Reacting to them. When we react, the world wins, when we respond we can all win. The difference is simply allocating the time to consider the interruption at the right moment (which is not always immediately), assess the interruption against the priorities for the day/week/month that you have already established, and make an intentional decision on how to allocate time to the interruption. The alternative option is to let the world decide, and as I stated before, the world rarely decides in our favor.
So to master yourself, simply define your priorities, make decisions based on those priorities, and accept the fact that it is okay to not get it all done. There will always be a tomorrow for growing businesses and people.
Author: Mark McNulty, Business Coach in Louisville, KY