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Procrastination and Time Management

1. Q: Your topic is "You Can't Manage Time, But You Can Make It Count," what exactly do you mean by that? Everyone realizes the truth in the saying that time is money. More importantly, I learned that time is much more precious than money. You can always find ways to get or make more money but time is the great equalizer. Both you and Donald Trump have the same amount to use each day. It's really how you use it that counts. Because no matter how smart, talented or lucky you are, you cannot get more than 24 hours. Unlike money, you cannot save or manage it. It falls away moment by moment and is forever gone. You cannot manage it, you can't save it, you can only use it well.

William Penn understood well when he said, "Time is what we want most and use worst." So think of your time as a loan and yourself as the loan officer. You need to plan and calculate a likely return on how you invest that time. The first and most important step in managing your self, your life, is to prioritize what you want. Then allocate your time to make it happen. Although our focus isn't goal setting but that really is the first step. Without clear direction, you can schedule every minute and manage to wander through your day and life aimlessly. When your goals are clear, you can prioritize your time for productive payoffs.

Without goals, you cannot make minute to minute decisions. This is important because the world is going to continue to become more complex. More information will come at us even more quickly. The sheer volume of information that we have to process has grown in an exponential, not linear fashion. None of us are really prepared to deal with the flood of information that besieges us daily. I read somewhere that the average American in 1999 is bombarded by more daily intelligence than J. Edgar Hoover ever encountered.

2. Q: Okay, once you've identified what you need to do, how do you really begin making the most of your time? First and foremost is to realize that effort does not equal results. You've probably never heard about a person whose legacy was a very full 'to do' list. No, legacies are made of accomplishments, not good intentions. To begin making the most of your time, you need to start with where you are. As I offer a list of tips, pick one or two that you think you need to start doing.

Must Do's

1. Keep your division and territory goals in mind at all times and ask yourself if what you are doing will yield the best productivity payoffs. Identify and eliminate time-wasting or low payoff tasks.

2. Triage information like it's life and death. Remember that e-mail is just like hard copy mail. Make sure you have a filing system that works for you. Scan your mail by name and subject. Only open and scan messages from management or those that you are expecting. Move any requiring action to an 'action' file or respond immediately. Everything else that doesn't require any action for a week, if at all, should be moved to a 'hold' or 'pending' file. Make a point to schedule time to respond to, file or pitch every item in the pending file at least twice weekly to stay on top of it and avoid letting things fall between the cracks. A succinct voicemail message instead of e-mail to relay basic information is faster. Use e-mail to relay detailed messages, deep thoughts or deadlines. Don't use e-mail to respond to hard copy communication that isn't urgent. Save time by responding without having to re-key each point. Instead, write your answer in the margin of each original thought or question. If there's no room, number the points in the body of the original memo and number your answers on the reverse side. Then pop it into the mail.

3. Assert yourself to get needed information or request clear direction.

4. Re-examine your routing. Get a good map and look for alternate routes from each call to the next. Ask customers to tip you off to local shortcuts to your next destination. File directions for future use. If you work medical centers, be ruthless about maximizing the time it took you to find parking, walking, signing in, etc. Hopping out for another appointment and returning is a huge waste of time. Good call cycle planning and advance scheduling can help.

5. Re-examine your itinerary. Do you have too much down time or are you scheduled too tightly for optimum effectiveness?

6. Make a habit to wrap up your day by capturing call notes, planning for follow up action items every day.

Need To's

1. Carry a working copy of highlight/expense reports and jot notes as you go.

2. Create a 'to read' file of newsletters/articles that you've torn from the journals that you receive each month. Keep it in your portfolio bag or car.

3. Procrastinate only about procrastinating. Do the unsavory stuff first (get it out of the way).

4. Call ahead to confirm appointments and items to bring along. Although this can backfire by allowing them to tell you that they are too busy, you'll learn which offices this works best in.

5. Make time to plan and update your master plan. Allocate time to the high payoff priorities (your goals).

6. Learn to say 'no'.

Nice To's

1. If you travel, keep your travel kit, toiletries, batteries, chargers, all standard travel items packed and ready to go at all times.

2. Make appointments whenever possible (even for fun).

3. Resist unscheduled activities that don't meet your life balance goals.

4. Eliminate and delegate. What can you stop doing, delegate to your kids or pay outside help to do that will free up some time?

5. Avoid the catch-22 of living and working beyond your means.

6. Whenever possible, tackle brain tasks when you are at your peak time of day.

3. Q: This all makes sense, but how does one really make it work every day?

  • Select only one major and one minor time/organization change at a time. You may want to listen to the tips again and carefully select one or two.
  • Dedicate yourself to practice at least the new productivity habit for at least one month
  • Enlist a coach (manager, spouse, buddy)
  • Write a contract to yourself on several index cards. Put them on your bathroom mirror, on your dashboard or visor, in your day planner or anywhere that you will benefit from the reminder.
  • Make the self contract in positive words. Write, Is what I am doing right now helping me to meet my goals instead of I should not just follow my to do list without reordering priorities.
  • Be gentle with yourself. It may take up to 3 months to establish a new habit. Don't give up.
  • Finally, once you have successfully formed one good self management habit, revisit the list to identify the next one.

4. Q: How would you summarize or wrap up such an important and complex topic? There are so many things that you can control but time is not one of them. Focus on what you can control... yourself. How you use the time that you are given gives you some control over your life. Remember, time waits for no one. It's not the to do list but the accomplishments that create your destiny. So decide what you want out of life, and then spend your time wisely by staying focused on making it happen!


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