The Basics of Effective Time Management

Posted on June 1, 2002 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Do you, like most of us, feel there are not enough hours in the day? Do you find yourself making a ?to do? list, only to scratch off some of the items and feverishly rewrite them for the next week? Managing your time efficiently is directly tied in to meeting your company?s goals, both short-term and long-term. Most people in this industry are in it to achieve success and be rewarded. Yet achieving success and being rewarded means setting goals. To reach your goals, you must be efficient at managing your time.

?We could achieve any goals we wanted to if we had unlimited time,? says Todd Stephens, vice president of operations for BostonCoach, at the LCT Show in March. ?If you had 200 or 300 years to become the biggest company in the industry, I?m sure you could figure it out. The fact is that we don?t have that amount of time to achieve our goals. The fact is, time is really quite short. We have to be a little bit selfish with our time if we really want to achieve our goals.?

The following are some general rules of time management that Stephens uses as guiding principles.

Things that take the most time may have the least tangible return This doesn?t mean these items are unimportant, necessarily, but that they may not give you the return you?re looking for today in your business. ?One of my examples is something that I firmly believe in,? Stephens says. ?It?s employee meetings and communicating with your employees. When I first became a supervisor at BostonCoach in Philadelphia, I spent about 60 or 70 percent of my time just talking to employees. I learned so much about the business in a very short period of time. But I didn?t have tangible results. I was talking to those folks about what we wanted to achieve this year, next year, and the kind of service that we wanted them to deliver to customers while they were in the car. It didn?t have an immediate, tangible result, but it?s an investment that you make over time.?

Sweat the important stuff, not the small stuff ?I used to work about 15 hours a day, and I almost had an ulcer,? Stephens says. Keep lists of critical and non-critical tasks. ?I keep a list and update it every two days with things that I need to get done today, tomorrow and by the end of the week,? he says. ?I keep a second list of things I want to get done all the time, and I always block off time to get my tasks done.?

One minute or one day late is still late. Being habitually late to meetings because you have to sneak in one last e-mail or phone call doesn?t work. ?You get a bad reputation,? Stephens says. ?And then when you start scheduling meetings, people will start showing up late, since they know you?re going to be late.? You must have a sense of urgency to succeed in this business, and a good sense of detail.

Know that there?s no such thing as an eight-hour day Whether you?re a chauffeur or the general manager, there are a lot of unknowns in this industry, and you have to be flexible to succeed. ?When I was a driver, I never knew when I was going to get out of the car, when the last ride was coming up,? Stephens says. ?Now I never know when I?m going to get out the office ? things just happen. Regardless of what your position is in this business, you?re going to work more than eight hours a day, and you?re probably going to work more than five days a week on occasion ? especially when you have big events.?

Eliminate Time Wasters We all have time wasters in our lives ? things that get under our skin every day. ?Time wasters, in my opinion, are the enemy and they must be defeated!? Stephens says. Examples of time wasters include never-ending meetings, unnecessary e-mails, and employees who ask the same question over and over and over. Often, the simple key is increased employee communication.

Once your goals are plotted out, you?re using the above time management techniques, you?ve identified your time wasters and know how to avoid them, now you?re ready to apply some advanced time management techniques.

Maintain a constant focus on goals and objectives. If you?re not spending 25 or 30 percent of your time making sure that whatever you?re doing at the moment is going to benefit you long-term and help you achieve your goals, then you?ve got to re-engineer the way you work each day.

?For years I spent a lot of time just doing paperwork, and I had to ask myself, ?What the heck am I doing? This isn?t really helping me achieve my long-term goals; this is just keeping me busy,?? Stephens says.

Limit distractions ?A few years ago I got so distracted with trying to get work done in the office, I actually went to the local library and worked in a cubicle for a few hours,? Stephens says. ?I left my pager in the car and said, ?For the next two hours, I?m going to think about how I can actually solve this problem.? If you do that, you?d be amazed at the problems you can solve. We?ve got problems at BostonCoach that we?ve had for 12 years that we still haven?t solved. But we chip away at them one at a time by taking the time we need to focus on what it is and get it resolved.?

Holding staff meetings every week and communicating with your team. Invite a driver or a customer service person to your meeting. The more you know and the more you can communicate to your employees, the better your chances of success. ?Your employees will get passionate about the things you are passionate about,? Stephens says. ?And if you?re successful in selecting your employees, they?ll do a good job for you.?

Don?t let meetings control you. When you?re in a meeting and talking about things that are going on in your business, you find yourself getting excited at the prospect of new ideas, and soon you?re .... checking out the June issue of LCT!

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