A few years ago, I stopped working Fridays.
Loads of reasons. But mainly because I wanted a better work-life balance and so that I could dedicate more time to my own personal development.
But I knew I’d feel uncomfortable if I stopped working for a fifth of the week, and my business shrunk by a fifth. I didn’t want my business to shrink. Who would?
So I spent ages working out how I could become more efficient. Such that I could save a day a week without doing any harm to my business.
I’ve always been pretty good with time management.
But I managed to save a day.
A whole day! Every week!
Here’s what I did.
I started by reviewing my diary for the previous 2-3 weeks. I identified the things that were taking the most time and focussed on reducing them. For example, if you spend thirty hours in meetings every week, being twice as efficient would save you fifteen hours.
This list of bullets were my biggest time savings. Which one(s) could you copy? And which others did I miss?
- With every communication, be crystal clear at the beginning what the desired outcome is. For example, always start meetings with “by the end of this, we want to have achieved X”. Never begin with “so, we’re talking for an hour about X, Y and Z”
- Never have one-hour meetings. Aim for 15-20 minutes for each one
- Never meet face-to-face unless (1) both you and they think you should and (2) it’s convenient for you both
- Avoid Telephone Tennis. Schedule “Telephone Meetings” at fixed times, rather than just ringing and hoping you get through
- Avoid Email Tennis. Whenever you receive an email that requires more than a quick email response, pick-up the phone and ask “how can I help?”
- Whenever anyone asks you to prepare a document, say “Of course. Let’s first quickly agree the structure/headings you want”. This makes things miles quicker and better. You aren’t guessing, and they aren’t disappointed
- Every Thursday, preview next week’s diary. For any meeting, you now don’t need to attend, decline it – politely of course! For any you do, send a quick email “Anything new that you want me to prepare/think about before we meet?”
- At the end of each day, review everything that’s happened that day. Then, do/diarise all your follow-up actions. So, do the urgent ones now. And diarise to do the others a few days later
- Improve your delegating. There are some things you do that just don’t need to involve you. So delegate them. Yes, it saves you time. But, when you give them to someone better suited to the task, the outcomes will be better. So, everyone wins
- Change communication channels. For example, I often see managers sharing their team’s results in a one-hour conference call. It’d be quicker to (1) email the results, asking people to read them before the call (2) host a ten-minute conference call, praising successes, answering questions, and agreeing actions (3) send a quick follow-up email, confirming the actions
- Anything you don’t like doing, that won’t do any harm if you stop doing it … Just stop it! Tell the recipient you’re stopping, of course. If need be, agree on alternative approaches
- Create a 30-minute “stuff to do” diary entry every day. Drag all the small stuff in there. Blast through them all in the 30 minutes (I found this one useful. Before doing this, I used to have every action as a separate diary entry. But Outlook would default to making them 30-minutes each. So, my day would look full even though it wasn’t)
- Empty your inbox. And keep it empty for evermore. So, whenever an email comes in, either deal with it now, or drag it out of your inbox and into your ‘Stuff to do’ diary entry on the day you’ll respond. Either way, delete it from your inbox
- Identify everything that you do a lot, and that you’re slow at (for example, with me, that’s typing). Now find someone who can help you with it.
Now, of course, you won’t want to do all these. But, I imagine you can do more than none.
And how much time would you save if you did?
Free-up some time.
Do this by looking at your diary, either in advance or in reverse:
- In advance – look at today’s diary – what can you speed up? For example, an easy one: for all today’s meetings, start by explaining the desired outcome of it. Then finish the meeting as soon as you’ve achieved it. Don’t let it become a one-hour Talking Shop
- In reverse – start like I did: review your diary for the previous 2-3 weeks. Find the things that absorb most of your time, and remove/reduce them
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