William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, once said, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."And with the plethora of time management tools and books on the market today, it's hard to disagree with that statement.
So, what is your preferred time management system? Do you favor a more traditional approach, such as the tried-and-true though laborious Franklin Planner? Or do you prefer something more high tech and mobile that you manage from your smartphone?
Regardless of what system you use to manage your time, successful time management boils down to three things:
1. Setting priorities
2. Completing daily tasks
3. Eliminating distractions
Those who manage these three things are not only successful in their business, but they are successful in their life as well.
So, before you go investing in a Franklin Planner or scamper-off to download the latest smartphone app, give this simple, easy to implement, five-step time management system a go.
All you need to get started is a piece of paper and a pencil. Or, if you want to go a little high tech, a blank document or spreadsheet page.
5-Step Time Management System
Step One: At the very top of the page put tomorrow's date. Then, draw four columns. Label the first column, "I Must Do"; The second, "I Next Do"; the third, "I Could Do"; and the fourth, "Not Mine to Do". Then at the very top of the page put tomorrow's date.
Next, think of all the things that need to get done tomorrow and decide under which column they belong.
- I Must Do Column: These are the things that absolutely must be done tomorrow. And attended to by you, personally.
- I Next Do Column: These are the things that would be great if you got done tomorrow, though could be postponed, if necessary.
- I Could Do Column: These are things that can be done tomorrow, if time permits, and can be delayed without penalty.
- Not Mine to Do Column: These are the things that we all do as small business owners that really aren't our business to do. Perhaps these are things that your virtual assistant, business manager, or even spouse can do for you.
Step Two: As American businessman Lee Iacocca says, "If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got."
Tomorrow, without exception, complete everything that is in the "I Must Do" column. Let nothing stand in your way of completing this list. Give this column your all and don't allow any distraction or unrelated interest to supersede this list. Check or cross off items as they are completed.
Step Three: Once you complete the "I Must Do" column, move steadily on to the "I Next Do" column. But first, ask yourself, "What on this list can be moved to another day?"
Move whatever you can to the next day's "I Must Do" column. Then complete whatever is best to complete today.
Step Four: Now that you've finished the first column and whatever was best to complete today from the second column, move on to the "I Could Do" column. Look over the list and decide what, if anything, you want to complete today. Want is the operative word.
Whatever you decide to complete today, complete it in full. Then move everything else from this column to the pertinent next day's column.
Step Five: At the end of the day, take out a new piece of paper or open up a blank document page and fill-in the next day’s columns with your new to do list.
When finished do something ceremonial with today’s list, such as crumpling it up into a ball and shooting it into the waste basket for two points, and declare, “Done!”
Putting a time management system in place for your small business doesn't have to be complicated, costly, or all consuming. Before you go investing in a Franklin Planner or scamper-off to download the latest smartphone app, give this simple, easy to implement five-step time management system a go. You'll be glad you did.
About the Author: Dr. Susan L. Reid is a business coach and consultant for entrepreneurial women starting businesses. She is the award-winning author of “Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Journey to Business Success,” and has a free chapter PDF of her most popular chapter: “Doing What You Love: Multiple Streams of Passion” for those who want see how persistence, patience and practice can really pay off.