Make Time for Time
Ask any entrepreneur what they feel they need to become more successful, and while money is often cited, it’s actually time.
What better month to discuss the concept of time than the mid-year mark on the calendar? We’re officially half way through the year and one quarter away our industry’s busy season. As I look at the calendar, I can’t help but wonder what can I do to improve my productivity this second half of the year and, thereby, my profitability. Increase my marketing? Add more work to my already over-scheduled work load? Actually, what I really want is more time to myself, and I bet I’m not alone.
Time management seems like a unicorn. Is it possible to achieve real balance through time management? Laura Vanderkam thinks so. She’s made it her career. The expert on the topic has written several books, including the best-selling 168 Hours, on how even the most in-demand leaders maintain incredible productivity.
Make time for time
I heard Vanderkam when she spoke at the recent American Society of Journalists and Authors conference where I copiously took notes about how to improve my own time management. She started off with making three lists (be still my heart, I love making lists). Write down the top 100 things that come to mind when answering these three questions:
- What do I like most about my time?
- What do want to do more time doing?
- What do I want to be spending less time doing?
Then think about your “end-of-year holiday letter” (you know the ones your friends like to send that seem to detail every fascinating and fun thing they and their family did that year?). List three to five amazing things you did this year in your letter.
Once this is done, you need to start thinking how to accomplish these things through a number of tactics. As Vanderkamp put it, "Time is highly elastic. You can’t make more time, but you can decide how to use it.”
While she recommends busy professionals use Friday afternoons to plan their week ahead, Fridays are usually busy for most retailers. However, Mondays are either slower or it’s your day off. Use whichever day of the week is your quietest time and plot your week ahead. Planning works. In fact, that was probably her biggest take-away: PLAN.
Breakdown of hours
Before you start to plan, it might be worthwhile to see how you’re using your time per day and week. Write it down. Keep a time journal! See where you’re wasting time (hello, Facebook?). Take note of when you’re most productive (mornings, late evenings?).
There are a number of apps that can help you track your time. I love Toggl because it’s free and I can track various activities on it. If you’d rather not upload it onto your computer, paper and pen work, too.
Next, plot your week ahead and plan to do the following every week (schedule it!):
- Strategic thinking (take a half day or whole afternoon per week)
- Skills building (what can you do this week to build upon a skill set?)
- Visibility (good ol’ marketing)
If you find yourself busy doing “busy work,” consider outsourcing some of it. Do you find doing social media or keeping your blog updated time consuming but you know it’s important? Outsource it. Hate bookkeeping? You’d be surprised at how inexpensive hiring a bookkeeper on a monthly basis can be. In fact, the time you spend not dealing with it may be better spent doing things like increasing your visibility, which could bring you more business. Economists like to call that the opportunity cost—what have you lost in business because you didn’t take advantage of that opportunity?
Time management isn’t just for consultants. It’s a tool we can all use to help us make the most of our time. Try it this month and see how much time you gain back from the busy-ness of life.
First published in Vol. ?? No. ? of Retailing Insight. © 2016 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.