Getting a Handle on Our Most Irreplaceable Workplace Resource

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Jan 4, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It’s that time of year – New Year’s resolution time.

How many of us set resolutions with every good intention to follow through, but after a few months bad habits creep back in. One resolution I’ve committed to in past years that has produced good results is time management.

Over the years, I’ve become a fan of research and recommendations from the likes of Tony Schwartz and his Energy Project as well as studies showing multi-tasking makes us less productive rather than more.

Values, priorities, consistent habits

This year my commitment to time management and its myriad benefits was renewed by Kevin Kruse’s latest book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management. I’m sure many readers of this blog have also read blogs, articles and other insights on how to manage time, which is one reason I appreciate Kevin’s book.

As the tagline says, Kevin has brought together in one place “The productivity habits of seven billionaires, 13 Olympic athletes, 29 straight-A students, and 239 entrepreneurs.” Because Kevin is looking across so many sources, he’s able to observe trends of what works for time management – and it’s not the oft-advised to-do list. As he observes:

What I discovered is that highly successful people don’t prioritize tasks on a to-do list, or follow some complex five-step system, or refer to logic tree diagrams to make decisions. Actually, highly successful people don’t think about time much at all. Instead, they think about values, priorities, and consistent habits.” (emphasis original)

Here are some of the top habits that stood out to me, many I already incorporate into my workday and some I will begin to in future.

1. Live by your calendar – not to-do lists

Kevin calls this “time-blocking” where you block of your calendar for work you need to do so you avoid shuttling your own priority assignments behind the requests of others. Our time is truly a precious resource. How we choose to spend it can indicate what we value and prioritize.

Blocking off time in the calendar on those projects I deem most important helps to ensure the projects I value and prioritize get some of my best time and attention. Several quotes throughout the book rang true for me on this point:

  • You can never lose time and get it back again.”
  • There will always be more to do and always more that can be done.”

2. Learn to say “no”

We can only time-block successfully if we also learn to say “no” to the constant requests on our time. This is a skill difficult for many, not because we are push-overs but because there are so many tantalizing, interesting projects we can become involved in.

Prioritizing requires saying “no,” even to something good. Kevin offers seven different ways to say no to many of the most common requests on our time at work. Again, a few good quotes:

  • “We routinely let people steal our time, even though it is our most valuable possession.
  • We mistakenly think we will be less busy in the future than we are in the present.”
  • Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something in the future.”

3. You aren’t the only one who can fulfill the request

It can become easier to say “no” when we can figure out ways to help others achieve the same end. How? “Instead of asking ‘How can I do this?’, ask ‘How can I get this done?” We are likely surrounded by smart, capable people who can help accomplish the goal, if we reach out and involve them.

Additional ideas and observations that struck me as I read the book:

  • To better enjoy your vacation (and for some of us that might mean taking a true vacation disconnected from work), schedule buffer days before and after your vacation during which you do nothing more than handing off work, and then catching up upon your return.
  • Follow the “touch it once and move on” rule, especially if it only takes five minutes to complete. Thinking, “I’ll deal with that later” simply means you’ll deal with it again.
  • Follow Kevin’s formula for success: E-3C. Energy, Capture (in a notebook), Calendar (instead of to-do lists), Concentrate (shut off distractions).

Aside from interesting insights, trend spotting, and good advice, Kevin also offers many extra give-aways including plans, tools, tips and tricks. The book can be read in one sitting and is well worth the investment of your time in order to gain back much more time through better time management approaches that work for you.

How do you manage your time?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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