The Art of Defensive Time Management

If you don’t manage your time, someone else will manage it for you.

One of the key tactics for getting out of overwhelm his understanding that you are a powerful person, in charge of your own schedule. You get to decide when to say “yes”, and when to say “no”.

Business man stop time

That’s simple enough. But simple does not always equal easy, and managing your time defensively-protecting it from abuse by other people-requires that you do something that is not easy.

You must set and enforce boundaries.

My New Productivity Tweaks for 2013

I took the last few days to contemplate what worked for me, in terms of productivity, over the past year – and what did not work. The result: a new plan for improved productivity in 2013.

business concept on wall

While you may not wish to duplicate my plan point-for-point, I thought you might find it useful to see my “working blueprint”. Maybe it will serve as a springboard for your own fresh new productivity tweaks.

Do You Make These 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Productivity?

You can regain a lot of productivity simply by avoiding the mistakes that kill it.

If you make any of these 7 mistakes, eliminate them and watch your productivity soar.

  1. Check e-mail first thing in the morning.
  2. Answer the phone every time it rings.
  3. Allow frequent interruptions by people who “just need a minute.”
  4. Start your day without a plan (without knowing the top 3 things you need to accomplish today).
  5. Say “yes” to anything without thinking through exactly what you are committing to.
  6. Not knowing with precise clarity the outcomes you want to create.
  7. Focusing on tension-relieving activities, instead of goal-achieving activities.

First Thing, Let’s Kill All The Monsters

If you really want to be more productive, the 1st thing you have to do each morning is “kill all monsters.”

You most likely already know exactly what I’m talking about.

The “monsters” are those things that you need to do each day that are important but unpleasant.

Maybe you don’t even think of them as unpleasant, but you still have a difficult time getting yourself to do them. You procrastinate. You find excuses.

You just don’t get around to killing those monsters.

[Productivity] How To Gain a Full Day Every Week

There is no magic in productivity.

Most of us spend only a tiny sliver of our workday devoted to the tasks that actually “move the needle” in our business. The rest of our day is taken up with interruptions, other people’s priorities, and trivia. As you can imagine, this kills productivity.

Many studies have been conducted that show as much as 80% of our work time is wasted. What if you could reclaim even a fraction of that time?

[Productivity] How To Gain a Full Day Every Week

I believe it is relatively easy for anyone to recover 2 hours a day of productivity time simply by eliminating the most egregious time-wasters. That means you would recover more than a full workday each week. Here’s how to do it…

3 Productivity Experiments I’m Conducting

I’m currently going through a re-vamping, refining, and re-evaluating phase of all my business and productivity systems, and I thought it might be useful to you if I shared some ideas I’m trying out.

 

I’m telling you right up front these items are EXPERIMENTAL. If they prove successful, I’ll have more to say here in the future about them.

1.Three-Sentence Emails.
I have tried this one before, abandoned it, and am now giving it another go. If you receive a lot of email, you know what it’s like to feel overloaded by it. This is a personal policy that all email responses (regardless of recipient or subject ) will be three sentences or less. Read more at http://three.sentenc.es/ Here’s my latest twist: While I am practicing this policy, I have not included the e-mail signature explaining it. So far, I have not received a single complaint. Apparently, nobody is upset that my e-mails are not long enough.

2. Fifteen Minute Meetings. Most meetings will be 15 minutes or less. That’s my default meeting length. If it needs to be longer, we can negotiate in 15 minute blocks. If it needs to be longer than 45 minutes, we’d better be working on something like the Middle East Peace Talks or nuclear disarmament.

3. Free Days.  This is something I have tried to enforce in days gone by, failed, “reset the clock”, and tried again. I “fell of the wagon” on this one again recently. Embarrassing. But, as it says in the Book of Proverbs, “though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again”. So here’s the practice I’m aiming for… a “free day” is one in which there is no business activity of any kind: no emails, no blogs, no IMs, no phone calls, no reading articles, no business books… nothing. Right now, I have at least one scheduled Free Day per week (Sundays). The purpose is to allow for real refreshing, rejuvenation, and creativity to arise. My goal is to eventually reach 3 Free Days per week. This does not mean that I’ll be spending 3 days a week doing nothing... these days will be filled with family time, spiritual and charitable pursuits, and yes, even recreation. For more on this, see Dan Sullivan’s “The Time Breakthrough”.

 Question: what productivity tricks have you been testing lately, and what is working well?

Don’t Interrupt Me

Interruptions cost you dearly.

As a writer, I know that allowing myself to be interrupted by a client or vendor (“Hey Ray – got a minute to talk about the new logo?”) can seem harmless… but it isn’t.

That interruption costs me (a) the state of “flow” I was in while working, maybe impossible to recover, (b) the time of the interruption itself, and (c) the time it takes me to get back into the “zone” with what I was working on… minimum 20 minutes, maybe longer.

I can’t afford to let that happen. Especially not in the “New Economy”.

My clients and customers can’t afford for me to let that happen.

I once had a client who loved to call me at 11pm at night and talk for two hours. I tried to tell him I worked set hours and was available at those times, but he didn’t seem to understand. When our first project was finished, I fired him. His dysfunction did not automatically become my problem.

Be warned – people will waste your time, if you let them. Will you let them? Be polite, be loving… but don’t be a victim.

In the end, if you guard your time, you are being most respectful of other people.

Think about it: if you allow yourself to be interrupted, or your time wasted when you should have been doing something else… who suffers? Your clients. Your customers. Your family (“Sorry honey, I have to stay late because I wasted 2 hours today listening to the web team make excuses…”).

You’re not serving anyone by being a poor steward of your time.

Question: do you think it is important to carefully guard your time, and if so, how do you do it?

How To Be More Productive Every Day

SPECIAL NOTE: I’m starting a brand-new weekly podcast, which begins tomorrow. Be on the lookout for an e-mail about the inaugural episode. Or, if you want to just get the new podcasts automatically delivered to your iPod or other MP3 player, just subscribe to the show in iTunes now.

-Ray Edwards

If you’ve been reading this blog very long, you know I tend to have many “irons in the fire” at any given time.

How is it I’m able to juggle so many priorities and projects?

More importantly, how can you juggle your own priorities and projects – and get more done in less time?

The answer: through careful conscious choice, and good systems. In this article, I will share my own insights, learned in the trenches of my daily business.

And quite frankly: it’s a work in progress.

In order to deliver the very best work to my clients and partners, and to still leave room in my schedule for rejuvenation (sleep, family time, time with God, and time to just plain relax)… I have to guard my time vigorously. And I have to be on guard against what Dan Kennedy calls “Time Vampires”. Some tactics that work for me in my current system:

MSR
My Morning Success Ritual is vital to my most productive days. While I don’t manage to get this in every day, I’m getting better at it. My goal between now and the end of the year is to achieve 95%+ compliance with this ritual every day.

The MSR is summed up by the acronym WWW B PREP, which stands for:

  • Wake
  • Water (16 oz. filtered)
  • Walk (at least 20 minutes)
  • Bible
  • Prayer
  • Eat
  • Plan (the day)

The days when I follow this MSR, starting the minute my feet hit the floor out of bed, are invariably my best days (most productive, most joyous, most satisfying). Probably because the most important things were done first – and when I’m still in the “NDZ”: No Distraction Zone (meaning no email, no voicemail, no phone calls, etc.)

Writing
The first thing I *must* do each day, after my MSR is complete (and after I have showered,  etc.) is WRITING. I am primarily a writer. So this is my #1 Revenue Producing Activity (RPA). At this point my phone is off, I have still not checked email, not checked voicemail, etc. Still in the NDZ. I write for a large block of time at the beginning of the day — often 4 hours. NOTHING gets to interrupt the writing — including (and even especially) the clients for whom I may be writing.

Email
My auto-check feature in Apple Mail is turned OFF. I only get email when I press the “Check Mail” button. I check it  once per day,  Monday thru Friday. Usually around  4pm Pacific. This is one of my policies that tends to be unpopular with those who are “urgency addicts”, and who want me to have a constant email discussion about minutia with them. I refuse to sacrifice my highest valued commodity (time) for the sake of what usually amounts to trivia. I suggest you adopt the same policy.

Meetings
Any meeting that lasts longer than 15 minutes is probably too long. Not always, but most of the time. Any project that requires multiple meetings each week is probably in trouble. Long meetings = inefficiency at best, and postponement of the inevitable at worst. (As a sidebar: frequent short meetings are just a disguised way of having long meetings. HEAR ME: if you have “meeting-itis”, either you just want an excuse to talk about work instead of doing it, or something is wrong with the project … something another meeting won’t solve).

Phone Meetings / Conversations
Same as meetings, only worse. Conversations and phone meetings should be 15 minutes or less. Anything longer and you’re probably wasting time for at least some people in the group.

Instant Messenger
Just say no. The only time I use it is when I have SCHEDULED events on Skype (usually interviews). Also, I occasionally chat with family or friends — but again, this is SCHEDULED. I am NEVER “just available” to be interrupted. (If I was, that would mean that I was either doing something unimportant, or that I was doing NOTHING. If I’m doing something unimportant… WHY? And if I’m doing NOTHING, it’s a PLANNED nothing and it’s important that this not be interrupted!).

Office Hours
Yes, I keep office hours.  I keep regular business hours most of the time: Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm Pacific.

Bottom Line

These simple tactics in the saving me a minimum of 2 hours each day – or 10 hours per week. Think about it this way-if you are able to save just 10 hours per week of wasted time, that means you save 520 hours in a year. That comes to 65 work days! It’s like giving yourself an extra 2 months every year.

By the way, productivity is one of the topics that I’ll be focusing on in my brand-new podcast, which begins tomorrow. Be on the lookout for an e-mail about the inaugural episode.

Or, if you want to just get the new podcasts automatically delivered to your iPod or other MP3 player, just subscribe to the show in iTunes.

Question for you: what tips or tactics have helped you the most in being more productive? What do you do to get more accomplished in less time? Comment below.