Time is a precious resource that we just can't get back, so use it wisely. Time management strategies can help, but yield minimal results if you aren't focusing on the "right work" - areas where you can have the biggest impact on the business. Here are three simple steps to help you focus your efforts:
Step 1: Determine your "Big 3" - the three critical areas where you can make the biggest business impact this year
As you define your Big 3, also think about what your boss would say should be your Big 3. If your boss hasn't clearly stated what is most critical, there are usually clues in his/her actions or behavior. If you're unsure, take the mystery out of the equation and get clarity through a conversation. A common definition of the "right work" will ultimately shape how you and your boss define and measure YOUR success.
Step 2: Understand the gap in how you spend your time
After you've identified your Big 3, draw a pie chart. Determine how many work hours your pie represents over a one-week period (e.g., 40 hours, 50 hours, etc.). Then, carve your pie into slices that represent major areas of your work (e.g., getting new clients, developing your team, etc.), with the size of each slice indicating the percentage of hours you SHOULD spend on that area each week. For example, if you should spend 50% of your time on getting new clients, that slice would be half of the pie. Be sure to include your Big 3 as separate slices in this pie. Then, compare this pie chart to one that shows how you ACTUALLY spend your time. You can do this by tracking your time for a week, noting your activities in increments of 30 minutes, and then summarizing how much time you dedicated to the Big 3. If it's easier, review your calendar for a recent week that represents how you typically spend your time. It's up to you how specific you want to get, but the ultimate goal is to recognize the gap between what you should be doing and what you are doing.
Step 3: Develop strategies to redirect
If you reach the conclusion that you need to shift your focus, figure out what's getting in the way today. Is it perfectionism, too many distractions, or just that you weren't clear on the Big 3? Whatever it is, determine 1-2 strategies you can start implementing tomorrow to help redirect you. Often starting small with just a couple of strategies can start building the momentum you need to achieve big change. Just remember that when you say "yes" to too much time on less critical areas, you are saying "no" to the "right work" - and your potential impact on the business!!