Tag Archives for " Time Management "

Time Management: 8 Proven Tips to Help Take Control of the Clock!

Time Management
Time Management

Does time management seem to be a constant battle? Do you oscillate between feeling organized one day, but in a state of total disarray the next? If you are like many – including yours truly – I suspect most of the time, the answer to both questions is “yes.”

I found the quest for effective time management even more daunting after starting my own business. I was suddenly managing every aspect of a company while trying to build sales and deliver at the same time. For the first few years, life was a chaotic juggling act until I ironed out some process and started bringing people on board.

Time Management Reality

For years, I searched for the perfect solution to plan and manage my time better and was always on the hunt for new ways to improve productivity. I’ve read dozens of books by leading experts, and they all offered great advice that seems simple and obvious. But knowing something and doing it are two different things. Just look at how many gym memberships gather dust a month or two after New Year's day!

The simple conclusion I’ve reached is that there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to time management.  It takes different thinking, behaviors, and tools, all working together to achieve and sustain results. What works for me is a melting pot of smart ideas from others and lots of experimenting. Although it's always a work-in-progress, the tips below have significantly helped me improve.

#1 - Find or Create a Process

Develop a planning process or framework that helps structure the way you think and work. This could be simple daily to-do lists, or something more advanced. The goal is finding a method that helps you organize your short and long-term activities most efficiently. There are hundreds of time management systems readily available on the web, but it might help to think about what has worked well for you in the past. Trying to conform to a system that makes you grit your teeth every time you use it just won’t work. 

#2 - Use a Tool to Manage the Process

Once you have a process that “feels” right, you need a management tool for the day-to-day execution. Whether it’s sticky notes on a wall, calendars, MS Project, or an online offering like Teamwork (my personal choice), find a tool that works best for you in prioritizing, scheduling, and managing your activities. Having visuals, everything in one place, and automated reminders are important features to consider.

#3 - Prioritize and Break Down Activities

An essential building block of any time management system is identifying the critical activities that: 1) need to be done first, and 2) are most relevant and impactful. I still like Stephen Covey's “First Things First” way of thinking about this. Another resource that may help is my simple 5-Step Planning Model.

#4 - Be Realistic About Time

Learn from your past and get precise about how long your activities take to complete. The more accurate you are, the better the process becomes. Don’t forget to include time allocations for personal time, family, learning, travel, exercise, and other activities that will impact your work schedule. These are essential parts of life, and they don't simply go away because you have a lot going on at the office.

#5 - Expect the Unexpected

When planning my day, I like to include a 30% “buffer” for the unexpected. This unscheduled time is useful for new tasks that take longer than anticipated. It also accounts for interruptions that happen during an average day (urgent emails or calls that need a response, for example.) Let’s face it; the world doesn’t operate around your calendar. Cutting your planning too thin each day will end up being discouraging since you will seldom achieve your daily goals.

#6 - Offload, Delegate, and Outsource

After breaking down your activities in Tip #3 – look at all the “non-core” activities that are repetitive. Determine what parts of these tasks can be done by someone else – either on your team or within your organization. If you don’t have the staff, assess what tasks can realistically and cost-effectively be outsourced and do it! When analyzing your workload, always ask the question, “who can do this instead of me?”

#7 – Be Disciplined and Persistent

Whatever methods and tools you end up using, you need to focus on time management every day. It must become an automatic behavior at some point. As soon as you let it go, even for a short period, you will quickly become disorganized again. When overwhelmed, try to keep doing something - even if it’s a lower priority. Once you have some momentum back, it’s easier to shift into high gear again. The alternative is to sit immobilized in front of your monitor, helplessly wasting time. 

Another aspect of staying disciplined is keeping a positive outlook. To help with this, focus on your accomplishments. “I didn’t get everything done today” is better framed as “I tackled the three most important things I needed to get done today.” This subtle change in thinking helps you feel good about your progress. If you find yourself constantly falling short of your daily goals, you should revisit some of the previous six tips.

#8 – Continually Learn and Improve

Getting better at time management has been a long journey for me, and it continues to be a learning process. I believe it’s one of the most important and actionable ways to improve your life. It's also one of those things that few people ever perfect, so it's best to keep learning new ways to improve. Read, research, and ask successful friends what works for them.

Conclusion

I am certainly not a time management expert, but I hope some of these ideas can help you regain more control over your clock. Although the tips above need to be continually worked at, I find they help me produce more, in less time, and with less stress. If you have best-practices that help keep you organized and productive, please share. To get notified when new articles are published, please hit the button!

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Randy Fougere, President, Think2Grow Marketing
With a passion for building brand awareness and lead generation, I started Think2Grow for B2B clients looking to accelerate growth through better marketing strategy and execution - something I have been doing for more than 30 years now.

Execution Time – At Least 30% is Already Taken

Execution Time
Execution Time

Whether you manage a team in a project-driven environment, or you’re a lone wolf with a big plan, time management is a continual challenge for us all.

As important as it is, many people are oblivious to the hidden time constraints that are part of their average work weeks. It’s easy to do if you don’t give it some thought. If you break out and calculate the time spent on other activities, you may be amazed by how much execution time is simply not there.

Capability, engagement and time capacity are major factors that impact productivity. Let’s say you are about to enter a new quarter and you’ve just finished a marketing plan. How will you succeed in achieving your goals? Obviously, you must have the requisite skills and abilities across your team. You also need enough budget and resources allocated for the plan to work. Let’s assume that you and your people are in a situation where you feel adequately motivated. If not, this is another issue to contend with. That leaves time – perhaps the most important variable of them all. If you haven’t thought enough about how much of time is actually available, chances are, you will not meet your commitments. You also run the risk of sub-par quality as you madly scramble near the end of the quarter. (have you ever been there?)

So how much actual time do you have to work with when executing your plan? The chart below highlights some areas you probably don’t think much about during your initial planning. If you have a role where a prescribed number of deliverables must be completed in a fixed timeframe, those activities represent the pure execution part of your plan. However, as seen below, there are many “foundational” activities that still need doing as part of your day-to-day job.

Execution Time

These added demands on your time are for the most part important. The point is really about making sure you know they exist and have built your plan accordingly. For example, if you have a team reporting into you, you need to spend time with your people, and administrative tasks such as performance appraisals still have to get done. Let’s say the weekly plan updates, status meetings (with your team and boss), revisions and follow-ups take an average of 4 hours a week, that works out to over a full weeks’ worth of time during a quarter. A calculation I’ve done based on experience and typical corporate environments puts the “non-execution time” at a conservative 30%. That’s a big number to ignore!

Execution Time Tips

There are a number of reasons why expectations are misaligned when it comes to planning time. Below are some things to consider when trying to right-size your capacity:

1. Think About It: The math is very simple – how much time you need relative to how much you have. Put some focus on determining how much time is required for the activities you are scheduling. Be as detailed as you can and learn from past experience. Estimate more precisely the actual time you will have available using some of the ideas shown above. Going through an exercise like this will undoubtedly surprise you when it’s all added up.

2. Don’t Underestimate: Even if people do a good job at estimating how much time is available, there can still be a disconnect because they underestimate how long the work will take. This can be a strong inclination for people who are naturally positive and optimistic. While those traits are great ones to have, the rose-colored glasses can cause anxiety when tasks take much longer to complete than planned.

3. Build In Contingencies: It’s impossible to account for everything that can side-swipe you along the way, but try and anticipate obstacles and think through “what if” scenarios. Also, be aware of key dependencies in your plan and make sure they get the attention and priority they deserve.

4. Don’t Get Distracted: As tempting as it can be, don’t go off course chasing “shiny objects.” If your plan is the right one, stick with it. Put ideas in a parking lot for later and push things and people off whenever you can if it takes time away from your execution.

So the next time you start a new planning cycle, think about the hours and days of productive time that are really at your disposal. We’re not even considering the degree of true productivity, because nobody works 100% of every hour they have available. But if you use at least some type of calculation to get a close estimate, it will help you better manage your capacity, which will lead to better execution.

Turn Marketing Process into Your Competitive Advantage

Marketing Process
Marketing Process

I’m sure some people saw the words marketing process in the title and quickly hit the back button. But if you’re still here, it probably means you’re at least neutral on the subject, or better yet, a fan.

For many, process has gained the reputation of being boring, time-consuming, and overly administrative. If it’s not properly planned or managed, a process can indeed become those things. It can start to work against you instead of helping.

But when it’s done well, process can be brilliant, elegant and creative. When exceptional, process can differentiate companies in powerful ways. How businesses consistently do things can actually become as important as the products or services they sell. So why not take what many of your peers view as a “necessary evil”, and transform marketing process into your strategic advantage?

​“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
W. Edwards Deming

What is Process and Why Does it Matter?

​Most dictionaries will loosely define a process as “a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result.” Imagine governments, hospitals, sports teams, or software developers without it. A sound process is the only way to get things done when managing high levels of complexity. So what value does reliable process bring to the table?

  • It’s predictable, repeatable and scalable
  • It defines how people work together
  • It provides a documented roadmap of how tasks should be executed
  • It helps you plan for contingencies and adapt
  • It can be continually refined and improved

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Every department in an organization relies on good process to operate efficiently. Like other areas of business, marketing has a unique set of characteristics that makes process particularly important. Marketing is complex, very subjective and the stakes are high.

It may seem simple on the surface to some, but there are many moving parts in a well-run program. Dozens if not hundreds of small details for any given project or campaign need to be well-planned and tightly managed. Your reputation is very public, and it’s on the line every time you communicate. Also, marketing tends to be more of a discretionary spend for most companies, so if it’s not showing ROI in reasonable timeframes, the outcome is usually not positive.

Why Marketing Needs Reliable Processes

Two distinct sets of advantages develop from improved marketing process. First, you end up producing higher quality work that has more impact. Secondly, you gain efficiencies that increase productivity. When combined, these benefits ultimately lead to better results for less cost and with less time invested. Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should consider embracing marketing process as a way to achieve more:

  • ​Important details don’t get overlooked – this improves quality and saves valuable time usually needed for re-work or fixing problems
  • You create consistency in the execution because you start doing things the same way every time meaning fewer mistakes – also, on-going projects become simpler to manage and they finish sooner
  • Everyone on the team knows what to do and how to do it – this alignment saves time and effort
  • When process is running smoothly, you free up more time for research and creative thinking – this always leads to better marketing
  • You learn to leverage previous work and ideas by staying organized – this frees up more time for learning and creativity
  • Contingencies will have been considered while planning your processes – if you need to re-adjust, there are backup plans

​Some people are highly structured by nature. I tend to naturally be more free-wheeling which means I absolutely need process to function. Over the years I have come to appreciate, respect and even admire process. The fact Moneyball is one of my “Top 5” movies of all time may be an indication of how far I’ve come.

I firmly hold to the notion that well-conceived marketing process is a key factor in making a good marketing team great. Further, in a function that is constantly struggling to break through the clutter externally while proving its worth internally, strong marketing process can make all the difference.

Marketing Process