After a careful study of some of the masters of time management, including Steven R. Covey (Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People), Roger Merrill (First Things First), and Timothy Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week) and after comparing their amazing time management principles to a highly dysfunctional test candidate (myself) I have developed three principles that have helped me become much more effective.
Principle 1. KNOW WHAT YOU SEEK.
According to Dr. Covey, human beings are comprised of four different fundamental areas: mental, physical, spiritual, and social / emotional. Take a sheet of paper, write down the four things, and ask this question: What one thing could I do, that would bring the greatest positive improvement in this area?
Next, identify the different "roles" you play in your life. Things like wife, husband, father, mother, daughter, member of a community, church or club, entrepreneur, cyclist, etc. Then ask the question for each of these roles as well. You now have a list of goals that cover every important area of your life.
Principle 2. DEVELOP A DAILY AND WEEKLY METHOD OF OPERATION. (MO).
First, throw most of your long range goals in the trash. They're meaningless. Why? Because they delude you into thinking that it does not matter what you do TODAY. But today is all you have. How can you possibly reach a massive goal in five years if you do not do the daily work necessary to get there? Yet not everything has to be done on a daily basis, some thing are best performed weekly. For example, in the role of "husband" I try to have a date once a week with my wife. Weekly makes more sense than daily. But monthly is not near enough!
Very few goals outside of daily or weekly make sense. So take all the goals determined above, and develop your daily and weekly method of operation. Write them down on a single piece of paper, and display it where you will see it often.
Principle 3. REDUCE AND SIMPLIFY.
Think you do not have enough time? Think again. You have just as much time in the day as Mother Teresa or Bill Gates. One major difference between extremely highly effective and dysfunctional people is simply in the use of time.
Every morning, look at your daily and weekly MO. Start into those most important activities you have chosen, and stay on task until they're all done. Do not let ANYTHING distract you from each item. And do not multi-task. Do one at a time through to completion.
There are four things you will have to manage if you want to do this effectively: e-mail, the telephone, media, and other people.
Many experts tell us that e-mail wastes more time than any other business practice. And very few e-mails are mission critical. Here are some steps to take in killing this time sucking, income reducing monster:
1. Turn off the "you've got mail" sound on your computer.
2. Only check your e-mail twice per day, once per day if possible. The best times are noon and 4 PM. If once only, then do it at 4. If you need to, set up an autoresponse letting people know that you are only checking your e-mail at 4 PM, and if it's an emergency item to call you on the phone. When I started checking e-mail twice a day I thought I would miss out on opportunities or cause unfair to colleagues. Surprisingly, within a week I was down to once a day, and my personal effectiveness was through the roof.
3. Be aggressive in eliminating e-mail, and be quick to hit delete. If you have dysfunctional friends that think they need to send you stupid "pass this on to 10 people and …" e-mails, politely ask them to stop sending them. Unsubscribe from mailing lists. Do not feel obliged to respond to every e-mail you receive. The delete button is your friend.
Do you feel like a ringing phone is an emergency? It's not. Believe it or not, the world will still function just fine without you for a few hours. Learn to ignore the phone while working on your priorities, and let voice mail do its job.
Kill it. Cancel your newspaper. It's only filling your head with negative crap anyway. Stop watching the news, reading magazines, and celebrity gossip at your home page. Do not surf the internet idly. It's a good idea to change your home page to a plain one without any media or news, like google.com, or a site that helps you achieve one of your major goals. Think you'll miss out on something big if you cut media out of your life? Nope. Trust me, if a major earth sinks a continent, you'll hear about it real quick.
This one you have to be careful with. What's the point of life if not for the relationships we have? At the same time, if you implement these principles, you'll actually have more time for those you care about most. The key is to not let others invade your sacred space when you are working on your MO's. Use the "do not disturb" button, warn your family before you go into your office, and take care of interruptions quickly. That will help you eliminate casual, time wasting interactions, saving time for the important, planned people time that you create through being more effective.
The 80/20 rule dictates that 80 percent of the results are achieved by only 20 percent of the work. By using these principals you can eliminate the 80 percent, work only on the 20, and cut your work time down while increasing your effectiveness and creating time for those things that matter most in your life!