Archive for September, 2009

Keep prioritizing simple!

Posted in Leadership, Management, Organize, Self-management on September 24, 2009 by Chuc Barnes

covergydiarPrioritizing is crucial to your daily success so here are some tips for prioritizing quickly in these fast-moving, turbulent times. I’m listing several methods here so you can choose the one that fits you best.

Before you do any prioritizing, realize that you’re better off when you make a written list of your tasks in advance, so you can look at them objectively. If you don’t do that, you’ll be trying to prioritize in your head – and with all of today’s pressure and last minute changes — you’re apt to get sidetracked by emotions and the stress of “urgent.” You don’t want that, so sure to always make a written list – in advance!

Once you have a written list there are a number of ways you can prioritize. Let’s call these ways “methods.”

Method #1: Use A’s and B’s

This is the procedure I described in detail in my book, “Get Your Ducks in A Row!”

Look a your written list and put the letter “A” to the left of those items on your list that are items you absolutely have to do on that given day. Then put the letter “B” to the left of the items that you’d like to do that day, but which, if you get in a jam, you could move them to another day.

When you do this, you’ll notice that you have a lot of “A” priorities, so put the number “1” as a footnote to the right of the most important “A” priority (A1). Put the number “2” as a footnote to the right of the second most important “A” priority (A2) and keep moving forward with the number 3, 4, 5, (A3, A4, A5). so you end up with a prioritized list.

Now, whenever you look at your list, you’ll now be able to focus on your most important priority first: (A1) and, when you’ve accomplished it, move on to A2, etc.

When you follow this method, you’ll find you reach your goals faster because you’re focusing on your key priorities.

Method #2: Use 1’s and 2’s

Method #1 (described above) works perfectly with a paper organizer (Franklin Planner, Daytimer, etc.) If you use an electronic organizer, however, you’ll note that it (PC or Mac) doesn’t have A’s and B’s in the areas where you make lists. It does have numbers, however, so use the numeral “1” for what you’d call an “A” priority in Method #1 (described above) and the numeral “2” for the “B” priorities (described in Method 1).

Get “Act” or “Outlook” software to help you prioritize with numbers on your PC. Get “Things” or “Remember the Milk” to help you prioritize on a Mac.

If you use a portable organizer (Blackberry, iPhone, or Palm), you can connect your Blackberry or Palm to your PC using “Act” or “Outlook” and then you can manage your priorities on the move. Likewise, if you use a Mac, consider “Remember the Milk,” “Toodledo,” “FCTasks by Franklin Covey or “Things” (described below). Each of these Mac programs has an Ap that can connect your iPhone with your Mac.

No matter what electronic device you use, you’ll quickly discover that you accomplish your goals faster by focusing on your “1” priorities first. That’s what matters most.

Method #3: “Green Time & “Red Time

Robert Krietel, best-selling author and professional speaker, recommends to clients that they with put their tasks in time blocks, which he suggests they call “Red time” and “Green time.” He defines “Green Time tasks” as those that promote value (i. e. call a client, follow through on customer matter, etc.) and that “Red Time tasks” are items that are “Bureaucratic” in nature (write report, check e-mail, etc.).

If you choose this method, it’s obvious that you’ll make better progress towards your goals when you focus on accomplishing the “Green Time tasks” first.

Method #4: $5,000 tasks & $5 tasks

My friend, Steven Iwersen, (http://www.steveniwersen.com/), a professional speaker, says that after he has made a list of all his tasks, he determines which ones are his “$5,000 tasks” and which ones are “$5 tasks.”  He says that the “$5,000 tasks” are the ones he knows will bring him the most value in his day (i.e. talk with prospect, update brochure, write proposal) and that his $5 tasks are the ones that bring him the least amount of value (check e-mail, file papers), etc.

If you choose Steven’s method, it’s obvious that you’ll reach your goals faster if you concentrate on your “$5,000 tasks” first.

Method #5: Mac & iPhone

If you’re an Mac User and if you use an iPhone (I use a Mac and an iPhone), you might want to get the software called “Things” which is described at www.culturedcode.com.

This software helps you list all your ideas, tasks, and projects in visible and invisible categories.  Thus, each and every day you can focus only on those steps that you said you wanted to take that day, while keeping all the other items (distractions) out of sight.

Summary

If you want to conserve time and get more done, it’s important to keep your prioritizing simple. The above four methods will help do that.

Do you have a comment or a favorite method of simplifying your priorities every day? Please let me know.

Time management is much broader than most people think!

Posted in Customer service, Leadership, Management, Self-management, Teamwork, Time management on September 16, 2009 by Chuc Barnes

LightbulbMany people think time management is a narrow subject for managing their own time. I suggest that good time management is much broader than that.

I propose that time management includes any and all management skills that help you, your team, and others “save” time. And, yes, I did say “all management skills are necessary” because, whether or not you are the manager of a group or team, you are the manager of yourself. Correct?

Please consider the following.

I went to Jiffy Lube last week. They had exceptional teamwork there and they got the job done fast. Their teamwork saved time for them – and for me. Realizing this, wouldn’t you say that the minutes that Jiffy Lube saved because of their teamwork efficiencies are minutes they can use – and minutes I can use? I sure do. Isn’t this what time management is all about?

Or, how about this?

I went to The Apple Store and they had excellent customer service. In essence, the Apple Store saved time for me – and for them. Correct? And the minutes the Apple Store saved because of their customer service efficiencies are minutes they can use – and minutes I can use too. I love those extra minutes and, to me, that’s what time management is all about.

And what about performance evaluations?

Some leaders tell me they put off giving performance evaluations for their people because they don’t have time. I say that is a misguided excuse and that they are fooling themselves with that excuse. Please think with me.

When you clarify expectations with your employees, and when you develop clear understandings with them, you save time for you – and for them. Correct? Once again, the minutes you save for you – and the minutes you save for your employees – are minutes that you — and they – can use. Isn’t this time management?

Ok, how about this?

My wife and I had breakfast at a Pancake House and my wife asked a waitress for some maple syrup. The waitress said, “Ask your own waitress.” Ok, please forget the rudeness of the waitress (terrible customer service) and realize that if the waitress had simply helped, she would have saved time for the other waitress – and for my wife. Those minutes would be minutes they could use. Thus, I say again that teamwork and customer service both are part of time management.

My point is simply this: Make your minutes count, no matter what item or person you are dealing with. To do so, please think of time management as the broad management skill it is, one that includes teamwork, performance evaluation, customer service, and leading meetings. I suggest that all of these management skills save time for you — and for others. And, boy, is it ever great to have any and all extra minutes to use in these chaotic, fast-changing times! Correct?

Does this make sense to you? Please leave a comment here.

Ask yourself, “What can you eliminate?”

Posted in Organize, Time management/Self-management on September 1, 2009 by Chuc Barnes

4HourWorkWkWhen working with officials at the City of Georgetown, a very nice lady told me she was absolutely “overwhelmed” in her job. She asked me to suggest anything at all that might help her, and I responded by saying, “What can you eliminate?”

This might sound rude on my part, yet I didn’t mean it to be rude and the woman didn’t take it that way. Instead, she listed intently when I told her about the book, “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris.

Mr. Ferris points out in his book that it’s crucial to keep asking, “What are the things I can eliminate?” because many of the things we work on in our days are not really that important.

Mr. Ferris puts a smile on my face when he says in his book that, “Being busy is most often a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

He goes on by saying, “The options are almost limitless for creating “busyness”: You could call a few hundred unqualified sales leads, reorganize your Outlook contacts, walk across the office to request documents you don’t really need, or fuss with your BlackBerry for a few hours when you should be prioritizing.”

Mr. Ferris keeps the smile on my face when he says, “In fact, if you want to move up the ladder in most of corporate America, and assuming they don’t really check what you’ are doing (let’s be honest), just run around the office holding a cell phone to your head and carrying papers. Now, that is one busy employee.”

I like what Mr. Ferris says because he makes the point – very forcefully – that a lot of what we work on is not really that important.

How much better would it be for example, to first qualify the leads that will be called, to schedule a time moment to organize the contacts in Outlook, to keep the needed documents as close to you as possible (walking doesn’t just waste time, it invites interruptions), and to forget about the BlackBerry right now since there’s a key priority to accomplish?

I continually tell people that there are four key words necessary for good time management: 1) Plan, 2) Prioritize, 3) Schedule, and 4) Eliminate. The fourth word “Eliminate,” is the one that usually gets forgotten. It’s a crucial word because you can actually “eliminate” a lot of unnecessary things when you plan, prioritize, and/or schedule them.

Consider your cell phone as an example.

Pretend your phone is ringing right now. Do you really need to take that call at this moment? Knowing you receive a lot of calls, why not schedule the times of day when you’ll listen to and reply to them? Why not “eliminate” the habit of answering every call by setting up your voicemail so each caller knows when you’ll listen to and reply to your messages.

And how about all those papers on your desk?

Do you really need all those piles and papers there? Why not eliminate the ones you don’t need today or else they’ll be apt to distract you from the key priorities you need to work on.

The woman who spoke with me thanked me and said, “You know, I’m starting to realize that being “busy” is not being productive. It’s just being busy.”

I loved that comment from her.

My thought for her – and for you — is this: Eliminate what you don’t need for today by scheduling it for another time.

When you “eliminate,” it’s easier to focus on the things that get you closer to your goals. And that’s when you’ll be working at your very best.

Does this make sense to you? Please leave a comment.