I came across a TED talk recently that ticked a lot of boxes for me. In “How to gain control of your free time”, Laura Vanderkam talks about how not having enough time to do something actually means that something just isn’t a priority, and that if you really want or need to do it, you can create time to do it. She finishes by suggesting an approach on how to prioritise, thus creating more free time to do whatever it is you want to do. If you’re interested in the video (and have the time to spare!) I’ll link to it at the end.
What interested me most was the link to prioritisation. I’ve generally found that if you can prioritise in your work life, the outside work life takes care of itself, or even becomes a part of your overall prioritisation so you know exactly what’s important to you, and what can wait, or even get dropped completely.
The prioritisation method I use is adapted from Stephen Covey’s time management matrix (https://sidsavara.com/coveys-time-management-matrix-illustrated/). Covey is the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, which focus on efficiencies and effectiveness. They’re both based around a four quadrant matrix but whereas Covey focuses on urgency and importance, I prefer thinking about what has to be done by whom. Having seen a great number of efficiency models over the years, I don’t recall if this is a direct lifting of someone else’s work (in which case you’ll have to forgive my lack of attribution) or, as with many approaches, an original but a mixture of many.
The first step in filling this out is to note down all the tasks you do during a day, week, or month – literally everything that takes your time or, in the case of Q1, everything that might crop up out of the regular routine. This may be hard to think about on the face of it but, for example, if you’re the only person who can take the kids to hospital if they trip over and break their leg, note it down. What you’ll find by doing this is that you can expect the unexpected, or at least allow for it.
Now, put all of those tasks into the category that fits them best. Really scrutinise them. Firstly, be tough when it comes to asking yourself about Q4 – is this something that has to be done? If no one needs it or would miss it, why do it? Then, if you’ve decided it’s a task that really needs doing, ask yourself if someone else can do it. You should be focusing on doing the things that add most value to your business – your specialist skills. Ultimately, it could come down to a simple equation – does it cost more in terms of lost revenue for me to spend extra time doing this task than it would cost to pay someone else to do it?
Hopefully, you’ll end up with something that looks a little like this:
So, ditch the daily sales reporting if you don’t need to study it every day or it’s adding no value – maybe it’s needed weekly or monthly, so consider adding that in.
Obviously you need to open the warehouse and collect the mail – but YOU don’t need to. Same for invoicing and doing administrative tasks. If the money you’ll make from you doing what only you can do in the business will more than cover what paying someone else to do other things (quicker), then that’s the route to take.
Then we come to the top row – the Q2. Instead of having a great big list of everything, this suddenly becomes more manageable, certainly less daunting. These are the things you genuinely do have to do; now it’s a matter of scheduling them and doing them.
Finally, those things that you can’t plan for…or can you? You’d hope that workplace incidents, injured children, or having to pick them up from school when your partner is sick are things that don’t happen every day, so you’d expect them to be impossible to anticipate. But if you’ve got everything else planned in your calendar, how about allowing for, say, half an hour a day for these things? If they happen, you’ve got some time built in, if they don’t then you can get ahead of the game with doing some other activities, or even taking a well-earned break and giving yourself some thinking time. It’s no different to budgeting your expenditure and allowing an extra $10 a week to cover unexpected payments.
I hope you’ve found this useful and simple enough to give it a go. If you do, let me know how you get on. I’d be very happy to help anyone through this process too – just email me, give me a call, or check out what else Office Angels can help with.
As promised, here’s the Ted Talk I opened with. I hope you get something from it.