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The Time Management Ink Blot

Dan Bobinski
December 15, 2003 -- By Dan Bobinski

Everyone has 24 hours in a day. So how come some folks are more productive than others? The answer lies in what we do with the time we have. 

But time management is not a cookie cutter proposition. What works well for one person does not work for someone else. This is why, despite all the time management gurus out there, not everyone has found enlightenment. 

The Realization
After conducting numerous time management workshops throughout the years, it finally hit me: 

Time management is an Ink Blot
: Every person views it differently. 

After that little bit of enlightenment, I changed the way I do the workshops. Now, instead of laying out the latest and greatest formula, I just present a lot of tips for working more effectively and efficiently. Then I have everyone select what they think is going to fit into their particular style. They can’t just tell me – they have to commit to incorporating some changes and they are accountable to a peer coach.
However, looking at all the wisdom that emanates from the gurus, it seems there are a few things that will help save time for just about everybody. The following are some tips that many of my clients agree with. In keeping with the Ink Blot approach, you may or may not choose to incorporate them. But I caution you to think a little bit before writing them off too fast. 

Planning is Universally Necessary
First up is planning. I can recall once hearing a motivational speaker explaining how instead of spending all of his driving time listening to the radio, he thought through his upcoming workday. He considered what he wanted to say to the various people he needed to meet with. If he knew where the meeting was going to be, he pictured in his mind where he would sit or stand, and what materials he would have before him. He created short memory tools for remembering what he wanted to get from each meeting. This focused his thinking. When the meetings actually occurred, they were efficient, effective, and focused. 

This technique is related to visualization, a powerful tool in training Olympic athletes. It’s a good time management technique because it touches on the one thing that just about every person can take advantage of: Better use of “down time.” 

Be Wary of "Time Thieves"
In that same vein are other time stealers, like E-mail and the telephone.
An article just this past week in the Dallas Business Journal says that people lose an average of an hour a day using Email. Some of this includes waiting for Email to download or unnecessarily “polishing” informal emails. 

Everyone thinks “if I’m sitting at the terminal with mouse in hand, I’m working.” But in some cases I’ve seen people click their “receive mail” button and wait for more than a minute while messages download. To sit and watch that process is a time waster. It’s here that a little multi-tasking goes a long way. 

One client says that when she clicks that “receive” button, she immediately looks down at her desk and finds ONE thing to do. It may be filing a piece of paper, putting a book or magazine back on the shelf, or putting a business card in her rolodex, but she finds one thing to do. She says by the time she gets that one thing done, her mail is usually ready to read. 

Polishing informal Email and wasting time on the telephone both eat more time than we realize. Samantha, a client, says her kids indirectly helped her with this problem. Their all too familiar “are we there yet?” question helps keep her on task. When she’s writing Email or talking on the phone, she simply asks herself that question. If her “objective” has been met, it’s time to move on. 

The Key Question:
No matter what your style or the size and shape of your Ink Blot, the key question to ask yourself for better time management is “what else could I be doing right now that could be more productive?” Think about this question. Memorize it. Repeat it often. But most important, answer it. 

© 2003 Dan Bobinski / Leadership Development. Dan Bobinski is President of Leadership Development. He can be reached at (208) 375-7606 or by Email at dan@leadershipanswers.com.


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