Can you point to specific things you accomplished today? Without goals and a plan, the day can simply drift by. You find yourself at the end of the day feeling as though you were busy and worked hard all day, but unable to name a specific accomplishment.
You can put an end to those lost days in just a few simple steps. Are you ready to get more done? Read on . . .
A good place to start is by tracking how you actually spend your time each day. How much time do you spend on the telephone? How much time in meetings? How much time doing productive work, such as providing billable services to clients to creating a product that will generate revenue? Do you spend a lot of time “researching” things instead of doing them? Although research may be necessary, it is easy to fall in to a trap of researching, thinking and planning without ever taking action.
Use an appointment calendar (paper or on the computer) to track your actual time for at least one day. You may be shocked when you discover how much time is wasted by goofing off (“Oh, I need to check some eBay auctions.”) or spent on busywork that does not have to be done (“Even though this report is on my computer, I print out three copies and file them in the client file, my daily file and the alphabetical file.”).
Many years ago, I worked for an insurance company. Every month I had to create a report of the activity on one of my accounts, and send copies to my boss and to the client. I had a theory, though, that no one actually looked at the reports and that I was wasting time doing them. So, one month I dutifully wrote up the report and filed it in my desk drawer. I did not send one to my boss and I did not send one to the client. No one asked about it. The next month, I decided I would do the report one more time, but again not send it out. This time, the client called. “I didn’t get my report, and I don’t think I got it last month, either.” I apologized (“Gee, I can’t imagine why the report didn’t get to you.”) and told her I would send duplicates immediately.
“By the way, while I have you on the phone,” I said, “I was just wondering how you use the report. I want to make sure it is as useful as possible to you.” After hemming and hawing for a few moments, she admitted that she did not use it at all and did not need the report as it duplicated information she got elsewhere. She told me to discontinue the report. Yay! I got the result I had hoped for.
In this case, I did not have the authority to discontinue the report on my own, but my ruse got the client to do it for me. If you have the authority, stop doing things that do not need to be done. If you can not do so without authorization, ask. Point out the savings in time, money or carbon footprint, when you stop doing the unneeded work.
Tomorrow we will look at the next step in reclaiming your day: Reducing time spent on the telephone.