Business and Operations
Make the most of your time
By Joelle Jay
By Joelle Jay
August 24, 2010 – Whether the issue is that you have too much to do, too
little help, too daunting a task, or all of the above, you can feel at times there's no way to keep up. Without some kind of a plan for your time, you can feel
stretched to the point of insanity. Fortunately, you can start to take control
by learning to maximize your time.
In order to thrive, you need to change the way you look
at time. The key is to learn to not just manage your time, but to maximize it.
Traditionally, time management is about getting more done
in the time blocks within your calendar. In fact, if you look up the word
"managing," you'll see terms such as "to deal with,"
"to cope," and "to wield." These words suggest a limited
way of looking at time; that it's something to be dealt with, that it's against
you and that you have to contain it.
The problem is that even if you master the art of time
management, you can still find yourself overworked. Your calendar may be a
masterpiece of organization, and you may excel at getting things done, yet you
may feel as if you're not making any real achievements. Your life seems to be
one (sometimes meaningless) task after another. You spend your days sacrificing
your sanity for a neatly crossed off to-do list.
You have a more powerful option. Instead of just managing
your time as if it's working against you, you can maximize it and have time
work for you. Maximizing your time is about getting the most out of your time
so you can do more with less. Literally, the term "maximizing" means
"to make as big as possible," "to make the most of," and
"to find maximum value in something."
When you maximize your time, in addition to accomplishing
daily tasks, you're making space for the things that matter most – your goals,
priorities, and the bigger vision of success for you and your organization.
To keep up in today's world and still have a meaningful
professional and personal life, you need to maximize your time. Following are
three time maximizing techniques that can help.
Go to the calendar
"Going to the calendar" is a great strategy for
making the most of your time. You stop taking every email, phone call, meeting,
and problem as it comes up, and instead you start scheduling things in a way
that makes sense.
Going to the calendar means literally opening up your
calendar, turning on the PDA, getting out your schedule, and physically putting
into place a written, concrete plan to use every hour in the most productive
The key to making this work is to start with a blank
calendar and address the tasks, projects, or activities that matter most to you
first, before you take those calls and emails. Ask yourself, "What's the
best use of my time?" and "Where am I going to get maximum
value?" Schedule those things first. Then you can see where the other
tasks can go in your calendar. You may find that not everything can fit…and
that's okay. If you're focusing on what matters most, the secondary items can
usually slide. Either you'll realize they are just "busy work" that
doesn't really need to be done, or you'll suddenly see shortcuts to the tasks
that you did not realize before.
Remember, just as you can control your time, you can also
control your calendar. Don't let it control you.
The 5 Ds
Whenever your time is being eaten up by a stack of emails,
a stack of paper, a stack of voice mail messages, or just stacks and stacks of
work, “The 5 Ds” work especially well. You will drastically cut the time you
need to get through the stack, and you can then get to the other high-impact
activities that make the best use of your time. The 5 Ds stand for:
Do It: Stop pushing around a task and do it now. Use this
for any task that takes fifteen minutes or less.
Delete It: There are some things that do not require your
response. Just because someone sent you the message/document/suggestion doesn't
mean you have to reply. If an item doesn't advance a relationship or achieve an
important goal, get rid of it.
Delegate It: As often as possible, pass a task on to
someone else who can handle the job. They don't have to do it better than you;
they don't even have to do it as fast. They probably won't. But unless it's a
top priority or specific result that you and only you can deliver, you're not
the right person to do it. Pass it on.
Decide On It: No more moving items from one stack to
another, telling yourself, "I'll get back to that." Will you attend
the meeting or won't you? Will you agree to that request or won't you? Make a
decision. Move on.
Date It: Choose when you will give big-ticket items your
undivided time and attention. Figure out how much time you need and block it
out in your schedule. You can forget about it until then.
The 5 Ds will save you time, and potentially a lot of it.
Before you fill up that time with more meaningless tasks, give some thought to
the most powerful way you can use the time you save.
When you feel like many big activities are crowding you
out, you can become overwhelmed and not know where to start. After all, it's so
much easier to tinker in the minutiae than to tackle the most important tasks.
The danger is that most of the important things never get done. Unfortunately,
too many people today don't take the time to choose what to spend their time
on. They're simply answering fire alarms all day or taking things on a
"first come, first served" basis.
To help you manage your sanity and maximize your time,
you need to figure out what the priority is. So sit back and identify project
one, two, and three. Choose one project or one action item to tackle that will
allow you to make the biggest impact with your time. Keep sight of which
project you'll grant top priority, and give it the best of your time. Then you
can turn to the rest.
Time IS on your side
The fact is you will never have control of your time
unless you take control of your time. That means stopping long enough to get a
handle on what's happening, reflecting on whether it's working, and learning
new ways to maximize the time you have. Rethinking your relationship to time
takes an open mind, it takes commitment, and (ironically) it takes time. But
the investment you make in maximizing your time will pay you back hour after
precious hour. When you learn how to maximize your time, not only will you stay
sane in the midst of today's business environment, but you'll also become more
valuable, more productive, and ultimately more at peace in all areas of your
Dr. Joelle K. Jay, Ph. D., is an executive coach and the
senior managing partner of the leadership development firm, Pillar Consulting.
She strategizes with business leaders to enhance their performance and maximize
business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level
executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of "The Inner Edge:
The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership." For a free Sample Chapter, go to
www.TheInnerEdge.com or email