Success is your business
Once you begin the serious business of pursuing your success goals, your time is every bit as valuable as that of a business manager. That’s how you need to think of it. What CEO would say: ‘I’ll fi t that meeting in whenever I have a moment’? Or ‘I’ll make that decision sometime soon – I can’t say when, because I don’t know what else I’ve got on’? Or ‘Well, I was going to launch a new initiative that morning, but I guess if you want to see me, I can do that some other time’? That’s not how successful businesses work.
I’m big on goals and not on plans – but that’s only in the sense of long-range, locked-in programmes which disappoint and frustrate when (inevitably) they get broken or changed along the way. I am, in fact, a big fan of daily and weekly plans. Disciplined, proactive, responsible people have a good idea of what they are going to do and accomplish tomorrow – and for the week ahead. Reactive, blaming people, when asked what they are doing tomorrow, tend to say that ‘they will just see what happens’.
I give my key executives a sign to put on their desks which says:
- Some people make things happen
- Some people, things happen to
- Some people watch things happen
- Some people don’t know what’s happening
People who plan their time, short term, make things happen. Short-range planning:
• Enables you to focus and organise your energies and your time, to achieve more of your priority tasks
• Provides you with small milestones which you can use to monitor your progress and maintain your accountability and motivation.
On a Sunday night, I will generally plan the forthcoming week, in terms of big(ish) picture stuff: what I want to accomplish during the week, what decisions I need to make, what questions I need answers to, what people I need to see and so on. Then in the morning of each day, I take five minutes and plan the day ahead: time to read and send e-mails; time to touch base with staff; various meetings and tasks in line with my weekly 'To Do' list. (Personally, I also visualise the day running according to my plan, with everything getting accomplished and my returning home at the end of the day satisfied and ready to enjoy time with friends and family.)
Planning and organisation doesn’t mean that you leave nothing to chance, or lose spontaneity. It’s because I’m organised that I can make and protect the time it takes to be truly flexible: to pay attention to, and follow-up on, creative opportunities; to turn chance encounters into ideas-generating conversations...
Making and protecting time
You’re probably going to have a dozen other responsibilities competing for your wealth-building or success-pursuing time every day. And sometimes it’ll be right that those other things take precedence: you may have a ‘day job’, for example, which has a proper claim on certain hours. But how are you ever going to find enough quality time to do the work of pursuing your success? The time is there. You just need to build it into your daily schedule.
Make appointments with yourself to spend time on your success-pursuing activities. Start with the time you need to spend working through the Signposts to Success programme – and you’ll be in the habit when you move on to learning and action in the success avenue of your choice (whether it be buying shares, investing in property or taking up the tango). The time commitment doesn’t have to be much: only devote as much time as you feel ready to, or you won’t sustain the effort. But it does need to be:
• Regular – so that you can see some progress each week and get into a routine or rhythm
• Scheduled – so that you can turn down other demands on the time you have set aside. When you have a schedule, you are making a rational decision about what to do with your time – not an emotional one. You know how it is: everything feels ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ in the heat of the moment. But if you have an appointment with yourself that takes priority, those other things will often wait – or go away altogether... It also helps if your schedule is kept together with your goals (so that you can prioritise your time in the light of what you want to achieve) and contacts (so that you have relevant information to hand when you need it). I recommend a weekly planner.
Time management also takes discipline. You know the things you waste time on. They aren’t necessarily ‘bad’ things (although some of our time wasters may fall into that category): they’re just not sufficiently high on our priority list to warrant the time we spend on them. Your goals and your core values will be a good guide to where your real priorities need to lie. Spending time with friends and family is not wasted time (although it may need to be limited for a while, if they do not support your success efforts).
Developing your skills and strengths, even if not directly related to your success goals, is not wasted time. Rest and relaxation is not wasted time – as long as it is real rest and relaxation. It may also be necessary to rescue time from constructive tasks which – by their nature – tend to expand and suck time out of your schedule. I try and set aside just half an hour a day for e-mails. If I’ve got genuinely spare time later in the day, I might dip in again – but I have to keep a keen eye on the clock. I read e-mails only once. This requires a very simple in-tray management system:
• Act on it: reply, make the decision, act on the request or whatever OR
• Schedule action on it for a later date, noting the relevant details OR
• Forward it for action by someone else
And delete. If none of the above options is required, I skip straight to delete. By 9.00 am, I hope to have a completely empty in-box. If you are one of those people who lets your screen bank up with unread or read-but-unactioned emails – sorry, but this is a slippery slope. Before you know it, you are having to deal with the same message or matter over and over again; things get forgotten, generating extra work to put right; the e-mails start eating more and more into your day. And once this kind of disorganisation takes hold, it generally gets worse: you fi nd yourself constantly running behind, and in the attempt to catch up, you tend to cut down on your food, rest and exercise – so the chaos spreads to other areas of your life. Don’t go there. Deal with ‘routine’ things before they become crises. Deal with them in an allotted time. Whatever you do: deal with them.