How to Give Yourself More Time in the Day

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I don’t have to tell you that you have too many tasks and not enough time to do them. That is the current state of affairs for almost all employees at any level of your company – all companies.

Productivity is the name of the game. How much can we get done in the hours we have allotted? How close can we get to our goals given the resources we have allocated to us?

And so we are all left hoping for more time in the day. Luckily, there is a way to get it.

And it comes from having an honest conversation with yourself (possibly your manager) about your to-do list.

I want you, every day for one week, to move through your to-do list item by item and ask yourself three questions for each task you encounter.

1) Can this be eliminated?

“I’ve always done it that way.” It’s one of the most common answers to the question “why”. And that’s when the WHY question is asked at all.

For each task on your to-do list, you better make sure there is a reason it needs to be done, and done in the way that you have been doing it all this time. Most people will find that they are taking time out of their day to perform a function that serves no purpose, other than checking a box.

Nobody is paying you to be a box checker. They are paying you to help the company succeed. And one way you can do that is to eliminate all unnecessary and superfluous responsibilities from your to-do list.

2) Can this be automated?

Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and computers can do more than most of us ever dreamed possible. The rise of machine learning and AI, along with the increased proficiency of data analysts and data scientists across industries, means that most of the tasks you are responsible for today will be done by computers in the near future. And many of them can be done by computers today.

That’s why the first question you should ask yourself for each task that cannot be eliminated is, can this be automated? Is there a way to get this task completed automatically, on a daily or weekly or monthly basis? How much work would be required to set that up, and how much time would that free up for me and my team once it’s done?

At this point, anything you are still doing by hand that can be done equally as well by computer is taking time away from more important tasks for no reason.

3) Can this be delegated?

If a task cannot be automated, perhaps it is still not something that you should be spending time on. As you move up the ladder at an organization, the expectation is that you are more valuable to the company, and therefor so is your time. The day to day tasks that used to fill your schedule are no longer your immediate priorities.

But someone still has to do them, right? So these are the tasks that you should be looking to hand off to someone else on the team. Whether you have direct reports you can assign tasks to, or you have to work with a manager to determine who should be taking on the work you used to do, now is the time to hand off those responsibilities.

Your time is too valuable to be spent working on tasks that could be handled by a more junior member of the team.

A Simple Matrix to Prioritize Your Marketing Efforts

One of the most difficult things to learn how to do as you grow your career is manage your time. That is because your responsibilities change with the roles that you serve in, the value you bring to the team, and the expectations put on you by various managers.

When you are just starting out, the expectations are often clearest. Someone else is setting your priorities, or at least defining clear goals. So the most difficult part about managing your time is learning how to do things correctly in the shortest amount of time.

But as you move up from that first position, more will be asked of you. You may serve on different teams, and wear different hats. You may have competing priorities, in service of different, but equally important company goals. Here, it is important that you learn how to prioritize your time on the most important matters. And often that means learning how to automate, delegate, or eliminate lower-level tasks.

If you are lucky enough to move into a management role, where you are presiding over a team of people and have more of a say in your company’s strategy, this skill is critical. You will fail unless you know how to set priorities. And you will be expected to help others set priorities as well.

Unfortunately, this is a skillset that is not taught in any class. It’s one that you are expected to learn on your own. If you’re lucky, you have a manager or mentor who can help.

If not, let me offer a simple 2x2 matrix you can use to determine where your team should focus it’s time and energy.

The Matrix

What you need to do to start out is create a full list of all the projects you are considering. Usually, this list is far too long for the size of your team and the resources allotted. That’s a good thing – a sign of an ambitious agenda. And it’s the precise reason that we need the matrix, to help us prioritize.

For each item on the list, then you are going to rate it’s potential impact and its level of effort required. For both, you are either going to list them as High or Low. For example, if you think a project is likely to lead to big gains in revenue but take your whole team six months to complete, you might rate it High for both impact and effort.

To construct the matrix, we need a sheet of paper with four quadrants. On the vertical axis, we are going to put “IMPACT”. On the horizontal axis, we are going to write “EFFORT”. Then divide them up into High and Low, so that you are left with something like this:

 

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Once you have everything on your list categorized into one of the four quadrants, you are ready to prioritize.

High Impact/Low Effort

Always start working on projects in this quadrant. These are your easy wins. That you expect high returns for low cost, or low effort, is a sure sign that these are the projects where you will get the greatest “bang for the buck”.

Focus on these first and ignore the others until everything here is done.

High Impact/High Effort

We always want to maximize our impact. With that in mind, though some might argue to focus next on the other projects that don’t require much time or resources, I would recommend jumping to the high impact, high effort projects. These are those priorities that will require a significant amount of investment, but when all is said and done, your company will reap the rewards for your expenditure.

Low Impact/Low Effort

Low impact projects may not mean that much to your company in terms of improvement on the grand scale, but if it doesn’t take much to achieve incremental gains, they are still worth doing. These projects may make even more sense if your team is under pressure to produce short term wins, or lacks the resources to complete your higher impact projects.

Getting these items done checks a box and moves you in the right direction, even if it is in smaller steps.

Low Impact/High Effort

Anything that winds up in this quadrant should stay off your to-do list. It’s going to cost a lot to get done, without providing significant benefits to your team or your company. This is grunt work, and if you find yourself working on grunt work, you are ignoring potential successes elsewhere.

Do One Thing Every Day

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There are times in everyone’s career when we get bogged down in the day to day. When it seems like our to-do list is too long, and too full of tasks that don’t matter. When we feel helpless against the neverending slog of menial work.

It is precisely at those times when we need to execute a purposeful prioritization of our time.

Time management is key to becoming successful. It is key to ensuring you continue to have a positive impact on your company.

Reconsider Your To-Do List

The first step in breaking out of this struggle is to have an honest conversation with yourself about your daily tasks. Chances are, you have taken on more and more items over the weeks and months, without ever questioning them, and without ever removing items that were already on there.

That is a surefire way to over commit yourself.

Now is the time to consider them one by one. Is this something that has to get done? Is this something that I should be doing? Is this something that can be automated?

Asking yourself those questions should expose some of your daily tasks as frauds and time-wasters. Eliminate them until you get to a more manageable list, which gives you room to grow and have a larger impact – personally and professionally.

Define Your Goals

Next, you have to consider where you can have the greatest impact. Your time is the most valuable thing you have. You need to learn to use it wisely.

What are your specific goals? I like to bucket these into two different groups – personal goals and company goals.

Personal goals might include items that will help your career, your earning potential. Company goals are the areas you are responsible for when it comes to growing the business.

Clearly defining these goals – even to the point of writing them down – will help you identify those tasks you should be working on in support of your goals.

What’s Your One Thing?

Do one thing every day that brings you closer to your goals. This is not the same thing every day, but rather a new thing each day.

For example, if you goal is to improve the ROI of your email marketing programs, today’s one thing might be rolling out a new split test. If your goal is to learn data science, today’s one thing might be watching a 30 minute lesson online.

Whatever it is, make sure you make time for it. Accomplishing just one thing each day that matters will do two things for you.

First, it will help you get over the feeling that you’re not making progress. Suddenly, you will be able to see and experience the impact that you are having on your life and on your company’s performance.

Second, it will help you identify other areas where you can have an impact. You will find that there are ways to optimize your schedule and your routine to free yourself up to accomplish even more.

Commit to doing one new thing every day that takes you closer to your goals, and you’ll rediscover your sense of purpose.

Prioritization Tips for Marketers

Whether you’re in marketing or a countless number of other professions, managing your time can be one of the most difficult skills to learn.

Learning how to manage your time and prioritize tasks is crucial for succeeding.

For marketers, there will be a never-ending stream of ideas. How do we get more people to click on our ads? How do we reach people on Facebook? How can we improve our website?

For every question, there will be a million answers. And the questions don’t stop.

So how do you determine what projects are most important and what to spend your time and energy on, knowing you can’t do it all?

  1. Prioritize by impact – usually, the most important tasks or projects are the ones that will have the biggest impact. Your goal is to think through the many ideas you and your team have and estimate the results. If you expect one project to increase sales by 10% and another to increase sales by 5%, you go with the 10% project every time.
     
  2. Prioritize by timing – sometimes you will find yourself looking at a couple of projects, one with big impact that will take a long time, and one with smaller impact that you can get done much quicker. If there are things you can do relatively quickly that will improve your results, it might make sense to knock those out before moving on to the larger projects.
     
  3. Prioritize by skill – there will be some projects you or your team can do on your own, and others that will require outside help or the learning of new skills. Most people prioritize those projects that they already have experience with or expertise in. That will help you save time and money and get things done faster.

The most important tip I can offer when it comes to time management and prioritization is to figure out what you should not do. Most times, identifying those tasks or projects that you should not do is more important than figuring out which ones you should.

Once you get started on a task, push other things to the side. Free up your time and force yourself to focus on the task at hand. Too many people try to work on multiple projects at once, and they end up taking longer and turning out worse than they should have.

How to Accomplish More in Less Time

Productivity is a buzz word when it comes to management consulting. Businesses want to get more done with less. It’s the best way to grow in any market. And we all want to know how to be more productive with our time.

The problem is, most of us are unwilling to take the steps necessary to become more productive, even when they’re presented to us. So my only hope is that this advice does not fall on deaf ears.

The first thing to do is to admit to yourself that some of the things you do each day don’t have to be done. You may have gotten into certain habits that are difficult to break. You may want to do something that you convince yourself you need to do.

For example, I had become accustomed to running specific daily reports that would take the first thirty minutes of every morning. They would tell me at the top level how business was the day before. When someone asked me to evaluate the need for those reports, I realized it was not necessary to do them every day. I pushed them back to once a week on Fridays. It takes the same amount of time, I get the same information, but I opened up two more hours in my work week.

This is where most people give up and say, “everything that I do HAS to be done.” My response is, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have something that they couldn’t cut from their daily routine to make more time for more important tasks. So be tougher on yourself.

Next, identify things you can automate. What tasks do you complete manually that technology could do for you?

The third and final thing to do is become a better planner. Make daily, weekly, and monthly task lists. Make sure everything you do has a greater purpose, leads to a goal of yours or the business. Stick to your lists, adding tasks that come up out of the blue, and don’t stray. Cross them off the list as you go.

Most employees and workers are least productive when they’re not sure what to work on next. Don’t let yourself reach that point.

The more productive you are, the more money you will make!