How many times have you said that? It’s a very common response to almost every request. Unthinkingly, rather than think about the request, we default to blaming our busy schedule.
I can understand. You are not alone. Almost every businessperson today has too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Richard Swenson summed it up well in his book, Margin:
“The spontaneous tendency of our culture is to inexorably add detail to our lives: one more option, one more problem, one more commitment, one more expectation, one more purchase, one more debt, one more change, one more job, one more decision. We must now deal with more ‘things per person’ than at any other time in history.”
Does that sound familiar? Does it describe your life?
As a consultant and trainer, I work primarily with people in the sales side of a business: Owners and principals, VP’s, Directors of Sales, Sales Managers, and salespeople. Just like you, they are overwhelmed and inundated with “things to do.” That need on the part of my market, coupled with my natural inclination toward effective time management, combined into a solution that I described in my book, Eleven Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople. Evidently, that book resonated with a number of people, and the book has been published in eight languages and 20 countries.
Here’s one of the “secrets” I’m offering for your consideration.
To continue to try to do “more” is a frustrating strategy that eventually causes great pain: strained relationships, health problems, a sense of helplessness, less effective work, and, in some cases, emotional and physical burnout. In other words, it’s a bad idea.
To continue to try to do more is a bad idea.
A better idea is to do less but focus on doing those things that are more effective. For a businessperson, for example, it is more effective for you to set up a system for sales management than it is for you to solve every salesperson’s problems.
One way to gauge whether this potential project, commitment or other use of your time is effective is to look at your role. What is appropriate for someone in your position to be doing? What is inappropriate?
In my work with Christian business people, for example, it is a huge issue. Many Christian business people are led in another direction. One of the biggest time wasters for Christian businesspeople is the appeal of the “good thing to do” that is not in keeping with your unique set of God-given gifts and competencies. Unfortunately, the institutional church is probably the greatest culprit when it comes to squandering the gifts of its members on trivial, time-consuming tasks.
For example, let’s say that you are a business executive. You have gifts of leadership and wisdom. You are a capable communicator and effective leader. Your church approached you to make the coffee every Wednesday before the mid-week service. You felt obligated and said yes. One more thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s not a good use of your gifts and capabilities. It squanders much of what God has given to you to use for others. You’ve succumbed to the classic case that the apostles were wise enough to decline.
Unfortunately, the demand of more ‘things to do’ is not a one-time event. It occurs every day in lots of different ways.
And, because of that, we need a process for dealing with the constant clamor of demands on our time. We need a method that we can count on, over and over again, to help us say “no” to those things that aren’t a good use of who we are so that we can invest more heavily in those things that are a good use.
In my secular work, I’ve created, among others, two “systems” that, in part, address this issue. In both our selling system and our sales management system, we train people to follow a monthly ritual. That ritual includes a written two-page plan for the coming month, a two-page report of the previous month, and a face-to-face meeting with someone who holds you accountable, who nurtures, prods and encourages.
In other words, we say to them, every month, STOP the frenzied activity. STOP, take a deep breath, evaluate, re-focus, re-prioritize, re-plan, talk it over, and then, go at it again.
There is something about the monthly ritual that fits our biorhythms, and that meshes with our business plans and accounting systems. Human beings, in the 21st Century, operate on monthly cycles.
This monthly discipline provides one of the most effective time management tools of which I know. It’s one of the “Eleven Secrets.” Don’t think of it as one more thing to do. Rather, think of it as a process in which you view all the other things to do. It’s not another interruption in your life, or job; it is a way to make sense of all the other parts of your life and job. It’s not another task; it’s a way to make sure that you are engaging with the right tasks.
While we train salespeople and sales managers in the specifics of this monthly ritual, you need something over and above that. As your responsibilities grow, the need to make sure that the tools and disciplines you use to ensure that you are engaging with the right things grows disproportionately. In other words, if you are 20-something in your first job, your responsibilities aren’t as significant as they will be. You could probably get by engaging with this process on a perfunctory, irregular basis. If you are a 40 or 50 something business executive, whose decisions impact the lives of dozens, hundreds or thousands, you sure better have a formal, disciplined system for evaluating your decisions about the use of your time.
One proven solution is to commit to a group of like-minded business people who can help hold you accountable. Our CBIG groups (Christian Business Impact Groups) is one such group. It is not another thing to do, it is a way to process and focus all the other things to do. It’s not a task; it’s a way to make sure that you are on the right tasks.
It’s a discipline that will help you ensure that your use of time is matched to your abilities and gifts, and that you are operating to the optimum.
Without the discipline of a monthly routine of assessment, review and recommitment, it’s just too easy to default to the potential-robbing, mindless excuse, “I’m too busy to….”