The essential challenge of effective time management is to spend more of our time doing those things which bring us the best results, and less of those things that don’t bring us results.
So we struggle, every day, with surmounting this challenge. We try to spend more time with customers, and less with paperwork. We try to delegate portions of our “to do” list that can better be done by someone else. We arrange our days to spend our time doing the most effective things.
And we understand that on occasion a relatively large one-time, up-front investment of time will save us a disproportionately greater amount of time down the road. So, we invest in a new computer system and all the time that it takes to massage it into operation because we expect it to save us time in the future. We spend some serious time creating annual goals and strategic plans because we expect those exercises to help us be more effective in the coming year.
It’s with that perspective in mind that I suggest an initiative that could potentially provide you a huge return on your time invested: Prepare a Disaster Plan.
“What’s that?” you are wondering. It’s your plan for continuing your business with minimal downtime in the event of a disruption due to forces completely out of your control. When we think of disasters, it’s easy to focus on the large events that consume the media. For example, we all know people who are hurting because of damage to their businesses by the series of hurricanes. And it is just as true for those suffering from the flooding in the North East, the tsunami in the South Pacific and the earthquakes in Pakistan.
But the disaster doesn’t need to be nearly so involved to threaten your business. It can be much more personal and intimate. My business, for example, has experienced two such events in the last two months. For the last 49 months, I have presented a monthly one-hour telephone seminar for sales people. Last month, the local phone lines went down right in the middle of my presentation. Several hundred sales people around the country were cut off in the middle of the presentation.
Not a major disaster, but certainly a bump in the road. My staff had to spend a lot of time adjusting registration fees, rescheduling attendees, etc. It fits the criterion: If we could have somehow prevented this, or reacted quickly, we would have saved dozens of man-hours devoted to unproductive tasks.
Here’s another “personal disaster.” During lunch at a seminar I was teaching at the Renaissance Hotel in Orlando, someone stole my laptop, projector and briefcase, which contained my cell phone, PDA, and other important information. I had to disband the seminar, and spend the afternoon making calls to protect the information on the computers. Not only that, but my staff had to spend days working with the participants to adjust their fees. The repercussions will take months to finally sort out. All of this is time spent in unproductive ways.
Neither of these events reaches the magnitude of a major environmental disaster. Yet each of them robbed me and my staff of valuable time as we attended to the after-effects of a personal setback.
What personal disasters can attack you? What would you do if the phone lines went down for an extended period of time? How about the electrical power? What if a virus took down your computer system? What if you had your laptop stolen? Or your wallet or purse? Or your entire workforce called in sick with the flu? Or the price of gas tripled?
Take some time to develop a contingency plan right now, while you have a clear head and the time to think it through. The time you spend doing that may very well become one of your best time management investments.