When it's time to overhaul how you think about time

From Jade McAuley, Rebel Marketing

Since buying Out of the Blue and merging it with Rebel, complete with a team of staff and a mountain of new clients, I've found that how I was organising my time as a sole trader is actually causing me a lot of stress as a company director.

Previously, as work came in I would block out the estimated hours in my calendar so that I would have an approx idea of when I would be able to get to it. I'd set aside "meeting days",  "working on the business days" and "client work days", it was a loose structure but mostly I was able to get through my client work and still keep the business running without working crazy long hours.

This is no longer the case! Blocking out time for work invariably gets pushed aside because of the volume of incoming communications, client care and business management that is required. I've been causing myself a lot of stress because I feel as if I am achieving nothing, and yet - when I think of all that we have already been able to do at just 5 months into the merger, I realise that it's actually been an incredibly productive year to date.

To help refocus my mindset on how to manage my time, structure my days and get things done - I reached out to a few people I greatly respect in the Mackay business community to see what they were doing, and find some new methods that I could try out and make my own.

From Victoria Gracie, Opteon Property Group

> 2 column to do list
I am very tactile - I have a book with a to do list that I write in every day but it has two columns. In one, I restrict it to 5 things that would make me feel really good if they were done. Then, I fill the other with every waking thought of things I need to do.
If you write a massive list every day, you're setting yourself up for failure and you are more likely not to get anything done. If you limit it to 5 priorities, it's so much easier to get through.

> It's not just you
Something else I have learnt is cutting back on trying to be and do everything. Sometimes you have to say no to things, and sometimes your staff might be more suited to go along to something - which is good for raising their profile as well.

> 3 hours of power
I do door closed for 3 hours per day. I get my coffee, have a chat to everyone in the morning and then I clean off my desk and do 3 hours of just me and my computer. No interruptions - mobile face down on silent, office line diverted, door closed. This helps me get through my priorities, so I can be more available to my staff and clients during the other hours of the day. 

From Tony Caruso, Mastermyne

> Be clear on your role in the business
Assess what you are spending your time on. No time management strategy is ever going to work if you are spending your time on the wrong things. Be disciplined about what is in the scope of your role and don’t do the work of others (we are all guilty of this). Holding people to account on delivering their part means you don’t have to fill the gaps. This is a critical part of time management.
Critically review what you do daily and work out what you have to keep doing, what you can stop doing and what you need to start doing. Being clear in your mind about what your role is and isn’t helps to manage the limited time you have available. A call out here is to focus on the things you like doing because they are not necessarily the things you should be doing. Human nature... it’s a powerful thing.

> Work through your priorities
I work with rolling lists, starting with the important tasks and tasks with deadlines, and work down to the "nice if I can get to it" tasks. As I complete them, I strike them off the list. Each day I rewrite the list, including the things from previous lists that didn’t get completed but still in order of priority. When I feel overwhelmed (the list is out of control), I go home and work for a day. My preference is to remove myself from the distraction rather than close my door. I have an open door policy, which is great and terrible at the same time but it’s my way of operating. If I close my door, it spooks everyone in the office because they automatically fear the worst. A situation I’ve created and have to be aware of. It’s easier to change your behaviour than everyone else’s.

> Plan ahead realistically
My biggest issue is managing my calendar, rather than my workload. I always seem to have to be somewhere. I tend to work on short interval planning, no more than a two week look ahead. If you have a fluid calendar, I find that expending energy managing long term is wasted because so much changes anyway.

> Use the tools available
If you are mobile a lot, like I am, having the right tools to work remotely is critical. I use every available minute to respond to emails, calls etc (like now on a flight to Melbourne). A good laptop or iPad and a good hands free kit are essential. Use all available technology - Siri, voice to text recognition etc.