The best offense is always a good defense.
All of these traps are covered in Power Time System in greater detail but you will find this list a good primer to our System. As you go through the list, you may want to make a list of your own; areas that you should look at immediately, things you can correct with additional effort, longer-term projects. If nothing else, I hope we make you take pause and give consideration to the topics covered here.
1. Not taking responsibility for your own destiny.
This means you are at the mercy of those around you. It is always better to be the one that drives the agenda then to be the one always responding to people and actions around you.
2. “He Didn’t plan to fail, he just failed to plan.” (Unknown)
We have all heard this, but we fail to heed it. When I’m not as productive as I should be during a less than successful day, I can always trace it back to my own lack of planning.
Conversely, on days where I am on top of my game and achieved the most during the day, I know the reason why. I had a plan and I worked my plan. No mystery in that.
The most productive time you will spend is the time you invest in planning for the following day, days, and week’s activities.
3. If you let email take over, you will always be on the losing end.
It’s addictive, counterproductive, and everywhere, unfortunately.
I realize that properly used, email is a great tool. The key word is properly. Studies show that the average person with email checks it on average an astounding 80 times or more per day!
Clearly, you have to be alert to this activity and that, in some of us, is out of control.
4. If you don’t turn off your phone, the chances of getting some decent productive time in are slim to none.
Ever wonder why, at the end of a busy, hectic day, you feel you didn’t actually get a lot done? The answer is in your hand or sitting on your desk. Your phone.
Power time is what we refer to as time that is set aside solely to plow through A Priorities for the day. With a phone ringing every 5 minutes, this time is destroyed, and so is your productivity.
5. Say No.
If you have a plan and intend to work your plan, you need to be able to say no more often than you have been. There is only one agenda that MUST get accomplished each day in order for you to be successful and that’s yours. “No” is a crucial Time Management tool and one you will have to learn in order to take back what is yours; your time.
6. Prioritize, prioritize and then prioritize some more.
If you don’t have a crystal-clear idea of what is important to you each day, you are in a plane at 35,000 feet, going 600 miles an hour, with no radar, no compass and no guidance system. Good luck to you.
You have to give yourself a chance to succeed. One way to do that is to at least start the day with a firm grasp of the 3, 4 or 5 activities that you HAVE to carry out in order to be able to drive home knowing that you accomplished something of value to you that day.
That‘s what getting control of your time is all about.
7. Times change, circumstances change.
For you to be in charge of your life and your time, you have to evolve too. With all the tools we show you in the Power Time System; the systems, policies and procedures, the most important ingredient is you and your ability to evolve and adapt all of these things to your set of circumstances. Remember: same old habits, same old results. If you want better results, you need to change to get them.
8. No Life List.
We cover this in The Power Time System. You need to start recording EVERYTHING. Everything you want to do, achieve, and wish for. Compile all of this in a written list. It’s called a Power Living Life List, PLLL, because it will outline what you want to do and will do over your lifetime. This will become a crucially important document to you on your Time Management journey.
9. Time Activating is the missing link.
Some people work on getting their To Do List and some even prioritize this list, but no one except the people using The Power Time System Activate these activities into their Day Planner. Time Activating activities means you actually set aside specific times in your daily schedule; times when you will do your Prioritized activities.
If you do not Time Activate your activities you are fighting a losing battle with virtually no chance of success.
10. Most of us neglect to have a meeting each day with the person most responsible for our success, ourselves.
To be on target, to be on track and to give yourself the boost you need each day, have a short meeting with yourself at least once a day.
It may seem insignificant but it’s a powerful tool you should not be without.
11. Handle Paper Only Once should be engraved on all of our foreheads.
It drives us all crazy because we all find ourselves doing it. We pick up the same piece of paper again and again and move it from one spot on our desk to another spot, without adding any value to it or doing anything to it at all. Do something to it; file, finish it, delegate it, prioritize it, or just throw it out. Anything. But don’t move it again.
12. Control your turf or some one else will control it for you.
Your workspace is your space, it should be a haven of sorts where you can gather yourself, gather your thoughts and, at the very least, be a space where you can do the work you want to do when you want to do it. Another rule of proper Time Management.
13. Interruptions in most office environments can be planned for and anticipated.
In reality, they are not really interruptions but a facet of your everyday routine.
Interruptions that you know about should be scheduled all at once, like appointments. This way, instead of stopping and starting for each one, you only do it once at the beginning and then can restart your own schedule at the end.
14. Do Not Let Other People Set The Agenda.
You will hear this statement a great deal. He who sets the agenda wins the day. The person who sets the agenda, or drives the agenda, is the person who will get more of the things they want done then the people who are the by-standers. Setting the agenda is not an in-your-face aggressive position. Of course, it’s impossible to drive your agenda if you don’t have an agenda in the first place.
15. Always Have The Whole Picture.
It’s impossible to get your life in order, gain back control of your time and wring the maximum out of life if you don’t have the complete picture. You need to have all the facts, and in this case, you need to have a complete picture of all the different aspects of your current and future life before you can start to parcel out portions of time for different activities. Working as hard as you can on what you think is the most important task can prove futile if a week down the road something pops up that makes what you are doing today redundant or obsolete. We have several tools outlined in the Power Time System that will help you get a complete inventory on what are the pieces of your life puzzle.
16. Think You Can Get There From Here Without A Road Map?
Navigating life can be a tricky proposition. Trying to do it without a road map is even trickier still. Would you try to navigate your way around a strange city, at night, in the fog, without a clear idea of where you were going and what route you would be taking? You need a road map for each day. You need an idea, in black and white, about how you are going to navigate each and every day.
17. Utilize Power Time.
Everybody has their Power Time, whether they know it or not. Power Time is when you are at your peak, mentally and physically. When you are at your peak efficiency and get your best work accomplished. It’s different for everybody, but we all have this time in the day when we are just blazing. Take advantage of this time and use it to your maximum benefit. Schedule your key A Priorities in this time frame and get your most important activities of the day done in this time frame. Above all, do not allow someone else to steal this time away from you and squeeze his or her activities into this important block of time.
18. Have A Day Planner.
You are not even in the game if you don’t have a legitimate Day Planner. Seminar after seminar, 80 % to 90% of the participants would not have a day Planner of any kind, let alone what could be considered a legitimate one. No Day Planner means you have no chance to have a plan that has a hope of ever being implemented that day, or any day for that matter. Can you imagine a pilot taking off, without going over his checklist? A chef cooking a complicated dish without consulting his/her recipe? Your Day Planner is what ties everything together. It lays out the game plan for the day and keeps ALL of the pertinent data for that day as well as days as far into the future as you can see. You must have a Day Planner if you want to get off the bench and into the game.
19. Delegate or Drown.
Unfortunately, most people drown. The reason for this frequent drowning is the fact that it’s hard to delegate when you don’t know what you are going to be doing next. Delegating adds another layer of complexity to organizing and controlling your own time. You not only have to do your job, you then have to decide what part of your work you will hand over to someone else. If you haven’t already done this preparation work for yourself, what are the chances you will have done it for someone else? Delegating is a huge Maximizer for you. It’s a way of doubling or even tripling up your production through the efforts of someone else. You have to have this tool in your toolbox if you want to get jobs that are meant for two or more people accomplished.
20. Do you Think You Can make Up For Lost Time Management?
This isn’t a philosophical question. We get one shot at each day. When we don’t accomplish what we want to that day, we have to take our loss and move on. What is not done today can be moved to tomorrow. But what about what was scheduled for tomorrow? When does that get done? It’s a matter of where your head is at. If you approach this topic with the mind-set that you can lose a day and it does not really matter, there is always tomorrow, I know you are headed for some rough times. Some days you will accomplish more than others, that’s reality. Remember, time is a non-renewable resource. Once gone, it’s gone forever.
21. Do You Really Work Well Under Pressure?
Just because you find yourself in the situation of having to work under stress does not translate to working well under stress. There is no evidence anywhere that certain people work well under pressure. The exact opposite is true. No one works well with their head in a vice, stomach acid in their throat and looking for a bathroom to vomit in. If you continually find yourself in this situation, having to function under stress as a normal day to day condition, you had better find an alternative line of work. Or change your habits before its too late.
22. Set The Standard.
We are dealing with time, and two of the most basic, fundamental protocols, starting and stopping on time, and arriving and leaving on time. These are issues that the vast majority of people flagrantly ignore. It really boils down to an issue of respect. If you show up late, that’s a sign of disrespect for the people who were expecting you at a certain time and were left standing there, waiting for you to arrive. People who know me, know that I’m fanatical about being on time for everything. I respect my time and expect other people to do the same. I extend this courtesy to them as I expect them to do the same for me.
It goes to the heart of the thought process. If you can’t show up on time, I don’t like your chances of getting the rest of you life in order.
23. Close Your Door.
I like to say, the person who never closes his door is someone who isn’t going to be able to control his time. There are some people who proudly say that their door is never closed, ever. I’m not sure I would be broadcasting that too loudly. It’s really not something to be proud of. What you are saying is, “I have nothing really important too do and it’s okay to just come on in any time you want because you won’t be interrupting me”. I’ve sat in front of too many people that have said the same thing; they can’t seem to ever get anything done. Many of the same people are the “door to my office is always open to you” people. See any connection here? You can’t have it both ways. Be a doormat and get nothing done, or have some gumption, close the door and get some work done.
24. Do Not Let Other People Set Appointment Times
This bad habit can really chew up some valuable time. If you let other people set appointment times, you are losing control of large chunks of days, even whole days. When someone wants to meet with you, if you let him set the time you have to work your whole day around him. My standard procedure when it comes to appointments is this; I have a set time each week that is reserved for outside appointments. I start at noon and work in increments of ½ hour slots. If I’m busy, I will run into the next day. The day I usually set aside is Thursday. If someone calls me on Friday morning, I tell him the only time I have available is next Thursday at noon. This saves me a lot of time and makes my scheduling very simple.
25. You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Think Is Broken
People look in funny places to fix problems they have with their existence. My consulting customers would always balk at the suggestion that the root problem they were having was with how they managed and used their time. Until you are comfortable in the course of action you are taking, working on developing the skills and knowledge required to get your time under control, you will struggle with the lack of results you are experiencing.
26. Set Appointment Locations.
This goes hand in hand with letting other people set appointment times. The rule here is simple, they want to see you, and they come to where you are. If you want to see them, still try to get them to come to you. If that does not work, you are out of luck. If you want what they are offering, you get in your car go. You can’t win them all. At least try to work the timing so you are using off-production hours as travel time, you are only losing production time one-way instead of two.
27. Do You Have Any Idea What is Going To Happen Today?
Another question I ask in my seminars is “What are you planning to do tomorrow?” The percentage of people who have no idea is staggering. If you ask yourself this question right now about tomorrow, and the answer is, “I don’t know”, you fall into the majority. Unfortunately for you, the majority of people are not happy with their lot in life and do not have a handle on their use of time. Unless they can start to answer the question of what are they going to do tomorrow with more than a shrug of their shoulders, things will not be getting better any time soon.
28. Treat Time As A Valuable Commodity.
Unsuccessful people have disrespect for time. They treat time as if it has no bearing or impact on their performance and always look somewhere else for their reason for failure. Until you start to treat time with the respect it deserves, you will have some tough road ahead. A term we use in regards to the use of time is, invest. How did you invest your time? The “invest” conjures up the image of investing money. With money, no one has a hard time thinking of in terms of value. When you invest your money you expect a reasonable return on it. The same principal should apply to your time. When you invest your time you want a reasonable return on it. Return On Investment. R.O.I. When you start to look at time, your time, in this light, you will notice a change in how you throw this valuable commodity around.
29. How Long Things Will Take?
Once is a mistake. When you keep doing it, it stops being a mistake and becomes a problem. Estimating how long tasks will take to accomplish is an integral part of Time Management. This is a skill most people do not have, at least at the beginning. The majority of us usually err on the side of things taking too short a time to accomplish. When you do this over 10 tasks in a day, by the end of the day the time is used up and there are 4 jobs still left to do. This creates feelings of failure and adds to your level of stress. This is a skill you need to learn in order to adequately plan your day and have a reasonable estimate of what you will be able to accomplish in your workday.
30. Do Not Let Things Out Of Your Control; Stress You Out.
Stress is a killer of time and productivity. When you let stress enter into your playing field, you are dramatically reducing your effectiveness. There are too many things that we can control that we let get out of control, causing us to let stress dictate our actions. If we add the multitude of events and actions that we will meet, get us off our game and into a stressful state, we are fighting an uphill battle we will never win. Some people use stress as a means of avoiding taking responsibility for their results. Almost always, a lack of results. Be alert for this type of behavior and give some thought to this section. This is covered in more detail in The Power Time System.
31. Learn From Your Own History.
If you don’t learn from history, you are forced to repeat it, over and over and over again. History does not have to be 20 years ago. History can be what happened last week. Occurrences and events at work and with our businesses tend to be similar over time. Things we experience approximately 80% of the time, are repeated over and over again. So it stands to say, things that gave us problems last week will be the same things that will give us problems this week unless we get ahead of the curve on them. In other words, identify what is gumming up your works on a regular basis and spend some time and resources solving those recurring problems. It’s a simple solution, but not an easy one to put into practice because these people will claim not to have the time.
I’m surprised someone isn’t marketing a pill to cure this problem. To be sure, it’s a massive problem. When you can’t make a decision to take action, and then take that action, you are in fact frozen, not moving up, not moving down. People refer to themselves as procrastinators. The inference is, because I told you I procrastinate, you therefore should not expect much from me because of that. They are already setting themselves up for failure and warning everyone around them not to trust them with anything because they invariably let you down. A sad state of affairs. It is a complex problem we can’t fully address here. If you do recognize yourself as a procrastinator, beware of the pit falls you are sentencing yourself to.
33. You Can’t Be Everything To Everybody
If you attempt to do the above, you will please no one, especially yourself and end up destroying any chance you have at success. We talk incessantly about having an agenda and then driving that agenda. By doing this, an absolute necessity if you want value for your time, you will run into other people doing the same thing. You want to go left and they want to go right, what is one to do? You must go left, of course. It is totally out of the realm of reality to expect that there will not be conflict between you and those around you as you attempt to drive your agenda at the expense of those people. Conflict does not mean a pitched battle around the water cooler. It does mean you will need to present your options and opinions and work towards having them adopted and used by others. As we say in other sections, defend your turf!
34. Can You Think Your Way Out of a Crisis.
We end up in a crisis mode almost all of the time because of a failure on our part to plan adequately for what we almost certainly knew was coming. That may seem like a harsh indictment, but it is the right one. The way out of a crisis is not to get into one in the first place. The vast majority of crises are avoidable in the first place. You can’t think your way out of a crisis; you plan your way out of one, in advance. It’s too late to think when you are up to your ass in alligators. The way to avoid that situation is to plan to get the alligators out of the pond first, and then drain it. There are certainly situations that arise that create crises, conditions that are unavoidable. If we are honest, and look back, we will recognize that the majority of crisis situations we are involved in are, in fact, avoidable by some reasonable pre-planning and forethought.
35. Try To Keep It All In Your Head.
Impossible. And that’s the soft sell. You must have a way of getting all the stuff in your head out and down in a place where you can work on it. This is an absolute must. At the end of the day, we are dealing with thousands, if not multiple thousands, of bits of information pertaining to what we want to do. Now, tomorrow, next week, and next year. To put the responsibility of keeping all of this in some kind of order in your brain is a recipe for what most people experience, failure. If you are looking for a cause for the stress you are experiencing, here is a prime one for you. Keeping this massive amount of information in your head and then expecting for it to all come out in the proper order at the appropriate time is just not logical. All you have to do is examine your own experiences with this type of management experiment. How well has it worked for you up to this point?
36. Get Ahead Of Persistent Problems.
If you buy into the reality that most of the problems and issues we face on a regular basis are, in fact, reoccurring, then we need to start to isolate these problems and start to deflect, fix, solve or other wise get them out of our path. This is what Time Management is suppose to do; force us to plan, think and spend our time where it will do us the most good. This is an area where, if we eliminate a persistent problem or roadblock that is impeding our progress, we have gained a significant benefit to us that can be maximized over a long period of time. We want to look for situations where we can leverage out time, spend x time but get 3x value in return. This is what happens when we spend a small amount of time eliminating a problem that would have cost us time over an extended period if left unchecked.
37. Are You A Victim Of Reverse Delegation?
Have you ever had someone walk into your office and, when they walk out, you have ended up with their problem on your desk? That’s reverse delegation, especially when that person works for you. It happens far too often and can really take a chunk out of your day. Your day is crowded enough with doing what you need and want to get done. When you start to add in doing other people’s work on top of it, you are now out of control. It’s a slippery slope that you have to negotiate between supporting and working with your people but not allowing this kind of downloading on to you.