Are you guilty of taking on a task that you think should only take you a short period of time, and it’s wound up taking a good thirty? (Guilty!) What about writing yourself a ‘to do’ list for the day and only checking off four of the seven things you wanted to achieve? (Again, Guilty!)

When I work with business owners one of the things we look at is their time management. Let’s face it, as business owners the majority of us are time poor, think we should be managing our time better and are pretty darn hard on ourselves with what we expect we should be able to fit into our day.

What I’ve found to be true, is that where so many of us get it wrong is not necessarily the area most of us think. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t as bad at managing your time as you first thought. Maybe you just aren’t working with the correct information.

So often we ‘think’ we know how long tasks take to get done. However, usually, once put under the microscope, what I find is that people don’t allow themselves anywhere near enough time to get things done.

There are two significant side effects of not knowing this valuable information.

1. You undercharge your clients as you have underestimated the time needed to complete projects/tasks.
2. You put unnecessary expectations on yourself and what you set out to achieve during a set time (ie you put too
many tasks into your day, not allowing yourself enough time to sufficiently focus and complete each and by the
end of the day you get down on yourself for not achieving enough).

The fact is, It almost always takes twice as long to complete a task as what we originally thought it would take. So when you sit down to plan your week and to plan out your day, my advice would be to allow 1.5 the amount of time you normally would do each task.

If you really want to nail it, I would suggest that over a two week period you time yourself doing tasks and see how long they really take to complete. (Pretty scary thought right, but such a powerful exercise). There is so many time tracking tools available these days that you can download on your computer that can not only track your time but track how much time you spend doing different activities on your machine. I’m happy to share a few of the ones that I know, just shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to share them.

Here’s another fun fact, did you know that the average person gets one interruption every eight minutes, or approximately seven per hour, or fifty to sixty per day. The average interruption takes five minutes, totaling about four hours or fifty percent of the average workday. Eighty percent of those interruptions are typically rated as “little value” or “no value” creating approximately three hours of wasted time per day.

I tallied up my interruptions today as an experiment and in ad hoc calls and tasks resulting from those calls, I totalled 4.5 hours of tasks today that weren’t planned for. (eek! No wonder I’m now sitting here tonight finishing this blog that I started writing this morning. But I’m putting the interruptions down to research for this blog.)

The most powerful word in our Time Management vocabulary is “no”, so don’t be afraid to use it. Start keeping a record of how much time you spend on each task, each client, each call and use it to help you manage your time more effectively. You can even use it to help you manage your budgets for client projects. Knowing how long tasks really take will help you to work out your real bottom dollar and ensure you aren’t working for less than you could pay someone else to do the task?

Identify the resources and tools you will need to track your time, start to measure your time so you are working with accurate data and start the required actions to get your business geared for growth and better time management!

I’ll leave you this week with a quote from the great Abraham Lincoln, it goes like this – “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six hours sharpening my axe”.

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