Set your own agenda if time is of the essence

If you're bombarded with emails and calls, there are ways to work smarter, writes Leon Gettler.

If you're bombarded with emails and calls, there are ways to work smarter, writes Leon Gettler.

ASK anyone these days how they are and they'll tell you they're busy. Flat out. Being fully occupied is the new normal. Demands arrive through emails, texts, messages on social media and phone calls. Everyone wants more of your time.

This inevitably affects some people: they always feel they're in a rush. They spend more time on their smartphone checking messages and emails than talking to people. They find it difficult to focus - and projects pile up.

What are the best ways to deal with this pressure? The most obvious is to have a diary to identify where the time goes. The diary should include not only working time in front of the computer or iPad but also personal time for activities such as shopping, exercise and catching up with family and friends.

In his book What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School, sports management entrepreneur Mark McCormack says the diary keeps you from burning out. "I schedule time for exercise, relaxation and rest, including naps in the office, and I observe those time commitments just as I would any other business time commitments.

"I have learned to compartmentalise my business emotions as well as my business day. I write everything down, and since I put my notes where they will pop up again in the right place at the right time, once I have written something down, I forget about it. The end result is that when I break from work, I break from work-related stress as well."

So write everything down. List the activities and times you're doing them.

Learn, too, how to use a default diary. For most, a normal diary lists events during the week with, for example, a planning meeting on Monday morning, meetings with the marketing team all day Tuesday and meetings with the number crunchers on Friday.

A default diary turns that around. Let us say, for example, that you need to spend two hours every Monday afternoon alone working on finances, and 90 minutes every Tuesday going over marketing reports. With a default diary, these are put down in advance, along with all the other set appointments. These can include personal items such as gym sessions. All it takes is a visit to Outlook. The beauty of the default diary is that it blocks out time.

Your receptionist or secretary will hold calls during these periods because you are essentially in a meeting with yourself. It also helps avoid double booking.

Remember, too, to outsource as much as possible. That means avoiding work-related tasks that do not generate revenue. The focus should be solely on revenue generation; everything else can be outsourced. Learn how to delegate.

Learn also to batch similar sorts of tasks. If you need to make phone calls, for example, get a whole lot of them done and get into the flow.

Some people manage time by creating a different focus for different days. For example, client days, admin days and business development days.

Finally, learn to say no to time-wasters. That includes everything from people interrupting, superfluous events to your own internet surfing.

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