Published - January 2011

By Dave Jakielo

How to Accomplish More Everyday

Have you ever wished that there were more hours in the day? Do you find that you never seem to be caught up? Well join the crowd, frequently I hear people saying, "I run out of day before I run out of things to do."

In today's hectic environment it's not unusual to hear your boss say, "We need to do more with less." While it may be impossible to do more with less it is possible to achieve better results. This can be accomplished not by getting everything done that is on your plate but by completing the most important things that are on your plate.

Everyone has more tasks than time but how you manage your time is the key to whether or not you are productive and effective. You may have heard the term "Time Management" and thought, "Wow! How can I learn to manage time?" Guess what? You can't manage time. It will pass one second at a time no matter what you try to do to stop it.

The real scoop about time management is that:

  • Time management is really self management
  • Time/self management is a skill that can be learned
  • Time/self management is a choice

We must face the fact that we'll always have too much to do. Plus, realize that we'll never get caught up. The greatest danger relating to effectiveness is letting the urgent things crowd out the important things. People who lack effectiveness usually fall into the trap of tackling easy, low priority items first and procrastinating on the important items. Remember, you'll never have time to do everything but you'll always have time to do the most important things.

A great resource that can help you develop the skills as to how to prioritize is the classic book written by Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His four quadrant graph about important versus urgent issues is an effective tool for improving productivity.

Given that there are only 24 hours in the day and, try as we might, the day is not going to grow longer. There are only three ways to become more effective. First, you must discontinue doing low priority items. Second, become more efficient at what you do. Last, find someone else to do the work. In other words, learn to delegate.

There are many examples of the 80-20 rule in various facets of life and the rule holds true in time management, too. Keep in mind that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts. That's why tackling the most difficult tasks first thing in the morning will contribute to you becoming more effective and efficient.

When we are stressed we usually accomplish less and keep in mind that most stress is self inflicted. We may think that stress is caused because of a certain situation we are facing or other people that we must deal with in our lives but in reality it isn't what we are facing - it's how we react to what we are facing.

Self inflicted stress can be caused by our:

  • Failure to delegate
  • Lack of planning
  • Not taking time to relax
  • Absence of a written to-do list

Let's examine each of the above more closely.

Failure to delegate -- If you're a leader don't forget that you aren't measured by how much you get done on a daily basis. Rather, you will be considered to be a successful leader based on how much you get done through others. Even if you aren't a leader substitute the word delegate with just saying no. An example is, do you volunteer to do everything at church? Stop saying yes constantly and just agree to do what you can fit into your schedule. Remember, you don't have to delegate an entire job, you can delegate parts of the job and take into account what you might hate to do. Someone else will probably love to do it.

Lack of planning -- You know it really is true that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. When we don't take time to plan we will constantly find ourselves fighting fires all day long. Without a plan you'll always be reactive versus proactive and situations will control you instead of you controlling the situation. Carve time out of each and every day for planning; it's as important as any appointment on your calendar.

Not taking time to relax -- How screwed up are we in today's workplace? We work 50-60 hours a week, don't take all the vacation time we have earned and now because of the smart phone we have 24-7 connectivity to our offices. I think they miss named them, they shouldn't be called "smart phones" they should be called, "How dumb are we phones." What a great we can ignore our families even more. If you never shut your brain down and take the time to relax you might as well carry a placard around saying, "The end is near." I think the best place for your smart phone once you leave the office is the glove compartment of your car and take it out in the morning on the way to the office.

Absence of a written to do list -- Step one is to prepare a to-do list for the next day before you leave your office. Step two prioritizes the list as follows:

  • Priority A = Must Do – Serious consequences if not done
  • Priority B = Should Do – Minor consequences if not done
  • Priority C = Nice to Do – No consequences if not done
By working from a list your productivity will improve a minimum of 25 percent and by completing items in order from A to C your effectiveness will flourish too. Always complete one task before starting another one. Remember that "multi tasking" is just another term meaning "doing many things poorly." As important as a "to-do list" is another valuable tool - a "Stop Doing List." Items on this list are things we may like to do but aren't necessary, aren't important or can be done by someone else.

Another factor that holds us back from accomplishing more is clutter and disorganization. The best way to be productive is to have one project on your desk at a time. I've been in some offices where if I tripped or stumbled I'd never hit the floor because of all the piles of paper stacked in every available space. I find it comical that people with cluttered workspaces always say, "It may look messy but I know where everything is." Sure you may know where everything is but finding it timely is next to impossible.

To improve efficiency only handle papers once. Immediately throw away papers you don't need. Don't set them aside only to end up throwing them away at a later time. If something crosses your desk and can be done in 10 minutes or less, do it at that time. Should the paper be sent on to someone else? If the answer is yes then put it in your outbox, not on the corner of your desk. Lastly, if you need to keep the paper, scan it to an electronic file.

It is always your choice how you invest your time and while the average American watches 5+ hours of TV everyday I'd recommend you invest your time in the following activities:

  • Reading – Helps you stay current and get ahead of the competition
  • Communicating – Builds relationships in your professional and personal life
  • Thinking – Allows you to plan strategies, be creative and innovative
  • Relaxing – Eliminates burnout and improves your overall health

Remember time management skills, like all business skills, are learnable and it's similar to the chicken and egg story. If you don't invest time learning time management never have time to learn time management skills.

Dave Jakielo, CHBME, is an International Speaker, Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author, and is president of Seminars & Consulting. Dave is past president of Healthcare Billing and Management Association and the National Speakers Association Pittsburgh Chapter. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412-921-0976.

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