Guest Column

Make time work for you, rather than against you

February 13, 2015
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Are you satisfied with what you accomplish in a day? Or are you constantly falling behind? 

As an entrepreneurial executive for over 25 years, I’ve figured out how to squeeze every minute out of every day. I’ll be sharing my ideas on this and other valuable topics when I keynote the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Businesses luncheon Wednesday, March 4.

In the 15 years I’ve been helping women start and grow businesses, I’ve identified four areas where women waste huge amounts of time. Do you see yourself in any of these categories?

The tsunami of email

Many of us spend more time on email than all other business tasks combined. But how much of that is necessary and how much is wasted? Here are specific ways to cut email time.

Create email-free times. Block off half-days once or twice a week as email free. After you feel comfortable doing that, don’t check your email for an entire weekend and see what happens.

Short is better than long. Always err on the side of short messages. And, unless there is a cultural reason for formality, keep your email simple and informal.

Capitalize on the subject line. Always provide a clear description of your topic in the subject line.

Cut down on CC's. Unless someone absolutely needs to be copied, don’t do it. And if you receive a group email, don’t “Reply All.” Send your response only to those who need it.

Don’t send email responses that say, “Thanks.” or “Got it.” Only send this kind of response if asked to verify receiving an email.

Meetings gone wild

Many of us spend time meeting, meeting, meeting. We’ll spend $1,000 in meeting time to solve a $100 problem. Here are real-world ways to bring meetings back under control.

Only meet for a concrete reason. Reconsider every standing meeting to determine if it’s a good use of your time. Decline unnecessary meetings.

Start and end meetings on time. Don’t reward stragglers by waiting for them.

Create an importance-based agenda. Discuss items of greatest relevance first.

Be sure everyone knows his/her responsibilities for the meeting and follow up.

Rather than sitting, have everyone stand. You can often get a one-hour meeting down to ten minutes this way.

Personal responsibility overkill

Many women are so concerned with helping others or not hurting others’ feelings, they sacrifice their time to no good. Here are some areas where you may be needlessly throwing away time.

Spending time with negative people. Don’t spend one minute more with negative people; invest your time with positives.

Cleaning up other’s work. If you feel you’ve got to come behind someone, you’ve either got the wrong person in that role, or you’re a control freak. Don’t waste time doing something you’ve already paid someone to do.

Answering the phone. Unless you’re expecting an important call, don’t feel obligated to answer the phone every time it rings.

Waiting for others to act. Don’t wait for anyone else. Decide and follow through yourself.

Making promises you can’t keep. If you can’t do it, don’t waste your time talking about it.

Bad habit timewasters

This category arises from bad habits, developed over time. Any of these can cost you hundreds of hours a year. If you see yourself here, develop a plan to eliminate the issue.

Social media overkill. Are you constantly updating your social media status? Set a daily limit on the time you spend or the number of updates you’ll post. Track it and stick to it. 

Piling rather than filing. Set up an effective filing system.  

Failing to put things away. Put things away in a consistent place so you don’t spend time looking for them later.

Solving the same problem multiple times. Determine solutions for recurring problems and create processes to minimize them. Don’t keep solving the same problem over and over again. 

Indecisiveness. Don’t agonize over small decisions; make them and move on.

Mary Cantando is the founder of The Woman’s Advantage Forum (WomansAdvantage.com), which enables women to grow their businesses to the million-dollar level. She has written seven books for women in business and publishes the internationally acclaimed Woman’s Advantage Shared Wisdom Calendar.

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