Imagine operating your own business as well as holding a corporate executive role, which sees you travelling up to 120 nights per year. Sound impossible? For Tom Panos, this is everyday life.
As an auctioneer, real estate sales educator and an executive with News Corp Australia, Tom understands better than most the time constraints of being a business owner.
“It's a tight schedule I've got to tell you ... All it would take for me is one hangover and it could fall to bits,” admits Tom (pictured below).
“The truth is that it's very, very fragile, but I've actually designed a life and an environment around me, which makes it easy for me to succeed. The critical thing is that I've got high levels of energy to be able to fit in what is approximately 85 to 90 hours of work a week. The fuel is high levels of energy to do it.”
While Tom admits that caffeine is the obvious answer, particularly in the mornings, it has a short life span, and is therefore not a reliable ‘fuel’.
Starting on a positive note
“My average day starts at 4:30 in the morning. I have a morning ritual where I sit and I spend five or 10 minutes just being grateful. I find that getting into the state of feeling happy and lucky allows me to start the day strong,” says Tom.
“The next thing I do is I spend five to 10 minutes looking at SMSs, emails and social media.
“The bounce gets stronger with the first cup of coffee and then it peaks around 5:30 to 6:00 when I'm at the gym. Pretty much after checking SMSs and e-mails, it's a coffee, it's a protein shake. It's the gym or going for a run.”
Set yourself up for success, not failure
According to Tom, it’s far too easy to spend time drawing up impossibly long lists of things you should get done, or want to get done. Yet this is a recipe for disaster, given that you may be listing more than you can reasonably achieve, but more significantly, the less important tasks will distract you from the core ones.
“[My next step is] sitting down and writing what I call my three 'MITs': Most Important Tasks. That's a really critical part of my day and those three most important tasks are written in my diary,” Tom explains.
“I [also] write at the start of my day, my yearly goal. This is very important because writing your yearly goal is your compass to make sure that you keep the main thing [as] the main thing.
“Whether it's staff, customers, family, you'll have a lot of distractions. What I find is, by ensuring that the yearly goal is written each day, it means that the three items underneath it are in line.”
“Anything that you're doing on a regular basis, I would say you've got to create it to be systemised. Make it easy for you to do things.”
Make every minute count
“I ruthlessly eliminate mundane activities,” says Tom.
“When you know that you've got a limited amount of time, it forces you to actually become very process-driven in your business.
“An example: today I'm taking two flights to get to my destination. I can tell you, it's not as stressful as what people would think, because when I've woken up this morning, I've picked up a bag: the bag that I've picked up has got all the stuff in there anyway. It's not I'm running around to organise a travel bag and put toothpaste and put a toothbrush in there. There is a bag there that I know, this is my bag for today.
“Anything that you're doing on a regular basis, I would say you've got to create it to be systemised. Make it easy for you to do things.
Delegate as much as possible
For Tom, structure, routine and process are far more effective time management tools than simply looking at your day with good intentions.
“What I noticed is that relying on willpower and discipline is not a great strategy. What you want to rely on is creating an environment where it makes it easy for you to move forward in your life,” he says.
“I have got an epic team. I don't think you can have an amazing business, without having an epic team.
“By that, I've got two assistants. I've got one that works with me in my executive role, who's very efficient, and I have one in my private life, who's called a business manager. Between those two people, I'm very good at letting go and outsourcing my weaknesses, where I can work my strengths.”
“Relying on willpower and discipline is not a great strategy.”
Go to bed earlier than you currently do
For Tom, this routine works because he has tailored his day around his energy levels – such as exercising in the mornings rather than when he is tired after a long day.
And after that long day, when his energy levels are at their lowest, is when he looks to rest.
“Because I've woken up so early, I've normally gone to bed early,” says Tom.
“[By] 9:30, I'm asleep.”