The following is an edited excerpt from Mr Cunningham’s new book, Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel, provided exclusively to My Business readers:
If you are ineffective with how you use time, all the knowledge, strategies and tactics in the world won’t make any difference — because you won’t have the time to implement them.
It’s too easy to use lack of time as an excuse, but as business owners, we need to take responsibility for the way we use time, rather than blame time itself as the problem.
It’s the choices you make as to how you use time that are the problem.
So let’s have a look at the pitfalls that compromise effectiveness with time, so you can boost ownership of your time choices.
First of all, making better time choices is not about getting more done. It’s about getting the right things done. That’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Effectiveness is more valuable, though of course it’s best to have both.
A common analogy for prioritising is to compare different tasks to different-sized rocks, pebbles and sand.
The most important things are the big rocks, and the least important things are the sand.
Using this analogy, imagine you have a bucket in which to fit all your rocks (the bucket being the 24 hours we have in a day). If you start with the sand and smaller pebbles, the big, important rocks won’t fit.
But if you start with the big rocks, the smaller rocks start falling into the cracks left by the larger rocks before them. And the sand fills any gaps left over. When done this way, all the rocks fit without a problem.
However, following this practice does throw up several challenges. Let’s identify them and give you some ways to overcome them.
- The big rocks don’t always have an immediate payoff. This means dedicating time to them does not feel fruitful, and we would rather be doing something that feels productive. To solve this requires some future thinking. Cast your mind forward to the feeling you’ll get when the effort of the ‘big rock’ task is paying off. It’s a strategy I had to apply while writing my book!
- You aren’t clear on what the big rocks are. This is usually a result of poor, or no, planning. When we don’t plan or don’t have concrete goals, it makes it difficult to assess the level of importance of one task over another. Setting your goals and planning ahead will help you sort the big rocks from the sand.
- You don’t know how to start. You might be clear on what the ‘big rocks’ are, you might even have the time set aside to tackle them — but you don’t know how to start. We all battle this. Think of it like going to the gym. You might not know what to do when you arrive, but just by going there, you often end up completing a workout before you know it by changing your environment. Once you start — even if you’re not sure how — you usually work it out.
- The timing isn’t right. A close cousin to the previous point, this one usually comes up when there is an opportunity to be seized or a difficult choice to be made. The reality is, the perfect timing doesn’t actually exist. There’s usually no better time than the present to tackle a task.
Knowing — and being able to execute on — your big rocks is the most important time management principle. If I had to pick one differentiating principle between those who make it and those who don’t, this would be it.
Jamie Cunningham is the owner of salesup.com.au Business Coaching. His book Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel is due to be published by Ventura Press in July 2019.