A thought for October

Autumn is in full swing and the colours are wonderful. The grape harvest is good, and they say the wine will be beautiful. What more could we want in October?

Have you noticed that everyone is busy? No I don’t mean they are demonstrating lots of activity. I mean when you say to someone “how are you” they say, “Oh I am so busy”. On one hand I know they are busy (by their standards) on the other I sometimes think this is competitive busyness – I am busier than you, so I am more important than you. Is this just me?

The real question is what am I busy doing and are these the right things?

Once a year I keep a detailed diary for a fortnight detailing what I actually did with my time. Its analysis sometimes requires a strong stomach.

  • Two hours on that Saturday afternoon clearing my inbox – was that really necessary? I could have been watching the rugby.
  • An hour’s travel time to meet that client – did the fee level justify that?
  • An hour on a Friday afternoon having my nails done – what did that do for my business? Why was I doing it in work time rather than leisure time?
  • Two hours finding a reference for a client – did she really need to know where I found the research I quoted? And why did I not note it in the first place?
  • Meeting that person for an hour plus travel time – what was it supposed to achieve?
  • Writing three standard emails yet again instead of having them in my processes folder and just blasting them out automatically – why do I do this?

I could go on. Suffice it to say the diary helps me to see the error of my ways and put things right. However I do need to do this once a year to ensure I stay on the straight and narrow.

When a new client comes to me I usually ask what a typical day looks like especially if their life involves regular childcare and all that implies. I had a client recently who looked sheepish when I asked the question. It turned out that she was addicted to Facebook (well we did not know that until we did the analysis). She was spending 2 to 2.5 hours a day catching up with Facebook and I do not mean posting on her business page. Then we multiplied the time by her hourly rate. The daily cost was frightening. Bless her once we found a strategy of how she could get out of this expensive habit and she made it work. The first few days of cold turkey were tough, but she did it and a week on is still clean. She is also getting more “proper” work done – there is a surprise! Very well done I say, it has not been easy, and she has put in the effort. The prize has been worth the price.

The truth is that she was busy. She was doing stuff, just not the right stuff. We all know the theory of prioritising our work but how often do we do it properly and make a To Do list in priority order and then crucially work down it from the top. Some of us don’t prioritise so do not achieve the tasks we should. Some of us cherry pick the things we want to do (or avoid the tasks that we don’t). We forget the basic time management strategy:

Urgent and Important Do it now!

Not Urgent and Important Programme it into quality time when we are functioning at our best and do it.

Urgent and Not Important  Do it quickly and do not worry about it being perfectly executed

Not Urgent and Not Important Bin it!

None of this is original and we know it. We all fill the time available because we are busy. Ask yourself at least once a year what you are busy doing?

  • Are these the right things?
  • Have you got into bad habits?
  • Is there a need for change?
  • Time is the one thing we can never get back , we should use it wisely. Are you?

If not face the issue. There are ways to change those bad habits, ways to break addictions, ways to get back on track. Working with a mentor is one of the major ways of improving your personal skills. Why not chat to me about how.

If this has been interesting, please share it.

Now I am busy, so I am off to get on! Life is good; let’s live it to the full, enjoy it and be the best we can be.

Elizabeth Toogood – Your Critical Friend – www.toogoodcriticalfriend.co.uk – [email protected]