A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a conversation with Louise, my coach, about how I like many others, had been trying to do many, many things and finding that some were simply not getting done. Was I being inefficient, or did I just have too much to do? Did I need to delegate, and if so, who to?
I realised that time is like money – something we should spend wisely; and since before any new project I prepare a finance budget, I decided to try the same approach with my time.
Here’s what happened …
Step One was to decide just how much time I want to spend working each week. I’d like to get to a position where I spend 2-days each week coaching, 2-days on our Foundation and have 1-day free to choose what I do (that’s 7 hours a day, 4 weeks a month = 140 hours; 56 hours each month for coaching and 56 for the Foundation, leaving 28 free). That’s what I’d like. The time I actually have available.
Step Two was then to make a list of all the projects I have on the go and all the things I want to get done. This covered the time I spend with coaching clients, marketing activities and networking, accounts and office admin, training and development, even writing newsletters and articles. And it included the time spent on our Foundation – scholarships, mentoring, the cycling club and field centre farm, plus charity governance and promotion activities. It was quite a list.
Next Step Three was to estimate the time each activity on the list would take each month. When I added up the total, it gave me the amount of time I’d need to complete all the things on my list (it came to 50 hours for coaching, and 62 for the Foundation).
The question was – did I have enough time? Was the amount of time I have = the amount of time all these things will take?
For client coaching, this was fine. The time available = 56 hours, and the time needed was 50. So in principle I have enough time. My challenge then is to be better organised.
The time needed for the Foundation however was a different matter. I need 62 hours each month and actually have 56. So I don’t have enough time. I can decide not to do some of the things on the list – or I need to find some more time somewhere.
*** Spoiler alert *** It won’t just magically happen.
Often when we need more time, it comes at our own expense. We decide to work longer hours, in the evening or at weekends, maybe even for no extra pay. This means that we’re giving our time away for free. Well I donate to charity (both ours and other projects), so I’m happy to give time and money. But this is my choice. For most people working longer hours isn’t for charity, yet they’re giving away their time for free.
I decided if I want more time, it needs to be someone else’s.
This could come from someone else within the organisation (but remember this may take time away from something else they have planned to do) or we can buy time externally (especially if the skills aren’t available internally). In my case I’ve gone to a Virtual Assistant who can take on one of my promotion tasks – something I don’t have the interest or skills for. There’s a cost involved, but she has experience using You Tube and has been able to set up a new channel for the Foundation. She did it quicker and better than I could have. This would have taken me much, much longer. The financial cost was less than the time saved.
Now that its done, we can add more videos whenever we have them. So I was able to reduce the amount of time I believe I will need to spend each month on Foundation matters down to the 56 hours that I actually have.
Finally Step Four was to block out this time in my diary over the next three months. It shows that my diary is full (which I knew because I was busy). But it is allowing me to see exactly how much time I have and how much is committed to these projects.
And has it worked?
I know that as long as I’m disciplined, then I should have enough time to do the things to want to do. I don’t need to worry about whether I have enough time or whether things will get done.
When new enquiries or work has come along, I’ve been able to see exactly when I have time, so I can give a realistic timescale of when I can do things, or what things might be moved around to fit something in.
It has also meant that I don’t spend so long thinking what to do next. Each day as I complete each piece of work – I mark it off in my diary (I highlight in a different colour; black = done; red = to follow up). So I can see what I’ve done and what I have still to do.
Some things that previously were not getting done – now are. This includes the ‘non-urgent’ things like article writing and promotion, that are not immediately fee earning, but if ignored over time have a significant impact.
There are some things that haven’t been done – where I’d underestimated the time other things would take. But I can see what these are and look to move them into my schedule for the following day or week. It means that things are less likely to be forgotten or missed completely.
And there are other things that I hadn’t included on my initial list – so I’m adding these and adjusting my list and diary each week. For example, I missed out the time I need to spend briefing Sarah who works for me and following up things she’s doing for me. I have now added some time in for that each week.
And I’ve added in time to think. Blocks of time to take myself out of the office and simply think about what I’m doing.
Overall its been a definite improvement. I’m getting more done and I’m much more in charge of MY time.
So if you also find you’ve got too much to do, find that things just don’t get done or are worrying how you’ll fit it all in – try these four steps. Let me know how you get on.
And if you want to ask about this or anything else, do call or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.