I consider time management to be one of the most important subjects in business. In my previous blog post on our top 5 success principles, I described our weekly plan as the most significant and practical tool, which we have been using. And that is true. It is a very simple tool with which you can plan your week and be sure you are heading in the right direction.
I had a big problem during my first years as an entrepreneur. I learned to set goals, which was an enormously good thing, but the goals I set were not achieved 8 times out of 10. Every time I managed to achieve a goal, I was fired up. But failures after failures were not that encouraging. As I also had a team that I was coaching I started really to worry. I might be able to deal with failures, but what about them?
We started to build up a weekly plan with which it would be possible to track what we are doing and make sure that we are on the right track. After trial and error, we found out that a very simple one works the best. It has stayed the same now since 2009. You can download it for your own use here »
Here are my top five advise on time management, and for the use of this weekly plan if you want to try it out:
1. Be realistic enough with your short-term goals
Good time management begins with setting goals. Don’t overestimate your capabilities in the short term. Nothing is as bad for your time management than not being able to do what you have planned. Take risks, but take calculated risks. Dare to dream big in the long term. This keeps your eyes and ears open for new ideas. But short-term goals are different. They need to be achievable. You have to believe in them and be able to plan the actions that you need to do to achieve them.
2. Convert your goals into a list of actions
To be able to make a weekly plan that is in line with your goals, you will have to convert your goals into actions. If you are in sales and you have a goal of buying a new home for your family, the amount of money written on a piece of paper is not enough. Add your closing percentage to the game and you will be able to calculate the amount of sales calls or meetings needed. Now we are speaking about a list of actions.
The same works in any activity. If your goal is, for example, to enhance your customer satisfaction rate by 50 %, you need to work out a list of actions to accomplish the goal. Then divide the actions for different months, weeks, and days on your weekly plan.
3. Plan every week before the week begins
Never plan your week on Monday. Do it already on Friday before leaving the office or the latest on Sunday evening. One of the most significant reasons to use the weekly plan, is that you are forced to decide on which things are worth doing and which are not. This gives you a clear focus. If you try to do this on Monday, you have your mailbox already full of tasks that other people ask you to do. If you plan your week at this point, you are already in trouble.
4. Concentrate on things with high consequences
Average people use their time with things that have low consequences. This is not for you. As Brian Tracy, world’s most sold author on time management says, there are two tasks which have high consequences: creating value andgenerating sales. His most sold book is called Eat That Frog. The basic message of the book is that usually people avoid doing the tasks that are psychologically the hardest ones to do. Always start with these tasks. Make them your top priority.
5. Leave some space for surprises
Leave some space in your weekly plan, especially if you hold a management position. In the best case, you will be able to do every week even a bit more than you have planned, for example, one sale calls more than planned. If for some reason you run out of time in accomplishing the tasks planned decide on which tasks will be transferred to the next week’s plan. Be sure not to postpone the tasks that have the highest consequences first.
Using this simple weekly plan is really rewarding.For every tick in a box, you will get a feeling of progress. You know you are on the right track and most importantly: you know that you have done your job! There is not a better feeling to go home after a day or a week at work.
You can download an empty weekly plan file here. It may look simple, but in this complicated world simple things work.
Below is a video compilation of my speech on our time management secrets. You can find an example of a good weekly plan in it. Unfortunately, the video is available only in Finnish.