How many times have you said that?

How many times have you said “I know I need to get started on (… insert whatever it is that you know will move your business forward)– but I’m soooo busy, I really can’t find the time”

Are you feeling the pressure, as you rush from task to task, and event to event, trying to find ways to fit everything in, and to do and accomplish more?

We all want more time!

But here’s a simple truth – none of us can “manage” time or create more time – time passes regardless of how we use it!

What we can do is manage ourselves, and how we use the time we have to better effect.

And, here’s another truth – we all have the same amount of time available to us.

Everyone has the same amount of time to do their “stuff”. Everyone gets the same twenty-four hours in a day. The richest, most successful person on the planet cannot buy even one more minute of time in a day!

The key difference between those who are enjoying success in their businesses, and those who are struggling to create the business they want for themselves, is the ability to identify where they need to be spending their time and using it accordingly.

Stephen Covey in his book First Things First, tells the following story:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” He then pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them one at a time into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?”

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing it to work down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied.

He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and started dumping the sand in the jar until it filled the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good.”

Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

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One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!” “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point.”

“The truth this illustration teaches us is that if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all. What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life: your children, your loved ones, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching others, doing things that you love, your health, your mate? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all. If you sweat about the little stuff then you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff.”

[bctt tweet=”Spend your Best Time on your Big Rocks”]

I believe this is such an important lesson, and I know from personal experience, that if you work on the things that are most important to your business first, and then fit in the other “stuff” around those priorities, you will make much faster progress.

Managing your time more effectively is really about behavioural change. It’s about learning how to spend more time taking action on your priorities – your big rocks, instead of being busy on the other “stuff” that is less important, or worse just reacting to what others want!

So how do you implement this change in approach?

Here are my top 7 tips for fitting in your big rocks first:

1. Focus On Your Goal and Strategy
Be clear about your Goal, ie what it is you are trying to achieve and why. Then create a strategy for how you will achieve your goal, your route planner for how you will get from where you are now to where you want to be.

You can then become very focused only on those actions which will take you in the right direction, and be able to identify those things which are really just a distraction, and shouldn’t be demanding your time at all.

2. Identify Your Result Producing Activities
The Parento Principle, or 80/20 Rule as it’s also known, dictates that we all get 80% of our results from just 20% of our output. It makes sense then that if you are feeling pressed for time, you would do well to spend your time on the 20% of actions that generate 80% of your results – these are your big rocks.

Of course, to do this, you need to know which tasks and/or activities fall into that 20%, but if you are clear on your goal and have a strategy, they will be easier to identify.

3. Do, Delegate or Ditch
You can’t always do everything yourself, and in truth, not everything you think needs to be done actually does!

Take an objective look at your various to do lists and action points, and assess them in line with the first 2 points we’ve just covered, then:

  • Get rid of anything that really doesn’t make any kind of progress towards your objectives
  • If it really does need to be done – are you the only person who can do it, or could someone else do it equally as well or even better, faster or cheaper
  • Hopefully what you are left with is a much smaller list of Result Producing Activities, which you can then prioritise and schedule in to diary to get completed.

4. Distinguish Important from Urgent
They are not the same thing! Sometimes a task can be both important and urgent, but more often the things we think are urgent, are not important when viewed in the context of our business goal and strategy. Most of what we perceive to be urgent is driven by other people’s priorities, not our own. So ask yourself, do you really need to reply to your emails as they come in, or could they wait until an allocated time in the day to deal with them all together; do you really take to take a phone call now, or could you call back when you have finished your priority task for the day?

5. Improve Your Personal Processes
Organise yourself better, and plan your day ahead to make the best of the time you have available to you. Always start your day by blocking out a period of time to complete your priority task for the day

6. Learn to say NO
Have you ever agreed to do something for someone, and then thought to yourself “when am I going to get that done?” You don’t have to accommodate everyone – you can’t! Remember, everything you spend your time on should be to move your business in the direction you want to go, so if something doesn’t fit – say no!

7. Keep On It!
Keep analysing where you are spending your time on a weekly basis and make adjustments to what you should be doing and how you are doing it. We all stray off track from time to time so don’t beat yourself up about it, just take stock and move forward.

If you focus your attention and time on your priority areas –on your big rocks, and combine that with better organisation and delegation, then you will make faster progress , while feeling less time stressed.