Summer is upon us with its many options of how, with whom and where to spend our time. In order to make the best use of your most precious resource, understand that there are two entirely different kinds of time. The first is opportunity time, during which you achieve your business goals. The second is replenishment time, during which you rebuild your strength through exercise, recreation, relaxation and sleep.
Here are six powerful methods I’ve used to optimally invest my time and build an effective organization. They’ve worked for me and they’ll work for you.
1. Avoid Flameout
Flameouts happen to the people who never get the hang of switching from opportunity time to replenishment time. Unless you learn how, you’ll run like a jet engine—until you run out of fuel. Then the flame goes out, your power shuts off…, and you drop like a stone. Otherwise highly productive people by the tens
of thousands suffer flameout, often losing weeks, months or even years of productivity as a result. Some flameout so thoroughly that they never manage to get their engines going again.
The most dangerous thing about flameout is that it sneaks up on you. Don’t try to fly high when your tanks are low. Touch down and refuel your spirits; spend a few days away in a completely different environment from your business world.
When you’re in the midst of opportunity time, get tough about it. It’s amazing how much of our working life gets eaten up by trivial interruptions unless we’re determined not to let that happen.
2. Get Rid of Busy Work
This is the usually pointless stuff that people too often enjoy doing because it’s easy—and because doing it makes a marvelous excuse for not tackling the harder things they should be doing. If you’re a winner, you always have time for the tough
end of your job that produces the results—it’s the easy stuff that you don’t find time for. You find someone else to do the easy work.
3. Always Jump on the Most Important Thing First
What is the most important thing you should do right now? It’s easy to figure out the answer: the most important thing is usually the item you least want to do. So jump on it. Get it out of the way. Then go on to the next thing you don’t want to do, and get rid of that item by completing it, too.
Start doing this every morning, keep on doing it and you’ll soon discover that you’re not worrying so much any more. You’re enjoying your work, you’re feeling good about yourself and you’re seeing results. If you want success, start tackling the most important things about your job and getting them out of the way first every morning.
4. Touch It Once
This isn’t a new idea. In some form or other, it’s an important part of every good system for digging out from under paperwork or desktop overload. If you start taking final action on every piece of paper and every email that comes across your desk or desktop, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the mountain of paper and messages choking your inbox will melt away.
Getting things done doesn’t mean taking a whack at one thing after another and leaving them all undone. One thing completed is an accomplishment; ten things glanced at is a nothing. Some people spend day after day rotating through the email messages and papers on their desk from top to bottom and back. If anything, the heap of unfinished business just gets larger and larger as new stuff comes in. Finally, the day comes when it all gets
deleted or thrown out, important things along with the trash—and we start building up another new pile.
What does that heap of indecisions say to anyone coming near?
“Beware—somebody is working hard at doing nothing here.”
The way out is to say, “This challenge is going to get settled now. I’m returning the call right now. I’m finalizing everything I can. I’m getting my desk clean so I can handle even more opportunities.”
5. If You Don’t Need It Now, Throw It Away
While this advice can be controversial, one of the most efficient people I’ve ever known lives by it. One day I was in his office and had a chance to observe his working methods closely. My friend keeps his desk clear at all times so that he can concentrate on just one item at a time and he actually does throw away a lot of things that he doesn’t need now. But his definition of what he “needs now” includes keeping up an extensive and well-organized file of catalogs and other material that he can refer to quickly. Since he knows where he’s going, he knows what he needs to keep. It all starts with a clearly defined set of goals and that he has.
6. Repeat This Affirmation
Use this self-instruction to get and keep yourself on track with getting the most out of your time:
“I’m tough about my opportunity time. Nobody fritters it away. And I don’t fritter my own opportunity time away doing busy work or engaging in unnecessary activities. But I’m loose about my replenishment time. I really kick back and relax when needed to avoid flameout.”