Take back control

Time management is my greatest weakness, but it’s not because I’m disorganized.

Actually, I am quite adept at juggling multiple tasks and projects. My problem is that I take on so many projects that I’m busy all the time — even on weekends.

Not long ago, I believed that maintaining a positive cash flow was the most difficult challenge any business owner faced. But many an entrepreneur has overcome money woes; only a few have conquered the enemy known as time.

Remember the myth surrounding the promulgation of technology? Advancements were supposed to make life more efficient and free up time. Instead, work conveniently expands to fill the time we allocate for it, which means those whose workdays do not end at 5 p.m. are working harder and longer than ever.

A few years ago, I interviewed Susan Aldrich, a corporate planning consultant who teaches busy executives how to better manage their time. She offered several smart ideas that anyone, including me, could apply to their life.

But that was then. Today, I’ve allowed my busy schedule to push into the background those time management skills I’d worked so hard to learn. So in early June, I decided to take back control of my life. After poring over my old notes, here is what I relearned.

Prioritize. Build a comprehensive “to do” list, then break the tasks into two categories: those that are crucial to your role within your business and those that you can delegate. You may be hesitant to give up some of your duties, but if you’ve surrounded yourself with talented employees, remember that you hired them for this reason.

Schedule. Too often, we try to fill our calendars with as many appointments as we can squeeze in. Don’t forget to block out “in-office” time to knock out the jobs that need your attention. Otherwise, you’ll be taking that work home with you just to catch up.

Clear off your desk. If you’re not going to get to it within a few days, don’t pile it on your desk. I once allowed a stack of notes, press releases and photographs to reach more than a foot-and-a-half in height before accidentally bumping it onto the floor in a jumbled heap. Needless to say, I’ve never made that mistake again.

Learn to say “no.” I can’t stress this one enough. My wife says I give a lot of myself, sometimes to a fault, and that I need to learn how to say no every once in a while. It’s taken me a long time to accept that there’s nothing wrong with saying that I do not have enough time to take on a new project.

Recognizing a time management problem is the first step to solving it, but now I’m faced with the difficult task of reimplementing these skills into my daily life. I can’t help but notice a touch of irony in all this — that my efforts will work isn’t a given; only time will tell for sure. Dustin Klein is editor of SBN Magazine.