Taking Command of Time: Getting Things Done

Nikki Leigh, an author and web publicist, asked me to help promote her client’s new book as a part of a “virtual book tour”. OK, I’m easy. So here’s a guest post by the author, Hugh Ballou:

Taking Command of Time: Getting Things Done
By Hugh Ballou

Choosing priorities and ordering our time
A good leader is not the person who does things right, but the person who finds the right things to do.
Anthony T. Dadovano


Decide why you are doing every thing you do. Is it consistant with your vision and mission
statements? If you do not really know why, then don’t do it! Transform your life by eliminating
unnecessary tasks!

Develop a reliable system

Develop a system and support for that system. Use paper or electronic means. Make a decision.
Make a plan and work the plan. Have ONE calendar. Those who keep two calendars know that
BOTH of them are usually wrong! Record all your data in one source and have a reliable back up! If you keep a paper system, attend a seminar on the effective use of the system. They will teach you the basics and then you can modify it to suit your needs.

The greatest help is to write everything in one system. EVERYTHING! When writing phone
numbers or notes to call someone back, don’t use those silly pink phone pads and have lots of little pieces of paper floating around. They are always in the way and you can’t find the phone number when you need it! Scattered and disorganized people waste time that could be better spent in productive ways.

Don’t take legal pads to meetings to record notes – use a meeting sheet in your calendar system. Time cue the action items on your calendar and refer to the appropriate page in your notes for the details. Your calendar page should have a section for tasks next to the times of day for appointments. Remember, only put items that require your physical presence on the calendar. Other items go on the task or project list.

Here’s the basic idea. Record meetings in your date book. Record follow-up calls or actions in your task list. Connect the two in some way. Only put meetings that require your physical presence in your date book or calendar. That is a clear statement of where you are to be. Here’s a good place to plan your personal time as well. If you don’t schedule planning time, preparation time, study time, thinking time – then it most likely will not happen. Make a date with yourself and keep it.

Set a time of day to return phone calls. As the messages collect, put them into your task list for the time scheduled. The best time for calls is at the end of the morning or the end of the day. Do not interrupt productive time with phone calls, unless they are a priority. Plan your day the day before.

This chapter outlines the principles of establishing and choosing priorities as well as adhering to those decisions. These priorities come from having a strong mission and vision statement. If we cannot order our time, then we cannot be constantly effective.

Plan the major events of the week on Friday and review or refine and put in the details the day
before, not on the current day. If you begin your day without a plan, much of the day will slip by
without being productive.

Use your computer calendar program, PDA, or paper calendar system such as the Covey/Franklin planner. They have all the resources you will need and the training to go along with it. Keep everything in the system you use – phone numbers, addresses, e-mail, names, and other pertinent information. The beauty of this kind of consolidation is that you always have contact information handy when you need to follow up, and you can use extra time for planning or making notes. Extra time comes when you don’t expect it, such as when waiting for a doctor’s appointment or in the school line to pick up kids. By now, you’ve got the idea – now find a system and work it! Transformational Leaders are disciplined and structure their time to get things done so that they have time to live.

Learn to plan ahead

You don’t need to plan out your whole life in one sitting or even plan out the year, but learn to
anticipate what needs to be done in the short and long term. You can plan several events at the same time and save time and energy as well. Set aside time to enter events into your calendar. Set aside time for study projects. Set aside time on a regular basis to think, reflect, and research. If you are constantly running full-speed ahead, then you have no time to get ahead, or to evaluate or resource your efforts.

Don’t wait until things are in crisis. Look at the big picture before planning all the details. Make a rough outline, then fine-tune and fill-in the blanks. Make a resource list for planning so that you don’t leave out anything. Assign priorities to every item. Choose a system, such as giving letters for priorities (A=Highest, B=Next Highest, etc.). Don’t give every item an “A” or this system won’t work. Do the highest items first, then go the next priority.

As you plan your daily schedule, consider priorities as well. Do not plan your day too tightly. Allow for sliding priorities – those things that are important, but unanticipated. If someone comes to visit who has a personal tragedy in his or her life you must be able to adjust your priorities so that you can deal with that hurting person. This is an unanticipated priority that must be fit into place. If you have planned your day with too much on your schedule, then something of value must be bumped. Bumping is fine on an occasional basis; however, if this is a normal routine, then it will undermine your effective and careful planning process.

If you have unassigned time in your schedule (dream on), then look ahead to the next day’s or the next week’s schedule and see if there is something that can be done ahead. It will be valuable to have some tasks out of the way if you have a scheduled task that takes more time than you have allowed. There must be a place to catch up. The other option is to reward yourself for being efficient. Learn from this – do not over plan.

Allow for creative reinforcement – time away from your normal surroundings to work on a creative project without the burden of the ordinary or the pressure of the workplace. Allow for creative space – both physically and chronologically – to recharge your administrative energy.

When items on your “Task List” are complete, then find a way to mark them off boldly. Celebrate the completion of the task or assignment! Don’t mark it off with just a fine point pencil – use a big bold marker! Feel the success! Enjoy marking it off! Know that you have succeeded. You might think this is funny. Try it! See how good it feels! Success is not only intellectual. It is emotional as well. Enjoy!

Transformational Leadership begins with transforming yourself and your personal routines.
Your daily personal schedule should allow time for greeting people as you come and go. In arriving at work, leave time to visit with those whom you encounter on your way into the office. Learn to spend a little time with people so that you can cultivate a relationship with them, viewing people relationally and not functionally. Ministry is about relationship. You must earn a relationship with someone before you can impact what that person does. Give yourself room to breathe in your daily schedule.

Know your schedule and adhere to it

Have you ever missed a meeting because you simply did not look at your calendar? Certainly, we all have done this and regretted it. Use your calendar! Know how your day looks from the beginning. Know what needs to be done and how much time and energy it will take to do it. Prepare mentally and physically for the day ahead.

You have planned your day; now work your plan. If you are constantly revising your daily plan, then learn to plan more efficiently. It takes time to rewrite your plan every day. Now, please don’t be too hard on yourself. Revising our schedules is normal. Undergoing a complete makeover means that you were not realistic when planning. Planning is not an automatic success. You will have to learn this skill as you have learned others. The essential point here is to keep on planning. You will learn as you go. Plan – read your plan – work your plan. It only takes a little time each day.

Knowing your plan also lets you know if you can interrupt the plan when others need you. Decide if their priority is your priority. The old saying is: “Lack of planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on my part.” Don’t let those who do not plan constantly interrupt your plan with their problems. Learn to say no to interruptions that are not valid. Learn to tell others that you can schedule time later for them. Ultimately, they will respect this – or figure out how to solve it themselves.

Know what is important on today’s schedule because if you do not get it done, then what is
important today might become urgent tomorrow! Start your projects early enough to do them well. Don’t get caught spending time solving problems that are unimportant or that have less importance. Give preference to important things and solve unimportant issues in less productive times of the day, before they become urgent. Management by crisis might give you adrenaline, but it might also give you more stress than you can handle on a regular basis.

Your carefully managed schedule allows you time for recreation and rest, for socializing, for personal reflection, and for time to enjoy your day. This is actually good stewardship. Learn to be a good steward of God’s blessing of time.

Constantly evaluate your schedule

I repeat a very important concept – know WHY you are doing everything on your schedule. If it
does not support your personal vision and mission and the vision and mission of your organization, then why is it on your schedule? Evaluate the why along with the other factors of time, resources, and talent.

Know that something is on your schedule because you cannot delegate it or that it is important to your personal fulfillment of your vision and mission. If it can be delegated, then delegate it. Refer to the chapter on volunteers for ideas on delegation.

Do it now

Procrastination is an art, a fine-tuned skill, and a deadly mistake! When you open your mail – do something with each piece – NOW. Don’t put it away to file later. Moving paper around in your office is a royal waste of time. Touch it once! Act on it – or discard it! Move on!

Actions on mail or notes could be handled in one of several ways:
1. File it.
2. Return it to the sender with your notes.
3. Discard it.
4. Pass it on to the appropriate person – with your notes.

Learn to plan; learn to delegate; learn to say “no.”

For more information about Hugh Ballou – visit www.hughballou.com. Book information is available at http://www.amazon.com/Transforming-Power-Transformational-Encouragement-Inspiration/dp/0881775312 For full tour details, visit http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2008/06/transforming-power-virtual-tour-with.html