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 July 16, 1999

Magnum Memo: Time users beat out time savers

Too often I feel swamped with things to do. Then I think about people with bigger, more important jobs than I have, and I wonder how in the world they ever get everything done that they need to. So I decided to ask several of them.

I found they are able to accomplish a lot more with “time-usage” vs. “time-saving” techniques.

The following are suggestions from the best and the brightest to get and stay that way:

1. Write, write, write stuff down. Write down your do list, write down steps to attack the do list, and check-off things when they’ve been completed. The mere act of writing down minimizes the overwhelmed feeling because you usually discover it’s manageable. Also when it’s written down you can more easily see how to prioritize and perhaps eliminate all together.

2. Do something every day that maintains some balance in your life. After you’ve written a daily or weekly “do list,” check over it to make sure it includes things that are important to you for family, friends, community, etc.

Also make sure there is a personal or professional development item or two on the list, such as learn a new negotiating skill, manage money better, build muscle, etc.

3. Create self-imposed deadlines. Nothing gets done in a timelier manner than when the clock is ticking. But it’s best to have the clock be yours vs. someone else’s. Simply put a deadline on your “do list” items a day or week ahead of the actual deadline.

4. Do the difficult items first. Set the earliest deadline for those you tend to put off. And put them on the top of your prioritized list every time.

5. Harness distractions. Stop them. Don’t get into them. Don’t listen to them call you. Just say no.

Those are the principle patterns I learned. Then there are the little tricks:

1. Handle a piece of paper once and deal with an e-mail the first time you read it.

2. Read business journals on the exercise machines or between reps for a break. Use color-coded stickies for your assistant to review and take action on articles of interest.

3. Go through regular mail on Mondays and Fridays only. Overnight letters are the only ones that should get read when received.

4. Make routine business calls one day a week or during a one-hour time period every day. Be consistent.

5. Stamp and address envelopes to people you’re meeting with today so all you have to do is add the message and mail it after the meeting.

6. Return from vacation and start back to work on a Friday to have a day of catch-up work, enjoy the weekend and start then start the week fairly caught up.

7. Duplicate facilities at home and at the office for telecommuters and those with a home office. Have everything placed the same way and use the same equipment.

8. Always keep a suitcase packed with the basics so all you need to add are the clothes for the climate you’re going to.

9. Delegate anything you can ASAP.

10. Learn to say “no” nicely and stick to it.

11. Keep a neat desk. (One man allows only 2 pens, 2 pencils, 5 paper clips, and a one-inch-thick pad of paper.)

12. Brush your teeth in the shower. (Another man sets his watch alarm so his showers don’t get carried away.)

Again, the most efficient and effective executives map things out. Start. Continue. Complete.

Pace yourself so you don’t panic. A modulated, energetic, consistent pace creates your mindset for the entire day, and you will be in a better mode than others who have similar work. That includes being on time: Show up on time. End on time.

When you plan ahead and organize, it takes far less time to accomplish so much more.

Debra Benton is president of Benton Resources Inc. in Fort Collins. If there is a column idea of interest to you, e-mail her at debra@bentonmangement.com

Too often I feel swamped with things to do. Then I think about people with bigger, more important jobs than I have, and I wonder how in the world they ever get everything done that they need to. So I decided to ask several of them.

I found they are able to accomplish a lot more with “time-usage” vs. “time-saving” techniques.

The following are suggestions from the best and the brightest to get and stay that way:

1. Write, write, write stuff down. Write down your do list, write down steps to attack the do list, and check-off things when they’ve been completed.…

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