I wasn’t a role model for discipline and focus until 1991 after I began my entrepreneur training program. I was one of those people who had to save every magazine I enjoyed such as Success, Fortune and anything pertaining to entrepreneurs. I have ADD and it was like the “follow the shinning object” syndrome when it came to the Internet in the mid90s. That’s when I knew I had to change my ways!
I hired an organizational consultant the first week inJanuary 1993. I had her come over to my home office and after she watched me work for an hour she started making suggestions as to how I could organize my office for better time savings. The binders I would invariably refer to during phone calls were placed to the left of my computer. The filing cabinet was moved to the right with the files I most often had to look at were moved to the desk top drawer height. We created a clean work space to the left and to the right of the computer and phone.
Everything I needed was within arms reach. I no longer had to get up and stretch the phone cord to grab a file across the room or put my caller on hold to look up the information they needed.
Then she began the arduous task of going through the magazines and tearing out the articles I thought I might need for writing for my newsletter. She helped me create binders with sleeves and placed the marketing articles in the marketing binder; sales in the sales binder and so on. It seems so simple and logical now, but at the time, it never occurred to me I didn’t have to save the whole magazine.
We created an excel spreadsheet for phone calls rather than the carbon paper phone record book, sticky notes and scraps of paper I had been using. It was so much easier to record the date someone called, if they were returning my phone call, their name, business, number and a comment in the proper column. I highlighted calls when they were complete. At a glance I could see who I needed to call and make a note of the attempts to return calls. But the greatest benefit of all was being able to search for a name or company name six months later when I needed to go back and look up their information. Searching through my notes previously was a nightmare!
I have no idea how much time these few techniques saved me during the first year but the peace of mind in knowing where things were and diminishing the clutter was priceless.
That is what inspired me to hire a time management specialist the nextJanuary. We spent an hour going over my daily routine. He had me create a log of every activity I did for the first 30 days so he could recognize patterns and repetitive steps.
One of the simplest changes I made was to have my business mail sent to a mail box service rather than my home address. I picked up my business mail on Friday afternoon when I was more than likely already in the vicinity. Even though it might have only saved ten minutes a day plus the time to wade through the wanted and unwanted mail, he figured it was about a two hour time savings a week. I also learned to through out the junk mail before I brought it home.
Another time drain pattern that surfaced was how much time I spent in the car. It was about 30 hours a month or nearly an entire week’s worth of productivity. He suggested two ideas to remedy the downtime of my driving so much. First I changed my meetings to once a month rather than twice a month. I only made outside appointments when I was in the same area and eliminated the extra drive time to go back toSanJosewhich was an hour away.
But listening to books on tape (too early for CD’s) was the best suggestion he gave me. Rather than feeling the hour drive toSanJosewas a waste of time, I felt I was contributing to my effectiveness by listening toBrianTracy, Tom Hopkins, Steve Covey and the likes. They became my mentors and guides to becoming even more efficient and productive.
The hardest time management change I learned from him was “just because the phone rang it didn’t mean I had to answer it,” especially if I was doing marketing or outbound calls. The discipline it took to not be distracted by an inbound call was excruciating at first. But logic prevailed and I became more focused on the importance of having specific times for specific tasks and soon my clients got used to having me available on Monday and Friday afternoons to talk with me on the phone.
I doubled my revenue the first two years after and it was proof enough for me to realize I was on to something worthwhile.
EveryJanuary for 12 years I alternated between an organizational and a time management specialist. I never hired the same ones twice because I assumed they would have told me what they could the first time we worked together.
I became more efficient, productive and focused than I ever thought possible. The greatest benefit was how I developed a discipline of being in the moment with whatever I was doing and not wandering mentally from one thing to the next. It alleviated a tremendous amount of stress and made me feel like I was in control of my business.