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Time to ACT

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Time to ACT. What does that say to you? Time to do what you need to do? Now’s the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country? You get the idea. It means time to do what needs to be done. Ok, Let’s take it to another dimension. What if it means having “time enough” to get things done. Hm. Peaked your interest? Good. That’s the topic of this blog.

We are busy people. It’s a busy world. How often do you hear people say “if only I had 2 more hours in the day.” Often. Well, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. That means we have to take control of our own time destinies to keep them in check. There are tons of time management seminars and tools and I’ve probably taken them all. Their purpose is to help you understand what are YOUR time drains.

Types of time drains are interruptions, emergencies, answering email, reading blogs (just had to say that), answering phones, opening paper mail, responding to people coming into your office, searching for information missing from a project, not having a work process in place and working on your calendar. I bet you spend a lot more time on these processes than you imagine. Many many years ago, I was part of a project that was working on winning a Demming Award. A Demming award is for superlative process management. One of the things we had to do was record everything we did, by hour, by day, for two weeks. We did this on a spreadsheet. We were even given watches to keep track of the time. This was an eye-opening exercise. And this was before email, Facebook, Twitter and the internet. It is extraordinary how you can flitter away time on the littlest things.

You should try this exercise as noted above, and then figure out how can you fix some of the issues. What I am going to show you here in this blog is how you can do that with a contact manager. My contact manager of choice is ACT!. Not all of them do what ACT! can do, so if I talk about something here that your contact manager (if you have one) doesn’t do, then consider moving to ACT!.

Ok, here we go. I’m going to list some common time drains and show you how ACT! can help you manage the time drain demons.

This one is easy. You need to go into your calendar and put in an activity that says “Busy” or “Door closed” or whatever makes sense to you. If you are more productive in the morning, put it in this timeslot then. The idea is your calendar is flagged as not available so you can work on things that need your utmost concentration. We can’t avoid all interruptions, but we can sure try.

Ever get a project that is missing information? You need to send that project detail right back where it came from to get that data. Open a Todo in ACT!, call it “gather missing data”. Put a timeframe for a week or so and set it so it alarms. Send an email to the person who hasn’t sent you the data. Your Todo will pop up reminding you that you are waiting on information. The good news you should have put that project into the “waiting on details” pile and can now go find it. The better news was by setting the alarm, and “delegating” it back to the person who has the details removed from your work pile. In essence, you moved the “work monkey” back to where it belonged. You can also use Activity Series in ACT! to assign steps to someone else, there by delegating to another and off of your desk.

Work processes.
When you work on a process, you typically go through a standard set of steps. Do you call people asking for detail? Do you send emails asking for more information? Do you do the same steps all the time. Then you have an activity series. In ACT!, you can design an Activity series to remind you of events that need to happen at a set period of time. You can even “delegate” them to other people (one of the best ways to get things off your plate.) You can even design more than one type of activity series. These are very powerful.

Keeping on track:
Your calendar is your most valuable tool in keeping on top of your time. If you earmark times for “busy” or “working on mail” or add an entry that says “follow up on pipeline” you have alarms popping up that tell you where you need to be and when or what you have to do. Someone walks in your door – you get tied up talking to them. You forget you have an appointment. An audible alarm from a calendar entry can get your attention and help you shoo that person out the door. Use this tool to your best advantage. Alarms are an excellent way to keep you on track. One of the things you can do in ACT! is set the priority of your calendar items. Use this – and use it wisely. Make critical appointments High priority. If the entry is a low item, make it a low priority and don’t bother with setting an alarm. ALL HIGH PRIORITY ITEMS SHOULD HAVE AN ALARM. Period.

ACT! is more than just a contact manager. It’s a way to keep track of the who, what, when, where and why of things (but that’s another blog.) It can help you keep on top of your day. Time management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Use tools to help you. After all, it’s all about having “time to act.”

Written by pregen

August 21, 2009 at 8:51 pm

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