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Are you tired of feeling like you never have enough time? You worked all day without stopping, yet you cannot clearly identify the tasks that have been completed. Unfortunately (and fortunately), we all have the same exact amount of time to maximize or waste.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day. Once they are gone, they are gone. Use them wisely! It’s time to stop working harder and start working smarter. Being busy is not an indicator of success. Instead of creating habits to be busy, create habits to do more in the same amount of time or less.
The No. 1 concern I hear from auto dealers is that there is not nearly enough time to accomplish tasks. Most people are investing some serious hours in the store, yet they leave feeling dissatisfied with their productivity level. Their stress level is through the roof. They are agonizing over the tasks that didn’t get done and dreading their return the following day.
When I conduct time-management training and consulting, I begin by qualifying the method in which the members of the organization manage their tasks. I typically find that half are crisis-oriented, allowing the day to take them wherever it goes depending on what fires they are putting out, and the other half are “to-do” list-driven. While the latter is way more efficient than just allowing the day to lead them, this still is not enough.
The following 17 tips will bring you closer to increased productivity. They will help you distinguish the priority tasks from distractions disguised as tasks and, ultimately, achieve your goals.
1. Stop saying you don’t have enough time! Our thoughts become our words and our words become our actions. If you continue to tell yourself that you do not have enough time, you won’t.
2. Maintain a master task list, but not just a long, running list, randomly arranged. Instead, assign due dates to those items based on priority level. You should have two tasks lists: one for personal tasks and one for professional tasks.
3. Use the “ABC” order method to assign priority levels to your tasks. A. items are items that are due the same day, B. items are items that are due within the next few days and C. items are tasks that are due a week or more out. Items that have due dates are clearly defined, but for the others, assign them.
4. Take your ABCs one step further. Once you qualify your tasks as As, Bs and Cs, drill down deeper by turning your As into A1, A2, A3, A4 and so on. This will give you the ability to put your most important tasks in sequential order.
5. Work in threes. Relieve the sense of feeling overwhelmed by thinking about three tasks at any given time. Handle your A1, A2 and A3 first, then assign the next three items. Small bites are easier to digest.
6. Work within your influence. As my daughter would say, you are not an octopus. You can only accomplish as much as you are physically able, so no need to concern yourself with Tasks Seven, Eight and Nine when you haven’t completed the six tasks before them.
7. Use the Three Ds. Do it, delegate it, or destroy it. As tasks arise, determine if you will do it and assign it an A, B or C or delegate it to someone else in the organization (or a friend or family member, if it’s personal). If the task doesn’t further advance your life personally or professionally, eliminate it completely!
8. Use a calendar and put all your appointments on it. The same goes for personal and professional engagements. Whatever gets scheduled gets done.
9. Just say “No”! Have the courage to say “No” to tasks when your plate is already full. If the task is being assigned from above, try asking, “I have no problem with jumping on that, but please let me know which of these other high-priority tasks you would like me to put off in order to accomplish this newly assigned task?”
10. Limit interruptions. Self-interruptions are a thing too. It takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. Allocate an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to label as “quiet time.”
11. Plan “interrupted” time too. Allocate one hour of the day to proactively determine what tasks need your assistance. Failing that, let your team members know that they can stop by at a certain time to get assistance.
12. OHIO — only handle it once. Don’t procrastinate. If you aren’t going to do it, delegate it or destroy it.
13. Don’t discriminate. In other words, don’t put off the tasks you don’t like doing. Take emotion out of it and work objectively.
14. When working on tasks, begin with the end in mind. Waiting to see where a project will take you is not a productive mindset. A defined agenda will keep you focused and moving smoothly, allowing you to complete tasks in a shorter time frame and reduce your stress level.
15. Pick a day of the week to complete each recurring task. Treat them like appointments and they will become habit.
16. Eliminate distractions. Don’t feel the need to answer the phone just because it is ringing or check emails constantly. This may be a hard habit to break, but close out your email browser and assign yourself certain times of the day to check emails, voicemails and social media.
17. Breathe. Unless you are performing brain surgery or dismantling explosives, I promise you it will be OK. Sometimes just taking a small timeout to rest your mind is enough to do the trick.
Karen Bradley is the CEO of Dealer Synergy. She has 10 years of sales training experience and nine years’ experience as a Franklin Covey-certified trainer and facilitator. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.