By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder
“How do you get so much done?”
That is a sentiment I have heard quite a few times in my adult life. I always found it odd because I believe I am inherently lazy but upon taking stock, I do seem to get a lot done. I am the co-founder and co-operator of two for-profit companies, a co-founder and heavily involved with two non-profit organizations, an active husband and father of two, run 3-4 times per week, and I make time for 100 push ups and sit ups every day and meditate between 20 and 40 minutes per day.
Sounds pretty productive, right? And it’s not even because I don’t sleep, as some might assume; I actually get 7 to 8 hours of Zzzz’s per night.
But why is time management so important? Well, because time is your only truly limited resource. And it’s the only limited resource of others you can truly never replace. The stories you tell yourself about being late or absent or not getting things done are just stories. They all end with someone you care about feeling disrespected, or disappointed. Most likely it is you but either way, stop telling stories and start living up to your goals.
So, when a friend asked me to develop a list of my tricks, I thought maybe it had enough merit that others might benefit from it.
- Ask yourself: How much better would my life be if I had complete control and discipline around time management? Would I be achieving many more goals for myself both personally and professionally? If you don’t believe in the possibilities, you won’t implement so until you buy into this step, don’t move to #2. (Of course, make sure you have clear goals. If you don’t know your destination, you have a very low likelihood of getting there).
- Let the Technology tools available to you do the heavy lifting. You have a super-computer in your pocket. It will alert you, remind you, guilt you, and reschedule for you. IF YOU USE IT.
- The calendar is your God. Without it, you are nothing. With it, you are omnipotent. If it’s not in your calendar, it doesn’t exist. It will never happen. Ever.
- Time Box Meetings. Start calls by informing people you have a hard stop at x time. Warn them 10 minutes before. You will know when that is because you will get a calendar reminder for your next activity (see #2, 3, & 5). This might feel like this is rude but it is actually the opposite. Actually, you are respecting their time as well as yours while giving them the opportunity to get anything else important done. You can also always schedule a time for follow up.
- Set your calendar defaults to remind you 10 minutes before each activity and then again 2 minutes before it starts (so you can stop what you are doing and dial in ahead of time for calls. If an event requires travel time, schedule that as well.
- Use your travel, waiting and in between time to knock out tasks like email. I can usually clear my inbox of most items on my way back from a meeting while traveling (including walking) simply by using the dictation capabilities on my phone. It does take a moment to get used to dictating punctuation but the ability to take care of those things on the go, in waiting rooms or in any other idol moment, frees me up to do more important things when I get back to being stationary. By clearing myself of the reactive things which require my attention while I am on the go, I can focus on being proactive when I get where I am going or tackling longer term tasks that can’t be done while in motion.
Funny side note: At this point, I dictate for around two hours per day. While this is great for my productivity, now I’m prone to dictate punctuation all the time. This gets quite embarrassing when I’m leaving a voicemail message for an important colleague, potential customer, or client and I accidentally say the punctuation into the voicemail message.
“Hey John Comma its Michael returning your call period…”
I’ve even done this while making up a bedtime story for my son and accidentally dictated punctuation into it. I guess that is one way to teach grammar:-).
Productive side note: If you like dictating as much as I do, check out this brand new chrome plugin that one of our clients (Greg Sadetsky) built for me which finally allows you to dictate right into gmail on your desktop.
- Set your calendar for Sunday nights to remind you to do a look forward at the week. This gets your mind ready for what is to come and is also an opportunity to schedule any goals you have so you can be sure you make time for the important things.
- Set your calendar each night to remind you to review the upcoming day. This will take one minute but allow you to know what is coming and how it relates to the time you set your alarm and the clothes you choose for your day. It also allows you to notice conflicts that may have arisen ahead of time so things can be cancelled or adjusted ahead of time. Google Calendar allows you to set a reminder to get a day’s event by email which is another way to do this. I do both.
Again, this system only works if you follow this crucial rule.
Calendar everything! If you need time to focus on a project, schedule it. If you need time to practice your hobby, schedule it. Exercise, schedule it. Meditation, schedule it. If you want free and spontaneous time, schedule it. :-). Not kidding.
If it isn’t in the calendar, it doesn’t exist. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.
[Also on Medium]