One of my staff and I had a good laugh while I was writing this article because I was already past deadline and my inbox was overflowing with over 200 legitimate emails from people who were awaiting my responses – some who have had to email me two or three times to confirm that I had received their initial email. I remarked, “It’s ironic that I’m writing this article because it definitely doesn’t feel like I am fully qualified to teach anything about Time Management!” But at the same time, every day people ask me how I get so much done while juggling so many things, so I must be doing something right – or fooling a lot of people!
From an outsider looking in, they may question how a single mom can balance running an award winning, million dollar Personal Training studio that hosts fun runs, triathlons and various community fundraisers that have raised over $500,000 over the last decade; organizes local fitness conferences, presents workshops internationally, writes articles for trade journals, local newspapers and blogs and still has time to train and compete in triathlons and half marathons, go on adventure treks and have fun with friends and family. This article isn’t about being perfect with Time Management because I’m far from that! But instead, how to prioritize, get the important stuff done and balance it all (without going nuts and have fun in the process).
Time Management is one of the keys to success in all areas of life. Without it you’ll simply go through the motions until you are exhausted and overwhelmed. In the fitness industry, it requires a balancing act between training, teaching classes, marketing/promotions, meetings, phone calls, team building, personnel issues, Human Resources, programming, reports, writing, managing social media, event management, shopping for equipment, managing equipment repairs and more.
The king of Time Management, the late Steven Covey, spoke of the Four Quadrants of Time Management – Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important - Firefighting), Quadrant 2 (Important but not Urgent – Quality Time), Quadrant 3 (Urgent but not Important – Distraction), Quadrant 4 (Neither Important nor Urgent – Time Wasters). He suggested that most of us are stuck in Quadrant 1 putting out fires and focused on crisis management because we haven’t spent enough time in Quadrant 2 planning, brainstorming, establishing systems, policies and protocols and setting expectations for how things should be. If you spend enough time in Quadrant 2 you have more time to do the more important stuff because action plans and initiatives are established and easier to follow, you’ve empowered others to think for themselves because they fully understand how things are to be done and therefore the magic happens – with or without you present. So I believe one of my biggest Time Management success is that I am a Queen of Systems. We have a thick Corporate Manual for our business that has everything written down so there’s no guessing how things should be done, no relying on people remembering important systems and policies – it’s in the book and it includes everything from general procedures and policies, customer service initiatives, sales systems, human resource materials, marketing initiatives, operation and more. My team isn’t calling and emailing me every single hour of every day to ask me questions about how things should be done. They know it. They figure out. They are smart and empowered to take care of things without me. So have a system for every aspect of your business or career. It has been said that every hour in effective planning saves three to four hours in execution and results.
Prioritizing: The 4 D's of Time Management
I don’t get everything done but I get the important stuff done so a key with Time Management is prioritizing and being able to decide what needs to get done now, what can wait and what doesn’t warrant your time.
Learn to say “no!” & Look for Time Wasters: If I agreed to every meeting, I would never get anything done so I only meet with people when I know what the meeting is about and I see the value in taking the time. If not, I ask them to email me and then I will decide if it warrants my time or whether I can delegate or say no. I get multiple emails and phone calls every day from various companies that want me to represent or sell their product. If I don’t know the person or it is clearly SPAM, it does directly to my junk box. If I know the person and/or it justifies a response, if I am not interested I will respond with a polite “Thank you so much for thinking of me but unfortunately we are not able to pursue this opportunity at this time. I wish you the best of luck in your venture.” My staff knows to have all incoming phone inquiries from vendors such as this to email me. Again, I don’t have the time to return these various phone calls and email allows me to quickly either delete or respond with a polite “Thanks but no thanks.” It may seem rude but my guess is the person who takes the time to respond to all of these phone calls, emails, facebook messages etc isn’t actually getting any really good stuff done!
Time Wasters can be people or things. The key is learning to set boundaries. For example, I do a lot of my social media (a big time waster) in bed in the morning as I’m waking up, at night as I’m winding down or while I’m waiting (in line at Starbucks, for my kids at school, at the doctors office etc) so I’m not wasting time when I could be doing other important initiatives. With people, you may need to shut your door sometimes, or work off-site or ask team members to schedule a meeting so you can dedicate focused time on them and still have time to get your important tasks done.
Understand your strengths and the strengths of everyone on your team. You have to determine your high-yield activities and only do the things that only can do. Always ask yourself with any task “Is there someone else who could do this as well or better than me?” and if so hand it off. This is your most powerful tool for effective Time Management, getting things done and increasing job satisfaction for your team. So hiring incredible people that you can develop and trust with responsibility is a key tool for success. If you have a stellar team, you can delegate with no guilt or regrets understanding they will do a great job and your time will be spent elsewhere on other important tasks. This is one of the most important things I’ve done throughout my career…early on, I had to do everything myself and I wore all the hats. But slowly over time, I’ve developed a team of rock-stars that together we accomplish more than I could have ever done by myself. If you are currently all by yourself, you should still decide what tasks you should do and what tasks you might hire out (ie accounting, taxes, etc). Do what you do best and hire out the rest!
Learn to prioritize tasks. Many can be dealt with at a later time, not immediately. Schedule a specific time at a later date to handle it. Once your list of action steps is developed, prioritize your activities by placing an H, M, or L (for High, Medium, or Low) in front of each item. This system is so simple and yet can be the key factor in doubling or tripling your output. The idea is to use one's most productive hours for H items, and other hours for the M and L items. These M and L items will become higher priorities as time goes on
Important! This needs your attention immediately so run with it, don’t make excuses! Just get it done. On any given day, I might have 10 tasks that are listed for me to do. I review that list and get done the important stuff that needs to get done. The stuff that makes the magic happen…Do the “need to do” immediately and the “nice to do” can get done when you can get to it. I have multiple tasks that transfer from one day to the next day to the next day because I need to do them but couldn’t get to them on that day and will eventually get to them but they aren’t urgent enough to complete on that given day. I never get EVERYTHING done…I just get the critical stuff done.
Be a Slave to your Calendar
A critical Time Management system for me is using Outlook (or any form of Automated Calendar) with Daily, Weekly and Monthly To-Do Lists and Tasks with Automated Reminders and Triggers. I usually spend a few week in October/November planning out critical tasks and action steps for the upcoming year for all aspects of our business – promotions, specialty programs/classes, events, internal marketing, external marketing initiatives, team meetings, etc. Then I work backwards and I input all the tasks, dates, deadlines etc to assure success with each task or event. I will schedule recurring tasks, reminders and triggers and ask myself questions such as:
- What do I need to do at the end of every month?
- What do I need to do every Monday? Every Wednesday? etc
- What do I need to do every other Friday?
I’m a huge believer in this type of organizational structure and believe it’s one of the reasons I get a lot done. Any given day, I can open my computer and know exactly what I need to do on that day to for example, assure a successful event 2 months down the road!
Do not store too much above the eyebrows otherwise you’ll forget basic follow-up tasks and end up feeling overwhelmed and unorganized. It has been said that the palest ink is better than the best memory. Write it down!
I am super committed to my workouts – even when I’m crazy busy I always get my workouts in. And I think this is also one of my successful Time Management systems because it allows me to be more productive, provides me the energy to get things done and helps me manage the stress of it all!
So as I mentioned, I’m not perfect. I am guilty of some of the worst time management symptoms such as overcommitting myself, always being late for meetings, getting articles or handouts in past deadline, being a chron-optimist (always thinking I can do more in an allotted amount of time), having a jammed full email inbox and feeling like I’m letting someone down. I won’t lie – there are some days that I feel like I’m failing miserably as a business woman, mother, and friend as I try to effectively juggle it all. But if I were to analyze what I accomplish and what our team has achieved, I feel confident that we manage our time well enough to get the really good stuff done and I’m proud of that! And I love my life, am passionate about my career and wouldn’t change a thing!