“Breaking the time barrier”

My “breaking the time barrier” system consists of 4 different steps. Firstly, conduct a time audit. Secondly, create time boundaries in your business. Thirdly, understand how time compounds through processes, and fourthly, transform your time: in other words, take action and make the most of your hard-won time.

It’s time to roll up your sleeves, shut down social media and get cracking.

Step number 1: Time Audit

As I sat on the plane returning from an overseas trip last week, I was very aware of how many key deliverables I had due over the next 2 weeks.

Subconsciously I was contemplating each task using what I’d learned from:

  • Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix
  • John Maxwell’s Law of Priorities
  • Richard Koch’s 80/20 Rule, and
  • Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management for Entrepreneurs

Ultimately, it’s about being a “time assassin”, ruthless with how you manage your time as it’s your most valuable asset.

I consequently started conducting a personal time audit and categorising each task I had to do. I asked the following 3 questions:

  1. Is this building my business?
  2. Is this making me money?
  3. Is this giving me time freedom?

By being able to answer yes to these 3 questions, I was able to narrow down my list to 6 priority deliverables.

Everything else needs to take a backseat and ultimately can be delegated and taken care of by someone else.

The time crunch and pressure to produce has given me clarity.

Correctly managing your time is intentional living and critical to the life of an entrepreneur.

Key question: What tasks could you stop doing or delegate after performing a time audit? (be brutally honest and challenge yourself here! =)

Step number 2: Time Boundaries

About every 4 months I lose control of my calendar.

This means I start working according to other people’s time schedule and not on my own.

In my daily life it looks like this:

  1. I respond to emails at 11pm at night.
  2. I agree to do meetings that end up absorbing the entire day, because they are either spread out geographically or not scheduled back-to-back.
  3. I wake up on Sunday morning to check my emails in case anything urgent came in from overseas that needs responding to, and here’s my favourite.
  4. I allow a client to reschedule a conference call with me 4 times over 3 days and I accept it.

If I’m not in control of my time, somebody else is.

My business will swallow me up and I’ll end up working myself into an early grave.

So instead, every 4 months I revert back to the concept of “boundaries”…boundaries with my time and boundaries in my business.

What does this look like?

  1. I’m able to choose when I want to work, with which clients and in which location.
  2. Not all customers are the same and my responsiveness, flexibility, and accessibility for each one needs to differ based on, for example, what our contract states my role is. Stepping outside one’s scope of work can have disastrous consequences.
  3. I have defined boundaries around email, meetings, and my time, so I can work during the most effective times, on the most important things for me each day.

By implementing strict boundaries into my business, I have freed up more time and made more money than anything else I could have done. It also makes working fun.

This begs the question: “Why do I allow my boundaries to disappear in my business?”

It happens subconsciously. The more successful I become, the more my business grows, the more people ask of me, and the more challenges I face.

This is such an important topic that I want to dig deeper.

Maybe you’re like me and you have a love-hate relationship with email…

I’m constantly trying to tame the beast that is my inbox…and I’m sure you do too.

A mentor of mine taught me about ROIT – Return on Invested Time – and how the performance of this metric ultimately governs how excellent my products and services will become.

He said, “You start by defining your boundaries”. Here are just a few he mentions:

  • Time: What is your optimal time of day to think, to write, to make calls…then create blocks of time on your calendar and treat them as sacred. Following this you put like work into the same time blocks. For example, all calls are done on Friday, and only on Friday. No exceptions. As Dan Kennedy says: “All work gets its own appointment, much of it locked into the same time slot every week or month. Because the less flexible time you have, the more productive you are. The more distractions, the less productive.”
  • Email: Which email can you delegate, which should you delete, and which should you respond to immediately? Once again email belongs in a time block every day. If you are checking email every 10 minutes and answering phone calls on-demand you won’t get anything done.
  • Responsiveness: How quickly do you respond to clients, colleagues, and your boss? Do You have different obligations for different clients? Set limits on response time, such as ‘within 4 hours’, ‘within 24 hours’, etc. and communicate this clearly to your customer. This is about setting expectations.
  • Means of communication: You can dictate how you wish to be communicated to. I prefer email and text messages with short 15-minute phone calls. Tell others the best way to communicate with you. You decide, not them.

The purpose in creating boundaries is so you can have a sustained focus on 1-2 things every day…

If there are too many things occupying your mind, it will be scattered, and your work will become sub-optimal. It’s about being ruthless; it’s about being an assassin with your time and boundaries. There’s that word again that Paul Martinelli uses…

Remember, if you don’t set your priorities, then someone else will dictate your calendar.

Once you have your boundaries and processes set up then they’re on the chopping block every 90 days. It’s not just ‘continuous process improvement’, it’s the fact that you and I keep growing and changing and what worked last quarter may not be the right thing this quarter.

Know where the greatest return is on your time. The more successful you become the higher your skill level must grow at saying ‘no’, rather than ‘yes’.

You must keep the main thing the main thing.

Key question to think about for next month: What boundaries must you set up such that you keep focused on your main goals?