Time Management

time-managementTime.  It seems that there is never enough and what time we do have appears to be just washing away.  If only we could have more time.  Question is, would more time really matter?  Would we really get more accomplished? Or would it just be more time to waste wishing we had more time? No matter how you look at it, time is the same year after year, month after month, day after day.  So if time remains constant, why does it always seem to be moving away from us at break neck speeds? The answer is that we simply fail at time management.

Time management is often associated with being organized, yet being organized does not necessarily mean that you have a grasp of time management.  For example, how many times have you started your day with a “to do list” and still did not get everything accomplished.  Some would say that there are unforeseeable events that occur and get in the way of completing that day’s tasks.  While that may sometimes be the case, it generally is more the result of poor time management than being disorganized. Advances in technology can help keep us organized but they can not hold us accountable for time.  The solution therefore is to not only be organized, but to purposely and constructively plan that organization.  Some of these tips may be something you have already heard, already knew, or perhaps even currently employ.  My feeling however is that if you have read this far, time management is something you are struggling with.

Step #1 – If you do not already have a method of keeping track of your everyday tasks (PDAs, desk calendars, schedule books, etc.) start using one today.  Research has consistently shown that those who write down their daily tasks and goals are more than 90% likely to accomplish them.  Even a simple piece of paper and pen will work.  Whatever is easiest, most convenient, and most comfortable for you to use is what is most important.

Step #2 – PRIORITIZE.  It may sound very cache’, but most people spend inordinate amounts of time working on tasks that are really not that important or that are not in sync with their desired outcomes.  The tasks or goals that are most important should take precedence over all others first.  From there, determine the things that are not as equally important, but have to get done or accomplished to fill in the gaps.

Step #3 – In addition to prioritizing, you should also work through tasks one at a time.  Skipping around or completing tasks half way and you will quickly find yourself losing time and getting nothing accomplished.  Keep the focus shifted on doing the necessary and not on the “what ifs”.

Step #4 – Account for time wisely.  In our present day and age, it is very common to spread ourselves thin, trying to do too many things, be too many places, see too many people, to the point where we can drive ourselves insane.  Build time into your daily schedule for things such as travel to and from appointments, meal breaks (can not properly manage time on an empty stomach), phone calls, etc.  Avoid over scheduling and give yourself a chance to attack your tasks with the same vigor and energy as the one before.

Step #5 – Always allow time for your personal agenda.  It is sad but we will spend more time on things that in the general scheme of life are not really important and less time on the things that should really matter most to us – ourselves, family, and friends.  Personal time is vital not only to your mental well being, but to your long term health and prosperity. My personal favorite is exercise.  Everybody says that they just do not have the time.  I say to them that you can not afford NOT to exercise. It has to be built into your schedule and it should not be something that gets fit in if time allows.  There is always time when it is a priority (see Step #2) and it SHOULD be a priority.

Step #6 – Take a deep breath and relax.  We worry so much about time that we probably spend too much worrying about where it is going.  If you continue to find yourself struggling with time management, perhaps you need to sit back and take a good look at where you are, where you are going, and where you want to be.  Grinding it out day in and day out can and will get in the way of your goals and dreams if you allow it.  We can all be found guilty of complacency and sticking to our routine on a daily basis even if it is not where we really want to be.  It is just what we do and that can be a complete waste of time.

Featured in November 2005 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Personal Strategic Planning

TriangleSuccess can be measured in many different ways.  A successful career may include prominence in an industry supplemented with a high level of income.  A successful day may be a day in which the “to do” list was finished before noon.  There are many ways to define and measure success and everyone has their own views and opinions. But no matter which way it is looked at, success can best be defined as the result of a series of positive changes and influences that led to an achievement of a particular goal.  The unfortunate mistake that most people make is that they look for success to come to them, rather than making success happen for them.  That process can begin with personal strategic planning.

Corporations big and small get involved in strategic planning. Their goal through strategic planning is to find ways to maximize the organization of the business to increase their ROE, or return on equity.  ROE simply refers to the return on the capital invested in the enterprise. By reorganizing, prioritizing, and shifting resources from areas of lower value to areas of higher potential value, the ROE in the business can be increased. That very same approach can be used in your own personal strategic planning. The ultimate goal of achievement, or success, is the same.  How you go about it is dependent on what areas of your life need improvement (areas of low value) and which ones are going well (areas of higher potential value).

Behaviorists and life coaches have identified that our goals and achievements (our ROE) can be divided into four basic categories. The four basic categories are: a desire for happy relationships; a desire for interesting and challenging work; a desire for financial independence; a desire for good health. Everything that we do in life is an attempt to enhance one or more of these areas and improve our overall quality of life. The common denominator of these four goals, and the essential requirement for achieving each of them is that they require you to take charge.  Happy relationships do not happen, they are built.  If work is dull and boring, change jobs.  Financial independence is earned (unless you are lucky enough to win the lottery), not given.  Good health is a choice, not a right.  In fact, good health is the one that most of us take for granted until something happens to it.

In the business world, companies have financial capital.  Think of yourself as possessing human capital (mental, emotional, and physical). Just as a company works to increase their ROE, so should you individually work on your ROE.  Without getting into too much information on how to improve your life in all four categories, the best step forward is to look no further than a mirror.  There are so many little things you can do right now that will lay a foundation for success.  Since good health is often overlooked, I can think of no place better to start.

Time and time again, you will hear how proper exercise, diet, and rest are essential to health and prosperity, yet as a society we do not focus on any one of them 100%.  That is where a proper attitude also comes into play.  The right frame of mind can open doors once thought to be never opened.  Everything that you do counts in some way. It is either going to help you or its going to hurt you.  It will either propel you towards your goal or move you farther away from it.  The only one who can make that is assessment is you.  Good, bad, wrong, or right – our decisions are what they are.  How we learn from them and move forward will ensure greater success than the one who never tries.

As mentioned before, success is the result of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of tiny efforts that nobody may ever see or appreciate except yourself. These
tiny efforts, sacrifices, and disciplines accumulate to make you an extraordinary and successful person.  In every area of life, it is the quality of the time, not quantity, that you put into your actions and decisions that determines the rewards life can give. No one is going to understand or appreciate better than you – and that is worth the investment.

Featured in November 2004 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Wellness in the Workplace. Can Your Company Afford to Ignore It?

shutterstock_63994297Affordability.  In today’s economic state, it is a term that has become more common place in business than growth and prosperity. Businesses today are asking themselves: “Can we afford advertising?; Can we afford to hire more staff?; Can we afford to keep operating at the same costs and still turn a profit?”  In a time when things may be grim for a lot of businesses, the only ones that are going to survive are the ones who make an effort now to turn things around.  And to turn things around they need to focus on what’s most important instead of focusing on the negative.  Often, one of those overlooked items is the wellness, both financial and physical, of their business.

What exactly is wellness?  Websters defines wellness as: 1) the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, esp. as the result of deliberate effort, and 2) an approach to healthcare that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases. Most people look at wellness simply as the absence of any apparent or disabling illness. And companies generally look at the wellness of their business from the financial side of things.  How “well” is the business doing?  The reality is, there is a very direct correlation between a company’s financial wellness and its physical wellness, namely the wellness of its employees. Why is wellness so important to a company and why should employers be concerned about their employees’ wellness?  Here are a few statistics that put it in perspective:

  • American employers lose over 300 billion dollars of productivity annually due to illness, sick days, absenteeism and sub-par performance or “presenteeism” (showing up to work but not actually doing anything productive).
  • The average employee misses 8.4 days annually due to illness or injury, totaling over $63 billion nationwide.
  • The employee with a serious or chronic condition (diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, cancer, etc.) misses 72 days annually, and works at diminished capacity when present.
  • Nationwide, over 2.5 billion work days are reduced or lost completely. Can your business afford this reduction in productivity?
  • Between the times employees spend at the doctor’s office, the time they spend out sick, and the time they are working at less than full speed, employers are losing an average of $2,000 to $2,800 per employee per year due to illnesses. These numbers do not include the healthcare costs or workers compensation costs incurred due to illness.
  • For every dollar an employer spends on salaries and wages, they spend a minimum of an additional 10 cents on health insurance and workers compensation costs.
  • Those who suffer from GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) suffer decreased productivity so severely that a recent study by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders has calculated that over $2 billion is lost in productivity each week due to the disease.

Everyone gets sick from time to time, but which would you rather have? A workforce of vital, energetic hard-working individuals focused on results and available to work when and where you need them? Or a workforce of average individuals who use up most of their sick leave, and come to work dragging their heads and underperforming? Wellness in the workplace has many benefits, and employers who have tracked their employees’ wellness, as well as those who have contributed to their employees’ wellness, have enjoyed increases in productivity, decreased healthcare costs, decreased workers compensation costs, and increased employee loyalty and higher morale.

Although good health and vitality benefit an employee in every aspect of his or her life, they also specifically benefit the employer as well. Just as investing in an employees’ training provides a better, more valuable resource, investing in their health will provide an employer with a more effective and consistently available resource. The costs of unhealthy employees can be staggering. “Soft costs” such as absenteeism and reduced productivity are calculated as costing four to seven times the amount that employers pay in health insurance premiums and workers compensation premiums combined.

The American population as a whole is sadly unhealthy. So if your employees are average, in terms of their health, they are most likely overweight, 30% of them are obese, many are at risk for or already have diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory compromise, and/or heart disease.

If you look at the life insurance weight tables, you’ll see numbers that reflect the average of what people actually weigh, which is not the same as the weights recommended as healthy. The casual observer believes that if their weight falls within those on the table, he or she must be “okay.” That is not the case. It just means that he or she is within the statistical norm. The same disconnect exists in our perception of the health of those around us (and ourselves!). We become used to what’s the norm, not what’s actually healthy, and we use “normal” as the benchmark for “healthy.” It’s not. Vitality, energy, stamina, and systemic strength are what’s healthy. Chronic disease, even low-level, missed work, repeated colds, sore throats, sinus infections, headaches, etc. are all signs of an unhealthy body and life. And they will all respond to wellness intervention if the employee is willing to participate.

Many think that other illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke are just bad luck, and it’s a shame when they happen to someone, but they can be prevented. For those who wish to take the steps, the incidence of such diseases can be radically minimized by living a fit and healthy life. Of the top six causes of death, (heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes, accidents), five are what we call “lifestyle diseases”. This means that they are caused by a person’s lifestyle choices, at least in part, if not in whole.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, of course you would want the best for your employees, and you would want to see them free of illness and disease. However, there is also the very practical matter of your business’s bottom line that gives you a vital interest in your employees being free of disease and a wellness program quickly becomes something your company can afford not to avoid.

Featured in November 2009 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

Train Smart. Eat Well. Be Better.