As business author and consultant Peter Bregman observes, “We live in a time when the uninterrupted stream of information and communication, combined with our unceasing accessibility, means that we could work every single hour of the day and night and still not keep up.”
This constant struggle takes a toll on even the best and hardest-working individuals. Without a system to manage one’s time, the inevitable result is burnout—leading to far less being accomplished in the long run. We have found from our experience in the hardwood lumber industry it is best to make sure our team avoids this state of burnout. Over the years we have realized value in a few tried-and-true time-management tips that really work when people incorporate them into their workday:
- Hire great people. Hiring and time-management may not appear related, but in fact, when your organization makes a commitment to recruiting and hiring smart, talented and responsible individuals, you’ll find a sizeable portion of the team’s day opens up. That’s because a team of high-performing employees achieve more, create less errors and can be trusted to handle many of the duties without executive supervision.
- Focus on getting things done. Successful business people are often perfectionists by nature. But reworking something until it achieves that mythical “perfect” status means whatever you’re spending time on isn’t getting done. Sometimes it is better to shift your focus from perfection to project completion. It reminds me of the famous quote attributed to Vince Lombardi, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." And excellence can lead to success. So consider giving yourself deadlines that are shorter than you think you can manage and stick to them.
- Schedule around your peak creative periods. While it’s not always possible to control your schedule, it’s also true that time-efficient individuals set aside chunks of time when they’re at their most creative. If you’re a “morning person,” these hours are ideal for working on an important initiative or brainstorming new growth strategies. As the hours stretch into the afternoon and your energy begins to diminish, then you can turn your attention to less strategic and more administrative duties (returning phone calls, catching up on emails, meeting with direct reports, etc.). A schedule that adheres to your natural rhythms can, in the end, generate better results.
- Ruthlessly reduce or eliminate time-wasting activities. Today people are susceptible to modern digital distractions like the allure of YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Twitter mentions and so on. I recently heard a statistic that on average people look at their smartphone 53 times a day, wow! The sooner you realize just how much time these activities take out of your day, the sooner you’ll adopt a ruthless policy of “no more digital playground” until all else has been accomplished. This can be a great way to add time back into your day and prioritize what is important.
- Become a better student of the industry. How much time do you currently spend familiarizing yourself with purchasing trends, changes in the marketplace and/or the insights of thought leaders in your industry? Deep knowledge in these areas often makes it easier to understand issues as they arise and make quicker, more informed decisions about how to handle those issues. Yes, this takes time. But the first-hand knowledge you acquire can be a crucial differentiator between you and your competitors.
These 5 tips to manage your time might not work for everyone, but we have seen them work for us. They have helped our hardwood lumber buyers make more calls, our kiln dried operators become more efficient, and our sawmill managers cut more red oak, white oak and the like!
Don’t procrastinate! Try urging your team to adopt some or all of these time-management tips and see how much new energy and focus they bring to the workday!