It’s often said that time is the most precious commodity we have. There’s a lot of truth in this, except that time isn’t a commodity – it passes the same for all of us. But for people in business, time is everything. And when we begin to think of time as having real and measurable value in business terms, in just the same way as a highly valuable and finite commodity, it becomes ever-more precious.
Imagine you were to be told you had a terminal illness and had a year to live; how precious would your time be then – and what would you do with it? So to paraphrase the great Indian guru, Mahatma Ghandi, live every day as if it was your last, but learn as if you’re going to live forever. And so to bring these two wise courses of life action neatly together, here are five ways you can save valuable time in your business day, every day, by working smarter…
1 Use the right tools for the job
Whenever you’re doing something with the wrong tools, but where you have the knowledge required to do the job, it’s immensely frustrating and time-consuming. Making sure you have the right tools for the job in any walk of life requires a little investment and, more importantly, forward-planning and anticipation of events.
For example, being aware of all factors that can affect your business in a live environment via a business intelligence dashboard can save most senior business personnel a world of angst, trouble and time. The Bilbeo Analytics dashboard, in particular, is unique in that its algorithms and associated technology auto-populate the user’s dashboard – using only the user’s, with no coding and no design. In other words, its clarity of use and interface make for an ease of use that enables business people to save hours each day in smarter working.
2 Set the right goals – and put them on paper
Setting yourself (and subordinates) the right goals – and sharing those goals with another person can keep you focussed on exactly what you want to achieve – and, therefore, save endless time on extraneous pursuits. Gail Matthews, professor of psychology at Dominican University, ran a study of 267 people from diverse backgrounds to see if people were more likely to achieve their goals if they wrote them down, committed to goal-directed actions and had accountability for those actions. Matthews found that 70% of participants in the study who sent weekly updates to another person reported success in achieving their goals, compared with 35% who did not share their goals with anyone else.
3 Don’t sweat the small stuff
The late, lamented lifestyle and business guru Richard Carlson told us not to sweat the small stuff – and he was right. He once said that we all live our lives as though everything was an emergency. People rush here and there always looking busy and trying to solve problems; but the reality is that we’re all actually compounding those problems. What he meant was that by slowing down and thinking more in terms of our life-span, we’d be far more likely to focus our thoughts and actions where they’re really going to count when it matters – rather than on all the extraneous detail – and he was completely right. He’s an author well worth reading if you haven’t already done so.
4 Break down large tasks
Amazingly, research has shown that just 2.5% of companies successfully finish all their projects! The PricewaterhouseCoopers study was carried out across a range of industries and over 10,000 projects, from 200 different companies and 30 countries. Don’t let this be thecase with your own projects; whenever a task feels overwhelmingly large and tough to handle – our response can be one of procrastination, but this really is the thief of time. Instead, work with the right people to break it down into a series of manageable smaller tasks.
5 Plan and prioritize
A report from Basex quantified the time cost of interruptions, stating that ‘knowledge workers’ (people whose roles involve handling or interpreting information of any kind) lose 2.1 hours every working day due to simple interruptions.
But in our calmer moments before the day begins, and after a good night’s sleep, we’re usually pretty clear about exactly what is important to us and what we truly want or need to achieve that day. So make a list and stay on target. As the day wears on and we get caught up in the detail, it’s easy to forget what our genuine “must-do” things were.