The following article first appeared in the ICAEW’s Finance & Management journal March 2009.
Have you reviewed your own ROI?
If not, 2009 is the year to get your personal assets working more smartly. Forget the results by volume approach. Time Management is just about trying to do more. Progress comes, not from saving time, but leveraging it. Saving is limited to the hours you save; leverage allows you to multiply the effort applied.
What do you actually want to achieve?
It’s imperative that you understand why you are doing what you are doing. What’s it all for? What are your goals? If you aren’t clear, you need to draw up some well formed outcomes. If you don’t, you are in grave danger of being efficient rather than effective. Efficiency is getting things done. Effectiveness is getting things done, to worthwhile effect, that take you towards your goals. What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is irrelevant unless applied to the right things.
Pareto and Parkinson
Remember the 80/20 principle? If
80% of sales/profits come from 20% of products/customers or
80% of the effects flow from 20% of the causes
Which 20% of your activities contribute to 80% of your results?
And then there’s Parkinson’s Law: a task expands to fill the time allocated. How much do you get done in the week before your holiday?
Use these laws together as the bedrock of your leverage strategy. Identify the critical tasks that contribute most to your goals and then set deadlines.
Instead of trial and error get some role models. It’s not easy to find one person who embodies all your values, beliefs and aspirations, so put together an inspirational composite. How do they get results? What patterns and behaviours do they use? Look, learn and model.
States of the Mind
Discover what psychologists call flow. Also known as being ‘in the zone’, flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what they are doing, driven by energized focus. An extremely productive state, you’re at your most creative, sharpest, problem solving best and producing your highest performance. Flow’s greatest foe is interruption; so bag some blocks of protected time.
Mindfulness is the act of consciously paying attention, in the present, on purpose and non-judgmentally. The opposite of being on “automatic pilot’’, mindfulness is efficient, reduces repetition and aids retention and understanding. Plus the ability to notice what is going on, as it arises, also fosters flexibility in stressful situations.
Once you understand your preferred styles you can leverage them. Are you a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner? Do you like to get stuck-in or read and plan first? What are your dominant types of intelligence? Are you using mind friendly techniques like mind maps to optimise your learning, understanding and retention of knowledge?
It’s time to work on the job, not just in the job
Time leverage involves some up-front investment. It’s natural to want to conserve resources but if you don’t make that investment you’ll lock yourself into the old way of doing things:
‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’.
Leverage is the art of getting more done with the same, or less, effort. How far will take you in 2009?
Carol McLachlan, FCA is a chartered accountant, executive coach and NLP practitioner. She’s the founder of www.theaccountantscoach.com supporting finance professionals, both individuals and organisations, in a multitude of development areas: career planning, work-life balance, time management, performance enhancement, communication. For more professional and personal development tips, sign up for your free monthly newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org