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10 Minutes to Better Time Management

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By guest blogger: Eve Gumpel

Time management is more important than anything else you do in business.

So says Kim Shepherd, the award-winning CEO of Decision Toolbox, a recruitment products and services company. She was speaking to members of the Orange County chapter of the National Association for Women Business Owners (NAWBO-OC) at a recent mentor/mentee gathering.

Shepherd — the author of The Bite Me School of Management — describes time management as a matter of respect: respect for yourself, first of all – including both your personal and your professional life — and then respect for others.

That’s why no one at Decision Toolbox is ever late – even one second late – to a staff meeting. It’s more than a matter of not wasting anyone’s time (and not wasting any money in unproductive time). “It’s not time – it’s respect,” says Shepherd. “If I respect your time, it means I respect you.”

Shepherd knows that most CEOs and entrepreneurs are running at full speed all the time. In her experience, taking time to plan leads to better results than going at things “with your hair on fire.” She describes it as “inverting the pyramid.” Let’s say you have a job opening. Typically, you’ll grab the job description on file, advertise the position – and then comb through possibly hundreds of responses to select the appropriate candidate.

When you invert the pyramid, you take time at the front end to refine the job description. That means you get fewer – but better quality – applicants, and spend less time screening and selecting the talent you want and need.

The inverted pyramid process is likely to take just as long as the “hair on fire” process, but the end result is superior. As Shepherd puts it, “Design what you want, or deal with what you get.”

Shepherd compares the inverted pyramid process to Stephen Covey’s jar of rocks, as told in his book, First Things First. After filling the jar with as many rocks as you can, it still isn’t full; you can still get gravel, sand and water to settle into the nooks and crannies. Shepherd describes the gravel and sand as email, text messages and other day-to-day business distractions. The rocks are the activities required to accomplish your mission. And note that they need to go into the jar first – or you’ll never have room for them at all.

“Carve out big rock time,” Shepherd advises. On a daily basis, she takes 10 minutes every morning – before she gets up – to settle on her to-do list. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At least once a quarter — or preferably once a month – she takes time to work out the big issues in her business. Shepherd says she imagines taking apart a Lincoln Log cabin (or, for the millennium generation, a Lego building), then putting it back together. If she ends up with leftover parts, that means there’s redundancy in the business. If there aren’t enough parts, something’s missing.

On a daily basis, Shepherd has a trick to keeping your focus on the big rocks. She relies on an egg timer. For her, the optimum is 45 minutes focused on one big rock at a time (which could encompass several tasks). When the timer goes off, she gives herself 15 minutes off to do whatever she wants. It might be dealing with emails – or taking the dog for a walk.

Shepherd also has a special way of onboarding new hires. She starts off by sending a giant fortune cookie a week before a new employee starts his or her job. Inside the cookie, it says, “We predict a bright future for you at Decision Toolbox.” The gesture is more than a warm and fuzzy welcome, says Shepherd. It gives that new hire an employee mind-set a full week early.

And here’s another gem: Don’t wait until the employee arrives in the office to set up the computer, create an email address, get the phone working – and order new business cards. You have to do it all, anyway. If you do it early, as Shepherd says, “You rock.” And don’t forget the egg timer for each employee, as well.

Republished with permission from Eve Gumpel.  See the original blog here.

Download a free copy of the ebook “The Bite Me School of Management” here.

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