PATCA Roundtable on Time Management

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

PATCA had a thought provoking dinner meeting tonight on “Time Management: An Hour Saved is an Hour to Earn Revenue.” Here is my recap.

Time Management: An Hour Saved is an Hour to Earn Revenue

Paraphrasing management expert Peri Shawn, “Time management is about time prioritizing according to our highest values.”

When consultants talk about “Time Management” they can mean:

  • How to set aside time to think deeply about strategy and priorities.
  • Tools and practices they can use to organize their time more effectively and enforce their priorities.
  • How to handle interrupts and how to learn which ones to ignore.
  • How to balance setting aside time for billable work, looking for working, improving current skills, learning new skills.
  • How to keep track of where time has been lost and well spent.

As consultants we sell our time, and sometimes the results generated from where we spend our non-billable time. This will be a round-table discussion, so please bring tips, hard won lessons, and time management challenges you’re wrestling with.

Moderator: Perry West, Owner of Automated Vision Systems, Inc. focuses on Machine Vision Design, Implementation, and Training. He is a PATCA member and former board member who has been consulting for over 31 years.

Description for “Time Management: An Hour Saved is an Hour to Earn Revenue

Perry did a fantastic job moderating a great roundtable on time management. We covered the Eisenhower matrix (urgent & important, not-urgent & important, urgent & not-important, and not-urgent & not-important) and the value of spending most of your effort on the important & not-urgent. He also shared the act on it, file it, or throw-it-away model for items on your desk.

Books Mentioned

  • Time Trap by Alec Mackenzie
    An older book but I think the most practical and very well organized. The appendix works from symptoms to root cause diagnosis of more than a dozen time management challenges.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
    A very popular system that many swear by, I have never been able to sustain my use of it.
  • Seven Habits by Steven Covey
    Practical insights for personal excellence.
  • Getting Things Done by Edwin Bliss
    The first book I read on time management, it’s more a laundry list of ideas but a quick read and very practical.
  • Doing It Now by Edwin Bliss
    Great advice on overcoming procrastination

You are competing against people in a state flow

“You’re competing against people in a state of flow, people who are truly committed, people who care deeply about the outcome.

You can’t merely wing it and expect to keep up with them.

Setting aside all the safety valves and pleasant distractions is the first way to send yourself the message that you’re playing for keeps.

After all, if you sit for an hour and do exactly nothing, not one thing, you’ll be ashamed of yourself. But if you waste that hour updating, pinging, being pinged and crunching, well, hey, at least you stayed in touch.

Raise the stakes.”

Seth Godin Texting While Working

Perry challenged everyone to consider how they would use an extra hour in a day. The key is to focus on things you can do to further differentiate your product or service and to cut back on busy work. The other challenge is to plan your day taking into account how long you can concentrate effectively (different folks offered times that ranged from 90 minutes to six hours) and to minimize context switches: ignore the phone and email and social media updates except when you have scheduled a break.

The other side is to work on sharpening your skills and maintaining your health and energy.

Other Time Management Tips

For consultants your time tends to break down into four areas:

  • billable work
  • learning or improving your skills
  • marketing your services and closing deals
  • administrivia / overhead: necessary tasks that don’t generate revenue but contain costs or comply with regulatory requirements.

Perry suggested we track our time and at least allocate it at this level of granularity. Delegate what does not differentiate your or your offering.

Some of my personal strategies

  • Work in two hour “beats”
  • Schedule blocks of time on your calendar against goals
  • Plan three kinds of days
    • buffer days for administrivia
    • focus days for work
    • days off where I can recharge and relax
  • Spend 20% of my time trying to get better.
  • Always have a plan for success of a project, effort, or initiative: determine in advance how to build on success so that you can execute smoothly if things go well.
  • Trust is as important as the particular outcome–including revenue from customers.
  • Always have a  a plan for failure–what else will I try and in what order; determine when doI should give up.
  • Spend an hour of research to save a minute on a sales or discovery call.
  • If it’s not a priority drop it early
  • E-Mail consumes a lot of my time (several hours a day processing about 6,000 emails a month: sending about 40 mails a day and reading about 160).
  • Surveillance and peripheral vision on an existing or emerging market is also important. I pay a lot of attention to effective aggregators: who can I follow on a blog or twitter or a website to amplify my effectiveness and make sure I don’t overlook something.
  • Take note contemporaneously in a meeting and send the as soon as possible. Fresh notes quickly with a brief high level summary are more useful than great notes late or never. Immediately share them to encourage others to do likewise and to solicit corrections and additions.
  • 1-2-4-1 model: break a project into four phases, each one goes end to end:
    1. First 1/8 of time budget: quick overall pass to go end to end and flush out issues and identify key risks.
    2. Next 1/4 of time budget: a second full pass that focuses primarily on risk areas and missing items.
    3. Next 1/2 of time: The detailed  pass.
    4. Last 1/8: a polishing pass to help clean up any errors and check for overall conceptual integrity. This method also applies to developing blog posts, presentations, a new product, etc…

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