Many of the clients I know and train do far too much every day, but they don’t do enough of the right things. Others immerse themselves in a swirl of activity to disguise the fact that they aren’t working within the discipline of priorities, or have never established them in the first place. These misguided work horses do forty things each day and leave a blur, rather than narrowing their focus to the four or five tasks that matter most and leaving a mark. Oftentimes these men and women are overloaded; carrying excess duties inherited as their dealership down-sized its staff over the past couple of years. With these realities in mind, how does one stop from becoming overwhelmed when business heats up and the workload increases? Follow these four rules:
- Narrow your focus. Work smarter, don’t just get busier.Despite the buzz of activity around you, stay focused on what’s in front of you: the tasks and people that will bring the highest return on your time. In fact, three words that comprise the key to time management are narrow your focus! It also helps if you’ll stop prioritizing your schedule and begin scheduling your priorities. Put your priorities on the calendar and work the rest of your day around them, rather than trying to squeeze your priorities into what’s left of the day. Keep in mind that it’s not the number of hours or days you put in that make you effective, it’s what you put in those hours and days.
When you are chased by the trivial, you disengage from the essential, so narrowing your focus will help you to keep the main thing the main thing, and stop you from spending major time on minor things or minor time on the majors. Remember that when the workload heats up, it’s not important that you get enough done, or that you get it all done. What’s vital is that you get the right things done. In other words, don’t fall into the trap of putting second things first, confusing activity with accomplishment and mistaking motion for progress.
- Begin a stop doing list. The key to being more effective with your time is not adding things to your to-do list, it’s to begin a stop doing list. Decide which tasks you must stop doing so that you can free up time to spend on who and what matters most to your dealership. In other words, determine what you must give up in order to go up.
Learn to say “no” gracefully, but firmly, when presented with opportunities to indulge in low-return nonsense. Say no to tasks that will dilute your focus, take you out of your strength zone, or bring little return on your time. Frankly, there is little more wasteful than doing something well that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you like or enjoy the task, if it doesn’t rate as a priority for you at the moment, the proper course of action is for you to defer it, delegate it, or ditch it. Until you learn to say no, your mouth will continually overload your back and you will earn the dubious reputation of being someone who overcommits, but under-delivers.
- Share the load. Don’t be a martyr by piling more and more on your plate, and then whining about how if you want something done right you have to do it yourself. Delegating to competent associates is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It is a key to remaining highly effective, and helping your associates to operate at a more productive level as they leave their comfort zone and expand their skill set. The time it takes you to teach someone to properly execute a task that you delegate to them brings you an exponential return on your investment over time as they accomplish more, and you are able to increase your personal productivity by putting first things first and staying in your strength zone.
- Be there! When you’re away from work be there, wherever “there” may be. Practice the discipline of leaving work at work. Work becomes overwhelming when you fail to bring closure soon enough after leaving it each day. The increased level of fulfillment you’ll derive from physically, mentally, and emotionally checking out of work when you leave it, and fully checking in to and being there with your family, friends, or hobbies when you’re away from work will be palpable. And by balancing your life in this manner, you’ll be fresher and more passionate about your work when you’re on the job.