By Toddi Gutner
Time is the scarcest resource of the manager; If it is not managed, nothing else can be managed.” — Peter F. Drucker Renee Helten, owner of Helten Home Team, a subsidiary of Keller William Realty in Denver, constantly felt pulled in a thousand directions. That’s no surprise when you consider she had to train and supervise eight real estate agents, manage nine properties she owned, run a credit repair agency and teach 40 hours a month at a local real estate school. For help, she turned to Laura Stack, a time-management expert in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and author of the book “Leave the Office Earlier.” Like Helten, many people are constantly bombarded with dozens of competing demands on their time, but entrepreneurs and small-business owners have a unique set of challenges — they often have difficulty delegating responsibility and are hampered by limited resources. Problems of time management are worse than ever because few people have a system to deal with the increase in information overload from PDAs, cell phones, e-mails and IM. Rather than being tossed reactively from one task to the next, time-management and productivity experts say it is possible to respond proactively to day-to-day demands. “Entrepreneurs are idea factories” says Julie Morgenstern, a time-management expert in New York City and author of the book “Never Check E-mail in the Morning.” “We don’t try to discourage that creativity, just organize it,” she says. The truth is that time management is really about organization and planning. While the steps to gaining control of your time are simple, the process can be difficult. Here are a few tips that might help you work smarter, not harder. Organize your workspace with the letter “D”
To help clutter addicts, productivity experts recommend a variation of the D strategy — a series of steps beginning with the letter D. The goal is to touch each piece of paper only once. Stack suggests that every e-mail and document you receive should either be Discarded, Dealt with and marked “Done,” Dated (for when you will Do it), Drawered (filed immediately) or Deterred (to keep it from coming to you again). Track your task time
Once you've cleared your desk, you need to figure out where your time is going. To do that, record everything you do in a day, each day, for one week. Then jot down in a journal how long each task took. This process will help you plan and figure out where you can save time. “Often, 80 percent of your time-management problem disappears when you start with these basics,” says Morgenstern. Plan each day
Write down everything you want to do that day. Include how long each task will take and when you plan to do it on one calendar. Keep in mind when you work best, and schedule the most important tasks for that time. “If the morning is your most productive time, discipline yourself to do your most difficult work then,” says Stack, who helped put order in Helten’s work life. “She taught me that our brains work in different capacities and how to prioritize what needs to be done and when,” says Helten. Before the end of each day, take 30 minutes to clear your desk and plan the next day.