Like many type-As that are drawn to the business development professional, I have been feeling frustrated at the end of the day because I chronically didn’t get enough done. I studied at least five different time management techniques before and dabbled in all kinds of technology, but nothing helped.
All of a sudden, I discovered something that made a huge difference. I picked up a simple technique last week that may strike you as obvious, but it did not occur to me before to save my life. I started scheduling in my Outlook all the to-do list activities and in-between activities as specific time slots. I have used Outlook or Lotus Notes calendars for years to schedule meetings, set reminders, and track tasks, but I never thought of assigning a time slot to every activity that I planned for the day, rather than just meetings.
For example, to write a blog entry, I included a daily recurring half-an-hour time slot from 6 to 6:30 am. If I had to commute to a client’s location from Maryland to Virginia, I scheduled an hour from 7:30 to 8:30 am. I set as many time slots as were needed to accomplish specific capture and proposal tasks while at a client’s location. I also included my lunch, gym, and family time on the calendar.
After a week of doing this, all of a sudden it dawned on me I feel so much more satisfied with the way I have spent each day!
Prior to picking up this habit, I would start the morning with the best of plans to accomplish 30 things on my list, not counting multiple meetings to attend and hours spent in traffic. At the end of the day, when only a third of that list was done, rather than feeling a sense of accomplishment, I would beat up on myself for falling short of what I had planned.
I didn’t have a firm sense of time between the meetings, and I was always honestly surprised where the day was over so quickly. Non-meeting time was some shapeless glob that was supposed to stretch as I jam-packed it with to-dos, and it was supposed to accommodate any number of things I had to finish that day.
Allocating specific time slots to when I was going to do specific tasks made things very plain and simple for me. There were only so many minutes to make the phone calls, write pages of text, and put together presentations. There were only so many minutes to get from a meeting to a meeting and to complete those meetings on time to start another task. If one task slipped or I underestimated the amount of time it took to complete, something else has to be moved to another day.
All of a sudden my to-do list became more realistic. I could see that expecting to do ten things in one hour that each takes a minimum of 15 minutes was not going to fly. My choices were to delegate those tasks or to accomplish the same goals more efficiently.
I also became instantly more ruthless with saying no to things as everything that I said yes to meant saying no to something else. This is especially important in the capture and proposal management world where we tend to jam three weeks of work into one, and tend to neglect our families, and our own health, and our sense of well-being.
I am intending to continue to use and abuse the Outlook calendar and will report to you how it goes. I am very curious how do you manage your time as a busy capture and proposal manager, business developer, or executive? Do you have any tips or tricks you could share?
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