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Effective time management is an indispensable skill. In Time Management Fundamentals, Dave Crenshaw explains how to sensibly allocate time in order to achieve greater productivity. Dave details a set of principles for staying organized, consolidating the workspace, keeping a clear mind, and developing a time budget. Also covered are techniques for managing a full inbox, processing email, and reserving time for the most important activities. Exercise files accompany the course.
Once you've identified your top two most valuable activities, it's time for us to move to the calendar to create a time budget. The time budget is different than your normal working calendar. You're not actually going to schedule anything into this time budget; instead, you'll use it as a tool and a frame of reference. Many calendaring systems allow you to create multiple calendars and compare them side by side. In Outlook I'm going to go to the Calendar screen and right-click on the calendar. I'll select New and I'm going to add a new calendar.
I'm going to name this new calendar Time Budget. Now I'm going to create a time budget for my top two most valuable activities. How much time should you spend in each of your most valuable activities? That's completely up to you. Choose an amount of time that's reasonable for your career and your industry. However, I would recommend you strive to spend at least 40% of your total work time in just those two most valuable activities.
For most people, this would be a significant improvement, as the average executive is spending less than 20% of their time in their most valuable activities. However much time you're spending on your MVAs right now, try to budget a little more time. Stretch yourself. Let's say, for example, that I identified my two most valuable activities as writing and developing business systems. So I'm going to set aside time in my calendar to devote to just these two activities.
First, let's do writing. I find that Fridays are typically slow days. Most people are too busy to talk with me during those days because they're winding up for the end of the week. I also find that I'm more clear in my thinking for writing earlier in the day, so I'm going to schedule hours on Friday, beginning in the morning, to devote to writing. Let's say that my work time budget is 45 hours a week. So if I took 40% of that, that's 18 hours.
I'm going split my writing and business systems time in half, so that's going to be nine hours to each of them. So I need to schedule nine hours for writing, and I'm going to set aside my entire day on Friday for writing. Next I'll create a time budget for my second most valuable activity, which is developing business systems. Again, I need to schedule 9 hours a week to this budget.
I don't want to devote an entire day to this. I'd rather spread it out a little bit, so I'm going to spend part of my day on Wednesday and part of my day on Thursday working on business systems. Now I created my time budget, but how do I use it? I use it as a guide when answering the when will I do it question, in the "what, when, where" processing system. I want to try to schedule tasks and projects related to these most valuable activities in those timeslots I just budgeted.
I also want to avoid scheduling anything else during those timeslots because they should be protected. One final note about using the time budgeter. Some people find it helpful to also budget time for one or two of their least valuable activities, their LVAs. Why would we want to do that? Because we want to limit the amount of time that we're spending on those activities. By using the time budget for our least valuable activities and creating a small window of time for them, it forces us to constrain the amount of time that we're going to devote to those activities.
Use this new time budget as a guidepost to make sure you spend sufficient time in your most valuable activities each week. This will also help you to avoid allowing your schedule to get filled up with many less valuable activities.
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