“Imagine what it would be like if you were suddenly thrust into managing or running a $50 billion company. Do CEOs of giant corporations have more hours in the day than you do? Of course not.” -Chet Holmes
In his book The Ultimate Sales Machine Chet Holmes breaks down a 6-step strategy for time management. To be honest, I was a little skeptical. I’ve read a lot of time management tips and tricks and nothing ever seemed to stick with me for the long haul.
I tried out the Pomodoro Technique, for example, and at first it felt pretty effective. But I fizzled out with it. I kept trying to do more “poms” than I am physically capable of, pushing straight through the 5 minute breaks and trying to work, without any rest, for hours on end. By the end of the day I was exhausted and burnt out.
To top it all off, a lot of my work day felt unavoidably reactive. I co-own a small business and constantly have to react to and deal with my customers’ issues as they pop up. Then I have to find time to plan and execute “big picture” stuff and measure/track all of our company goals.
Plus, I’m the Community Manager for a popular website and the host of said website’s podcast, so a lot of my time needs to be dedicated to reading and interacting in a wide variety of active forums with an even wider variety of people. So you can see why I was interested in learning how to manage my time better.
In this post, I’m going to go over Chet Holmes’s “Six Steps to Great Time Management” and how I’ve implemented it into my daily schedule. The strategy is simple, takes less than 5 minutes to do each day, and solves the big problem of being reactive to the days events. Most importantly, it works.
Six Steps to Great Time Management
Before I dive into the six steps, I think it’s important to note that the framework of Chet’s book is “pig-headed discipline and determination.” This means that you can’t just try the strategy for one day to see if it works for you. You have to commit.
I’ve been writing down these six steps every single day at the top of my planner. Repetition = Mastery. Write down the steps, do the steps, and then execute on the plan. Perform this ritual every day and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a time management ninja.
- Touch it once. How many times have you ended up revisiting a task or starting and stopping an activity because something else interrupted you? Using the “touch it once” rule eliminates most of this wasted time. If you don’t have the time to read and respond or act on an email, don’t open it until you do.
- Make a list of your Most Important Tasks (maximum of 6). This step helps you see the big picture more clearly. If you don’t think about everything you need to get done and prioritize by importance, then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time on busywork. You’ll certainly feel busy, but at the end of the day you won’t be any closer to your long-term goals.
- Plan how long each task will take. Next to each of your MITs, write down an estimate for how long the task will take. For big projects that will take multiple days or weeks to complete, try to dedicate about an hour or so to getting them done. Generally speaking, the ideal length for any task on your list is about an hour (of course there are exceptions).
- Assign a time slot to work on each task. Actually schedule out your day, making sure to include time to work on each of your MITs. Additionally, schedule in time to get distracted and work on reactive tasks that pop up throughout the day. This could mean setting aside a few half-hour chunks every day to check emails, take phone calls/meetings, etc.
- Focus on the most difficult tasks first. Focus, creativity, and will power naturally deplete throughout the day. Work on the most difficult tasks first to ensure that they’re getting your best effort. Plus, finishing up a difficult task early makes the rest of the day feel like a success (even if you don’t get much else done).
- Ask, “Will it hurt me to throw this out?” Don’t waste time and energy on things that don’t have any real long-term benefit to you. Eliminate tasks or delegate responsibilities whenever possible.
Time management doesn’t have to be complicated. Just think about what you can do each day that will have the biggest positive impact on your long-term success and then dedicate the time and resources necessary to get those tasks done.
Then, as Chet Holmes says, practice pig-headed discipline and determination. Set MITs every day and systematically knock them off the list one by one. If you do that, you’ll start accomplishing more in a single day than most people do in a week.