We are the change

6 ways to beat the time thieves

Getting stuff done it hard.  Saying no is hard.  Having no money in the bank – that’s REALLY hard!

Deciding that you are going to take control of your time is the one thing that you can do to increase your productivity by 20%, 50% even 100%.   I’m not a planner, I never have been.  I find it really hard to write action plans and outlines.  But I know this – when I do… magic happens.  All of a sudden things get done.  Procrastination stops (ok, not entirely, but mostly…) and I accomplish 2-3 times more in a day/week/month than I do with out one.

Last week for my FAST action plan workshop, I put together the 6 things that I think really makes a difference to getting stuff done and thought I would share them with you here.

1. The Law of Three

I wish I could take credit for this, but it is all Brian Tracey’s idea.  According to Brian, the Law of Three states that there are only three things that you do each day that account for 90% of the value of everything that you do. There are only three things that account for 90% of your income, your sales, your success and your future.

What are the three things that you should be spending all your time on?

Step 1: To figure them out, write down a list of all the major activities that you do in your business.

Step 2: If you could only do one thing on this list all day long, which one would have the greatest positive impact on your business?

Step 3: If you could only do two things on this list all day long, which one would have the greatest positive impact on your business?

Step 4: If you could only do three things on this list all day long, which one would have the greatest positive impact on your business?

This is all you need.  It is so easy to look at all the things that you think you need to do in your business, but if you use this as a filter on what you really need to do, you will create amazing changes in your results.

2. Plan before you begin

This is the toughest thing for me, but it is proven that if you create plan of action before you start, your chances of success increase exponentially.  The reason for this is that it allows you to see the pitfalls before you begin plus gives your activities focus.

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the details when you start your plan – put together a high level view of your project and identify what needs to be completed each week.  Here is a weekly planning sheet that you can use for your next project.

3. Always work from a list

If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t get done.  When a new idea crosses your mind, add it to your list.   A list forces you to track where and how you are spending your time and will definitely make you more productive.  As soon as you get that “ooh, I think the laundry needs doing” feeling, look at your list and voila!, you’ll be inspired by a more productive piece of work that you can do. Ok, maybe inspired is a bit optimistic, but it will help you identify better ways that you should be spending your time.

Top Tip: A nice tip that I heard from Nigel Botterhill at the Business Startup Show, was to do your to do list the day before as this gives your subconscious an opportunity to work on the stuff it needs to while you sleep.

4. Chunk your time

Time chunking is a massive time saver – but you HAVE to be rigorous about it.  Protect your time with your life and don’t let anyone steal it from you. Putting together activities into chunks of time, will allow you to build momentum and clear your work faster.

A classic example of this is email.  If you allow yourself to look at your email twice a day (I know, it’s tough!) you can then move through them really quickly and make sure they don’t take time away from other more important tasks.

Another example is telephone calls.  Turn your phone off (don’t worry, the withdrawal will pass) and turn it on at set times during the day.  Schedule all your sales calls, or return your calls once per day at a time that works for you.

Top tip: I use www.answer.co.uk.  They are an answering service that answers all of Women Unlimited’s phone calls and sends me an email and text message when someone phones.  At £1 per call, it is money VERY well spent.  I then return all the calls that I want to (which isn’t all calls I might add) at a time that works for me.

5. Get on the ‘No’ Train

I heard this expression from Laura Roeder and Marie Forleo and love it!  Learn to say no.  If you allow other people to steal your time from you, you are doing yourself and your business a disservice.  The more time you spend doing things for other people, the less time you have to spend on your own stuff.  I know it can be hard, and you feel guilty, but if you want to create more success in your business, you have to put your business first.

Choo choo.

Top Tip: If that feels too harsh and you really want to help someone, create a space in your schedule that you use just for those types of calls / meeting requests so you choose when you help someone rather than responding to too many demands.

6. Set deadlines

And commit to them!  It’s no good setting a deadline if you are going to watch it come and go without taking any action.  Make the deadline real.  Make it matter.  Give yourself a consequence for not completing the task (or a prize, but honestly, pain tends to more of a motivator than pleasure).

For example, I have committed to writing a blog post a week for the Women Unlimited website.  Every Tuesday, you will see a new post from me up on the website.  I have tried to do this in the past and failed miserably!  But now, if I don’t do it, I have to face the wrath of Andrea, our content manager (and believe me, I don’t want to do that!) but also I have now publicly said that I’m going to do something and it will be embarrassing if I don’t do it!

Some people create a really harsh outcome in their minds for when they don’t do something, unfortunately I’m far too superstitious to do that, but it might work for you.

Decide that your time is valuable

If you follow these simple time management strategies, The law of three, plan before you begin, always work from a list, chunk your time, get on the ‘no’ train and set deadlines you will achieve  90% more than the rest of the population.  The time thieves will lose all their power over you AND you will be much more productive as a result.   Share your tips in the comments below, we’d love to hear them.


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  1. Grace Marshall says

    Great tips Julie. I like to work from two lists. There’s the master list where I put all the ideas and to-do’s. Then I have a separate to-do list for each day. That way each day’s to-do list is a closed list – it doesn’t grow. You know what you’re focusing on and you can celebrate when it’s done. Any ideas that pop up (I don’t know about you but my mind is great at thinking up fantastic ideas to distract me from the task at hand!) get captured on the master list. Then when I’m planning I can decide whether it goes on the to-do list or not.

  2. Julie Hall - Editor says

    Love your tip too Grace! A friend of mine uses a similar system and absolutely swears by it. Thanks for sharing

  3. KiKi says

    I don’t know… but I think the advance of the technology is here to serve us better and save time, but it’s actually totally different as more people are wasting their time reading ‘junk’ emails and logging to social media sites whereby they should be doing useful stuff.

  4. Natalie Smith says

    Great article, I’m a big believer in planning and lists! I work from the two list rule too, I find that focusing on a daily to-do list really helps you resist distractions. From looking at my daily to-do-list I can see how much is on my plate and register that if I commit to doing additional items, it will be at the expense of something else!

    Thanks Julie,

  5. Reima says

    Hello Julie, i get some inspiration from reading your post, thank you very much! If it is tough for you to do planning and list creation I suggest you to try as workflowy. I like it, it is easy clean and powerful, give it a try

  6. Isabelle Fredborg says

    Hi Julie, great post. I love the rule of three! It’s so often to get hung up on the many things we can do in our business but then forget to focus on what actually matters the most. Thank you for the reminder.

  7. Neil | Butterfield says

    Good advice here. People who work from home need structure and this is advice will help them to achieve just that. Personally, I work until the job is done and if I take off then I make up for it in the evenings or on weekends.

  8. Lisa says

    Experience taught me that planning is not as easy as it sounds. I made many errors on not being able to complete or follow my plan yet these errors taught me about my limitations and I need to set some priorities. Thank you for the tips.

  9. Kerry Hales says

    Great post! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy to implement ways with max output and sense of fun! My kind of post… I’m kinda envious! I’ve shared with my followers!
    Thanks, Kerry

  10. Julie McNamee says

    I think restricting access to your email is an excellent idea and it’s one I’ve been intending to do for a while now. You’ve inspired me to properly give it a go!