It’s Monday morning, and for many business owners the first thing that happens is that we check our mobile. We think it’s important to know who has called us and whether we are needed to respond to something urgently. Have we missed an opportunity while I slept? Is there a crisis looming on the horizon? We believe a-hundred-and-one-things may have occurred even before we start our day.
On the other hand, a different group of business owners are strolling into their workplaces often accompanied by a slightly irritating positive attitude. So who are they? And can that even be possible? Well, the short answers are, yes they do exist, and yes, they are often successful business people. They start their Monday by looking forward to all the possibilities the week could bring. This group usually start their day with a morning ritual. Something pre determined and important to them. Like walking the dog, jogging, meditating or perhaps taking the kids to school, and by doing so, they positively prepare themselves for what lies ahead – all with a clear head1.
To be productive in a working day or week, highly successful Business Leaders have learned to identify and divide their time into four areas. These “four types of time” using a Time Target are:
- Distraction – not important and not urgent activities e.g. all those interruptions, calls, impromptu meetings with no agenda or action plan.
- Delusion – urgent activities with the appearance of importance but are actually not important e.g. These things are normally somebody else’s urgent requirement which all of a sudden become your problem.
- Demand – urgent and important activities such as certain meetings, system crashes, major customer requests – generally all those pressing matters, a.k.a ‘putting out fires’, that can’t be ignored. This is where a majority of business owners or leaders spend their time.
- Zone – The best use of a Business Leader’s’ time is in the zone. These activities are urgent but important and certainly of high value to the business. It can involve building high value customer relationships, seeking new opportunities, building robust systems, planning and scheduling teams, and creating time for recreational activities.
It’s astonishing when we think about all the time that is taken up by trivial or inconsequential matters. And on top of that, when we are veered off direction by distractions, it can take us anywhere between 15 seconds all the way to 23 minutes to get back on task2.
Business Leaders all strive to be effective and work at the highest level of productivity because they want their businesses to be successful. However, many fail at managing their time and allocate it out according to the level of immediacy. Overcoming this by managing personal time based on a Time Target can make it easy to appropriately place efforts into what is of high value to the business. In other words “effective management is putting first things first” (Covey S. R. p148)3. Placing a priority on the Zone to be able to work on the business.
Zone activities are for the purpose of building the business, for example, finding new ways to increase profits, managing teams more effectively, implementing new IT systems to service more customers etc. Eventually more time will be spent in the Zone, growing the amount of effort placed in that area, and less effort will be applied to less important, lower value activities (like impromptu meetings or reactive urgent but unimportant tasks). The Zone is about long term thinking and the high value activity needed to create a strong proactive business which secures it into the future.
As elusive as time may seem, it can be retrieved and used to its best advantage in business. There are many techniques that can be applied to enter and stay in the optimum Zone each day. Mark McKeon, an Australian author who has written the popular book, “The Go Zone”, discusses how to prepare for Zone activity4. He believes Business Leaders should think of themselves as elite sports people, who choose a discipline and avoid ending the day in a state of stress. So, let’s get into our zone just like an athlete does, by starting the workday with an early, but very necessary, wake up call.
3 Covey S. R The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 1990. The Business Library. Melbourne Australia.
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