Part 4 of the Live Your Resolutions series.
Time management guru Stephen Covey said, “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”
In the digital age of multi-tasking, managing an over-flowing to-do list and packed schedule is sometimes overwhelming. With work, family, church, school, and civic obligations, squeezing in time for everything is often impossible.
Kristen Kotecki of Winona has spent 20 years in sales management and has led time management and leadership seminars for her sales force. For Kotecki, the key to managing time is prioritizing what is most important and practicing a simple task and appointment scheduling system for optimum production.
“I always make lists and prioritize what has to happen in a day,” Kotecki said. “I believe in the old saying, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’”
Kotecki said the most important thing to remember in time management is that there are only 24 hours in a day, and how you manage those 24 hours can mean the difference between achieving success in business or settling for mediocracy.
“I think people’s careers can be made and broken with time management, especially in sales,” Kotecki said. “Those who manage time well are more apt to be successful. How you use the hours in a day can mean an extra sale or an extra vacation or what have you.”
Kotecki recommends using a paper planner with a month-at-a-glance calendar to organize tasks and appointments. As a wife, mother, and business professional, Kotecki said she relies on list making, prioritizing tasks, and delegating, something she said she had a hard time doing at first. On her to-do list, she lists business tasks at the top and personal tasks at the bottom, giving her a full glance of the entire day.
“I schedule from my list, and I am always making a list for the next day as well,” Kotecki said. “I look at what I have to do that day, and put my ‘big rocks’ on my schedule and then fill up the rest with the little stuff.”
‘Big rocks’ are high priority tasks. Kotecki said in her seminars, she uses the big rock metaphor to illustrate how to prioritize time. If you fill a bowl with sand and try to fit fist-sized rocks – symbols of professional goals, personal time, family time, etc. -- all of the rocks will not fit in the bowl with the sand. However, if you put the big rocks in the bowl first and then pour the sand over the rocks, the sand and rocks will fit.
“I know what I need to get accomplished in a day,” Kotecki said. “When you are in control of your time, it makes you more in control of your day and more confident.”
Kotecki says although she plans throughout the day by checking off completed tasks and moving tasks to the next day, she spends time planning at the end of each day. She said she sits down with a notebook, pen, and calendar to plan the next day. She makes a task list, looks at her various appointments, and then blocks off time to accomplish tasks or work on projects.
“Written goals are better for me,” Kotecki said. “If you actually write it down, it feels like it is a goal. I like to cross it off when it’s done.”
She said in blocking off time for an appointment or task, use common sense on projecting the time it will take to complete it. Travel time to an appointment must also be taken into account because the miscalculation can disrupt plans for an entire day -- for you and others as well.
“Always be punctual,” Kotecki said. “It is not professional to be late. My business is appointment-driven, and I want to respect other people’s time as well.”
For big projects or those with heavy workloads, Kotecki said limiting interruptions is key.
“Sometimes you have to set boundaries,” she said. “You might not be able to please everyone, but you can’t be repeatedly interrupted. You have to be able to eliminate distractions, and you do that by setting boundaries and delegating.”
So what about time to unwind of have fun? Kotecki said to make sure and schedule down time as well.
“I think walking away from it is good, too, and then picking it up again the next day,” she said.
Kotecki warned of ways time can be wasted. For example, personal organization is key to managing one’s time because spending valuable time searching for paperwork or supplies can also disrupt a day’s plans.
“Give everything its right place,” Kotecki said. “Place things as you go. I am very systematic on my approach.”
Kotecki works out of her home office, a space she uses to accomplish both business and personal goals. She keeps hanging files in crates for clients and other business-related items, uses a cubby system for bills and other household paperwork, and files everything away in a particular place.
“I know where everything is,” Kotecki said. “I can find something from a sales meeting five years ago by looking in one file.”
Kotecki said when it comes to paperwork, she will only “touch” something once.
“Try not to touch that email or piece of paper more than once,” Kotecki said. “When you get an email, do the task, and put it away. File it away. I try not to procrastinate.”
And do not skimp on quality.
“I like the quite, ‘If you don’t have time to do it again, you must have time to do it over,’” Kotecki said.