The Productivity Institute

Personal Productivity Solutions to Leverage Your Impact


Time Management Horse Sense

By: Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

Every horse race has a first place winner and a runner-up, second placecontender. It is not uncommon for the first place horse to earn twice the prizeas the second place finisher. Curiously, the number one horse did not have torun twice as fast or go twice as far as the competition to get twice the money.It only had to be a nose ahead of the competition to reap twice therewards. 

Time management, personal productivity, and success in life are a lot like thehorse race metaphor. To get twice as much in life, in any of our manydimensions, health, family, financial, intellectual, professional, social, andspiritual, we do not have to double our effort and input. We only need to get anose ahead of where we are now to realize significant increases in ourresults. 

Five suggestions, when applied, can help us to get a “noseahead.” 

First, plan your day, every day, preferably, the night before. Then, whenarriving at work, there is a plan of action to direct us forward. Without aplan, temptations may draw us into unproductive avenues where we may serve theloudest voice that demands our time rather than dealing with the mostproductive opportunity. 

A simple plan consists of a list of all the items we ideally might want toaccomplish during the next day. Prioritize those items in order of theirimportance. (#1 for most important, #2 for next most important, etc.) Begin themost important item first, then go to the next most important item, etc.Typically, it is unlikely that all items on the list will be completed, butthat is fine. Success has little to do with how much was left undone at the endof the day but, rather, what was actually accomplished. We will always leaveundone more than we do get done simply because we all have more to do than timepermits which says a lot of good things about how good we really are, to haveso much entrusted to us by so many! 

Second, overplan your day to take advantage of “Parkinson’s Law”which teaches that, “a project tends to take the time allocated forit.” If you give yourself one thing to do during the day, it will likelytake all day to complete it. If you give yourself two things to do during theday, you will likely accomplish both. If you give yourself twelve things to doduring the day, you may not get all twelve done, but you may complete seven oreight items. Having a lot to do creates a healthy sense of pressure on us tonaturally become better time managers. With a lot on our plate, we tend to bemore focused, we tend to suffer interruptions less so, and we delegatebetter. 

Third, work with a clean desk and work environment. There is truth in thesaying, “Out of sight; out of mind.” Equally true is the reverse,”In sight; in mind.” When items are in our field of vision, we cannothelp but be distracted and pulled in the wrong direction where we may major inthe minors, busy all day long, but accomplishing little of significance. 

Fourth, restrict meetings. During any typical business day, there arereportedly 17 million meetings being conducted in the United States. A meetingis two or more people getting together to exchange common information. Simpleenough, but probably one of the top institutional time wasters. Always ask,”Do I contribute anything to this meeting?” and “Do I getanything of value from this meeting?” If the answer to both questions is”no,” try to find a way out of attending the meeting. 

Finally, handle paper just once. Get out of the “shuffling blues”when paper is looked at and relooked at again and again while deadlines slipthrough the cracks as we get buried under a blizzard of paperwork. As youencounter each new piece of paper, if it can be responded to quickly, in aminute or less, respond then and there. If it will require a longer effort,schedule it for a time when you will get to it and then put it away. 

Common sense ideas. That’s what horse sense is, yes? Enjoy the race. If thisarticle has been useful to you, we have prepared an additional articleentitled, “The Tools for Increasing Employees’ Productivity”. It’sfree. To get yours, email your request for “tools”

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Dr. Donald E. Wetmore-Professional Speaker
Productivity Institute-Time Management Seminars
Professional Member-National Speakers Association
August 23, 2018

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