Leigh: Hello and welcome to the Better Business Podcast brought to you by Employee Sure. I’m your host, Leigh Johnston. In this series, we tackle the big issues in small business with the industry’s brightest minds.
In this episode, we’re taking a look at Time Management and we’re joined in the studio by management and productivity coach John Belchamber. Firstly do you hear that? It’s the march of time, which no matter what we do, seems to just slip away with terrifying speed. There’s no denying it. We live in a world where we are constantly available, always connected and incessantly pulled away from the most important tasks in our personal and professional lives. No matter what, we just never seem to have enough time to do the things we truly want and need to do but is there something we can do about it? This is what I want to explore for this month’s episode. What are the things we can do to better manage our time, to re-prioritise our tasks and reclaim our day? One of my favorite quotes about time is actually from children’s author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who wrote in one of his more famous poems, “How did it get so late so soon?.” If you’re anything like me, you can relate to that line. Time does seem to fly. There really doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day and before we know it another day, another week and another year has slipped by. Examining how we manage and use our time is something that we certainly need to consider. Research suggests that the average person uses 13 different methods and tools to control and manage their time. Meanwhile just 20 percent of our average workday is spent on important high value tasks while the remainder of that time is spent on things considered as little or no value. Alarmingly, each of us is interrupted on average every 8 minutes creating roughly three hours of wasted time every day. To help us unpick time management, I talk to renowned coach and trainer John Belchamber. John has been training people in the world of time management and personal productivity for more than 20 years. He’s currently the Chief Development Officer of the OrgDev Institute as well as partner and Enterprise Relationship Manager at PD Training. He is a leading authority on management, productivity and how we can best use our time. He offers some great insight into the power of planning, the importance of clever delegation and why it’s okay to create boundaries around our time. I think you’ll really enjoy this episode and walk away with a stack of new ideas. Before we jump in, I just want to quickly remind everyone about our Essentials Update Series with employment relations expert Thorunn Arnadottir. Our latest episode tackles the new family and domestic violence leave entitlements and what it means for small business owners. This episode is available now in iTunes, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and our website, employsure.com.au. Now here to talk to us about time management is John Belchamber. John, welcome to the show.
John: Thank you Leigh, appreciate you having me here.
Leigh: I wanted to talk to you about time management. Obviously time management is a fairly recent concept. What happened to all of our time?
John: It’s interesting isn’t it. If you look back it’s actually not that recent going back into the hunter-gatherer days. They say we used to work about four hours a day. Once we finished gathering, we’d sit around socialising and then we discovered agriculture. We then had to stay by the farm because we had the animals to look after us. So time got more but even then we were really just looking at seasons, sunset, sunrise and things like that. They say that Thomas Jefferson was the first in the 18th century. He installed a clock that had this miraculous thing called a second hand. Originally to help him work with his household chores not too sure how many of those household chores he did himself, to be honest with you. Benjamin Franklin, he was the first that coined the phrase, “Time is money.” I think ever since he said that we’ve been measuring time in smaller and smaller increments.
Leigh: It really has changed the way we think of time in how we measure it in our daily lives. Today we have all of these modern tools and devices that are designed to make our lives easier and help us keep track of time. Why do you think we’re struggling to adapt to this more modern shift?
John: I think there’s a whole range of reasons. I think one of the key ones, which probably talk a bit more in-depth about, is multitasking. We like to think we’re good at multitasking but the research shows we’re not. We’re not designed to do multiple things at once. We’re designed to pay attention to one thing at a time. I think that got us. You know we’ve all turned our mobile phones off here today, so that we’re not distracted by buzzes and hums every 30 seconds. This is a big one for me.
Leigh: What are the common complaints you hear from clients, who are struggling to manage their time?
John: Good question. Number one, would probably be there aren’t enough hours in the day, to which I say, “Well look we’ve got 24 hours. It’s just what you do with those hours it’s important.” People often say well I’m constantly interrupted and I would then ask them, “What are you interrupted by?” You’re in control of whether you’re getting interrupted. Are you letting other things control you or are you controlling what interrupts you? Then, they say things like, “I plan my day but I never seem to get things done that I want it to.” There’s an old saying, “You need to know yourself first in order to understand others and you know if you don’t make a plan you plan to fail.” I’m a firm believer that the number one thing to do is to understand your behaviour style and your preferences. Once you do that, you’ll understand what it is that distracts you, why and how to motivate yourself to do things. Once you can motivate yourself and others then it’s amazing what you can achieve.
Leigh: I just want to follow up on something you said there John around interruptions. Pretty much everyone now in whether it’s an office environmental, retail or whatever it might be, we are constantly interrupted. What are some of the strategies that you can suggest that might help minimise those interruptions? If they can’t be avoided completely, what can we do to at least manage them a little bit better?
John: Good question again. I think first of all it’s important to understand what impact interruptions have. When we get interrupted the research says, it can often take up to 15 minutes for you to get your concentration back on what you were doing. Take computers. we all work with computers and devices in this day and age. On average we’re disrupted every 10.5 minutes by something happening during the day, which if you add that up over an 8 hour day, means you lose about two and a half hours a day on interruptions. The first thing you need to think about doing is planning to not be interrupted. The first thing if you’ve got some work that you need to focus on, turn off things that are going to interrupt. Turn off your email, shut your email down, turn off any of the notifications, turn your phone off so that there’s not going to ring and then you can actually focus on things. Some of the things you can do is have a Do Not Disturb policy. Use your calendar. Actually put things in your diary and share your calendar so that people can see this hour, “I’m busy. You mustn’t disturb me.” We all work in open plan offices these days. I’ve seen strategies where people have little red flags. They stick up on their desk says, “I’m busy please leave me alone.” or even a sign on the back of the chair that says you know busy. Our I.T. department, for example, they have 2 hours a day that is scheduled that everybody knows you don’t go anywhere near their door because they’re busy focusing on code or something like that. So there’s lots of strategies you can put in place that, if you communicate them across the organization, can help you not get distracted.
Leigh: That’s really great advice John. I want to follow up and see how that might apply to a small business someone, who might only employ maybe 5 to 20 people. What are some of the day-to-day strategies that they could use to help manage their time?
John: Excellent question. Few things you can do, I recommend having what we would term a huddle meeting everyday. You schedule a time that religiously you have a meeting 9:00 in the morning. It’s a 5-minute meeting, you all stand up, say what you working on that day, what your challenges are, sharing information and then you go off. So everybody is focused on the day. They know what’s happening and what you’re going to be working on, that helps. A great one I like to use is work somewhere else. I love working in cafes with my laptop. I’ll just go, focus, buy a coffee and sit there and do the work I need to do away from all the distractions. So little things like that. Technology enables us to do that these days. Go to any cafe and I bet you’ll find hundreds of laptops with people working away from small businesses.
Leigh: The things that you’ve touched on already kind of indicate that we would benefit from having more boundaries around our time. Obviously we’re under a lot of pressure to be constantly available and to be super responsive. Our devices mean we’re always connected. It kind of sounds like we would actually benefit more from having some boundaries around our time and giving ourselves permission to say no to those interruptions and those constant requests on our time. As I said, there are more things interrupting open plan offices etc. It’s all about, I think, trying to as much as you can to have a plan, a schedule, what’s allowed, what isn’t and giving people permission. We have often do a lot of work with teams, for example where we will develop a team charter that actually says, “This is how we will behave with each other.” This will often include things around time management and respecting space and needs for privacy. I think, as I said already, working somewhere else or having a room in the environment that you can go to that is a quiet space. There’s a multimillion-dollar industry out there now of psychologists and designers that will come into office and map out how to lay this place out to achieve what you want to do. You know interestingly there’s some research now starting to come out that we’re moving away from open plan and back into having spaces that people can work in because they recognize that those boundaries are getting interrupted too much.
Leigh: So John I just want to ask, how do we suddenly shift back to creating those boundaries? The way that we work, this constant availability and accessibility, has become ingrained into the way that we work. So it could be quite jarring for a small business or their clients even their own teams and employees to suddenly say, “I’m not available to you anymore.” How do we make this start towards shifting back to be more protective of our time?
John: Small businesses, I should point out, that I mentioned that people are moving away from open plan offices to having offices again. Well those small businesses don’t have the luxury even to suddenly build offices again. It isn’t always a physical environment thing that you do. You’ve got to work with what you have. I go back to, for me, after 20 years of experience in development, time management and all sorts of leadership areas. Know yourself is the number one most important thing. If you know yourself for a model of behaviour, you can then understand other people and you can understand what makes them tick. We don’t have time today into a lot of detail but for example one of the models we use has four quadrants. It’s really easy to understand. I work with a lot of small business owners to help them really get to know how to motivate their team and themselves. Just to give you two types just to illustrate the differences of people, one of the types of behaviour we talk about is a coach. Now a coach is someone it’s all about people and they’re all about achieving goals. So they’re always driving forward and they’re about taking action-making things happen, keeping the team happy and just driving forward. Now that’s great and that’s got strengths but it also has limitations in time management. They always think they can wing it. They always think they can move towards a goal. They can turn up today until that time management without any sort of practice whatsoever. So that’s one type, the opposite of that, is what we would call the adviser. They love detail. They love to plan. They spend all their time on spreadsheets and working out the detail, that’s also great. It has its strengths in the business but they have a tendency to do what I would call analysis paralysis. You know they’re never ready to do something. They’re still trying to get that plan right. So as a small business owner, you can understand even just four different types of people, who they are in your team, how to motivate those people and what that actually means for you yourself. You can start to put strategies in place that gives you all permission to manage your time effectively. Does that make sense?
Leigh: It makes perfect sense and you’re kind of introducing a whole other episode here. So that we might have to get it back on for another chat. John I think about working styles and personal preferences, which is a shame, I will continue on with our chat about time management. I would love to talk about how we fix it. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of what small businesses can do to fix this problem around managing their time.
John: Yes great. I’ve mentioned the first one the behaviour. We’ll move on. The second most important thing I think is actually working out what do you want to do, what do you want to achieve and then actually setting some goals. Now by setting goals you know I’d like to use a model, we call DART OPUS. Think of a dart that you throw onto the bull’s eye on a board, a nice and easy visual to remember. The first thing you got to do is the “D” define the goal. What is it? It’s no good saying I want to lose weight. You want to say I want to be 75 kilograms. So it’s specific so you know you’ve actually achieved it. Announcing your goal. So work out if it’s relevant to getting you where you want to be and then announce it. Tell the world. Put it up on the wall. “This is what I’m working towards.” Okay and Revise it. Things change especially in small business. What happened today might be completely different tomorrow. So be prepared to revise your goals. Don’t be precious about it. If it needs shifting revise it and change it. Lastly, put a time on it. This is the thing people forget to do. I will get to 75 kilograms next year. Put a time to it. I will do it by the end of this month. When you get to the end of the month, revise it. So that’s physically setting the goal. The second part is making sure that you’re likely to achieve it and that’s what we call OPUS. Okay. So you got to make sure that the goal is something you will take Ownership of. Is it something that you actually really feel passionate about? Will you take ownership of it? The “P” is passion. Is it something that excites you, that makes you want to do it or is it something just going to put it over that to one side? I think with Brian Tracy that said, “Eat the frog.” He always said, “In your day, you know the re,al thing you don’t want to do, they’re the things you do straight away because once you’ve done them the rest of the day is great.” It’s exciting. Everything else is good fun. Urgency. Is it a goal that is really important for you to achieve or is it something that down the track because if it’s just down the track it down the track you’re not going to do it? Last is significance. Is it something that is of real significance to you? So setting those goals is probably the first thing that you need to do. Secondly there’s a saying, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Lots of people have heard that saying before but what that means is you need to work out what other tasks are needed to actually achieve your goal. Questions I would suggest you do with each task is first of all, ask yourself, “Is it necessary? Is it something I’ve really got to do or is it just something I think I’ve got to do.? Is it really important? Is this something that’s going to really impact on my day or is it something that I can put aside to later? Do you have to do it yourself?” Classic in small business, small business owners think they have to do everything themselves. They don’t like to delegate. At the end of the day the way you grow your business is by delegating. I think it was Glen Blanchard that said, “Management is about what happens when you’re not there not what happens when you are there.” So learn to delegate. As I said, “Does it have to be done now.?” Do the things that have got to be done now and put off the things that can wait till tomorrow.
Leigh: I want to ask about that, what are the things we’re doing we think are productive and are useful ways to use our time but actually aren’t?
John: Stephen Covey talks about the four quadrants of looking at. Is it important? Is it critical? Is it something that is going to really make change to what I’m doing? Is it going to impact or is it just something that seems to be urgent? I’m doing it because everyone’s shouting at me louder than anybody else. So we tend to work on the things that are making the loudest noise but they’re not necessarily things that are going to make us work for what, as I said that’s about looking at your task somewhat, is it important.
Leigh: Does that mean turning your email off for a certain amount of time per day or turning your phone off? You’ve mentioned going into another space like a cafe or a meeting room or whatever it might be. Would that allow us a little bit more time and freedom to focus on the important rather than the urgent things that are screaming at us?
John: Yes, you need to have a list. When you finish your day, think and get yourself into the habit. In forming habits you have to consciously do them and you have to think about doing them before they become something that you do without even thinking about. Think about when you took a driving test, you took your driving test, you looked in the mirror, you checked it was in neutral, you started, you indicated and you had to think about everything you did. I bet each of us drove here today and can’t remember what we did on the way. Okay because it becomes a habit. It’s just something you do. At the end of every day, sit down. What did you achieve? What did you want to achieve that you didn’t actually get done? Why did you not get it done? Is that because someone else was controlling your day or were you in control of your day? Do that everyday. Tell us for the next day, which includes quiet time; maybe I need to go work somewhere else etc. Get in the habit of doing that and you’ll find if you do that for 30 days, it will become something that you do without even thinking about.
Leigh: John, what are some of the tips and some of the criteria we can use to help us prioritise the important tasks from the urgent task and the ones that are stealing our time?
John: What I would say is that there’s research that says something comes in to your desk, you can do it there and then it will be done. If you leave it till later, it will take 24 times longer to do it later than if you did it now. If an e-mail comes in and you’re in your email and it’s something you can just do a one line reply to, do it, because if you go back to it tomorrow, it will take longer to do. This is counterintuitive to the tasks but it’s just a way of measuring things for them. I also recommend that you prioritise. We have a ABCDE prioritization scale. “A” stands for something that is critical or very important. This something you’ve got to do and there can be negative consequences if you don’t do it. To avoid those negative consequences, get it done. The “B” stands for important. This is something that you should do but it isn’t necessarily vital for the here and now and for what you’re trying to achieve. It could be put off if you needed to. “C” stands for the things that are nice to do know. “Be nice if I did this and be nice if I did that.” if it’s not actually going to impact on your business. So D stands for delegate and that’s something that we need to learn to do in small business. We employ people to do things for us. A tip, I always give new leaders, is when someone comes to you with a problem, ask them how they would solve it. Ask them to tell you what they would do to solve the problem. If you keep doing that they will eventually come to you and say, “This is a problem. This is the solution I think we should do is that okay?” You can say yes or no and you’ll save a lot of time. You’re actually taking away what we called “learned helplessness” in people where they always come to you just because they think they have to. “E” stands for eliminate whenever possible. There are a lot of things in your day that you do but you don’t really know why you do it. It’s just habit. Stop doing it. I find in my inbox, I get a lot of these e-mails that actually ask me something but no one ever follows up on me if I don’t reply. No one ever says to me, “You didn’t respond to that e-mail.” Next time when that type of e-mail tumblin’, I just don’t respond to it because it’s not obviously that important for whomever it was that sent it to me.
Leigh: John, I want to go back to something that you mentioned earlier in the interview around how people are now thinking about redesigning office spaces to limit interruptions. How big a role does environment play in our time management and the way we approach our tasks, our work and how regularly we’re interrupted?
John: It’s obviously very important. I go back to that behavioural thing again that I’ve said is the most important thing. My style of behaviour, I’ll work anywhere. I’ve got three children, who are in fact they are now all grown up. So I’m a dad of three children. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but dads are really good at turning off their ears and not getting distracted by anything when it comes to their kids wanting things, like wives wanting things. So they need to practice that skill sometimes in an office environment. There are people that cannot work unless they’re in a soundproof room with no windows and no natural light. If that’s the type of person you’ve got well then that’s what you need to give them and that’s the environment they need to work. It’s the design of your office and working space, trying to make everybody work in the same way in the same space, is not necessarily going to work.
Leigh: So time management isn’t necessarily a one size fits all approach. Every employee and every single person is going to have a different way of approaching their work, managing their time and it’s about giving them permission in the license to be able to do that.
John: Exactly, I think number one you’ve got to help them understand what it is that they need. Number two you’ve got to give them the tools that will help them work in the most efficient way possible. A lot of tools out there these days do things. I mean how many of us use Outlook for example. Well Outlook’s probably the most new most popular email thing but what people don’t realize it is also got excellent skills in calendar usage. It’s got excellent task management. It’s got excellent team sharing communication tips. There are lots of automation tips. You can set up rules to respond to e-mails for you. People don’t learn how to use these tools effectively. So spend a bit of time getting to know the tools you have, how to use them and use them in a way that works for you.
Leigh: Are there any tools that you personally recommend that you rely on day to day?
John: Yes, well Outlook is a big one. I use it religiously. I’ve got 3 calendars running at the moment. I’ve got two business calendars. I’ve Got a family calendar for sharing family events. I’ve got a personal calendar. They all synch on my phone and I know what I’m doing. I use a lot of rules in Outlook and also clips. At the top in Outlook, there is a thing called “actions.” You can set up actions like to respond to an e-mail in a certain way, copy certain people on it and move it to a certain folder. So it will do it automatically for you. Things like OneNote or Evernote are amazing. Most people are just using them to make a little note. There’s a whole lot of team sharing facilities in their task list, reminders, etc. you can use. I’ve just launched one called Teams, which is a complete environment for teams where you can share documents, talk to each other, do wonderful things, get notifications when you’re task you’re supposed to do isn’t done. They are all in the in the standard Microsoft Office suite but most of us don’t know how to use them.
Leigh: Are you aware of any unique or innovative ideas that particular companies or business leaders are using to assist with time management?
John: I’ve seen quite a few over the years. A big one that I’m seeing a lot of more is mindfulness. There’s a whole program of mindfulness as well. Just taking time out to teach people how to reflect for 30 seconds, it doesn’t have to be a weekend retreat. If you teach people to take 30 second pauses in their day, economising on how it will help them focus on what they’re doing. One organization, I know a charity that we work with, they implemented mindfulness with their call centre staff because if they enter the credit card details incorrectly that’s completely useless data for them and they’re losing money. Mindfulness has increased the accuracy of their credit card entry threefold. Just by taking the time to get rid of the noise in your head.
Leigh: A threefold increase just by using mindfulness that’s incredible. Is there anyone else out there doing something interesting and innovative with time management?
John: Shared goals are a wonderful thing. I work with an organization once, where what they do is every quarter the beginning of the quarter they get the team members to stand up and present their personal goal to the team and they would have a picture of it. A picture paints a thousand words and they’d have a picture of their goal, what it was, they present it and how they were going to achieve that goal. If they’re working towards a personal goal, let’s face it we go to work to pay for what we do outside of work. I don’t like the term work life balance because it implies two different things. They’re not. They’re part of the same thing. So if you can share your personal goals with your team, have your team hold you accountable for it, put a picture of the goal on your desk that they can talk to you about it, all of a sudden you can share, celebrate successes but relate personal goals back to business. This is what’s important at the end of the day, achieving business goals. Another nice one, which is vision boards, have them up on the wall pictures. I remember when I arrived in Australia I had a picture of a house, my dream house, in my wardrobe. Every morning when I got up, the first thing I saw was that house and that was why I was going to work. Things like that and put it on the dashboard in your car, things that really work.
Leigh: Do you have the dream house now?
John: Just moved up to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane and living right by the beach I’m pretty happy.
Leigh: You know that sounds like the dream come true. So we’ve covered a lot of territory already and there’s probably a whole season just around some of the things we’ve touched on John. I want to just get to the quick wins. Obviously there’s so many aspects to effective time management that can come down to everything from workload to personality style. Can you tell me what are the really simple quick wins that people can do, today, that will help them manage their time better?
John: I think I’ve covered quite a few of them to be honest but I think it’s taking the time out the plan. Have a bit of the morning that you put aside where you map out your day and do that everyday. If you have to do it before you get to the office or in the car on the way just do it. Make prioritising your day, like setting goals of the day, at the beginning, something you do with that question and then at the end of the day go back to that list. What did I achieve? What didn’t I achieve? Reflect on why. Be honest with yourself. Was it you? Was it somebody else? Why didn’t you achieve that goal? This will tell you how to adjust your day.
Leigh: John, tell us what does your day look like. What does a typical day in the life of John Belchamber, how do you manage your time?
John: Well as I said I’ve got 3 calendars going on my phone. I’ve got an e-mail coming left, right and centre. I love working in cafes and you know I spent my life on airplanes, flying around the country, so I got pretty good at doing work wherever I need to. It’s funny. Years ago, I went to a time management course; it’s the first ever training course I went to. I turned up, the trainer arrived and said, “I’m ever so sorry, I will be starting 20 minutes late because I’ve forgot the video.” Funnily enough I didn’t learn a thing that day because I didn’t listen to them. So I think you got to practice a little bit about what you preach as a small business owner, if people see you living the time management dream, they’ll follow. If they see you’re not doing what you’re trying to get them to do, they’re not going to, that’s just life.
Leigh: John, without naming names, can you share any time management horror stories with us?
John: Well obviously, the trainer turning up without his time management video was a bit of a horror story. We had a bit of a running joke in the PD Training office, whereby we get people ask for a quote for time management training. The running joke is that will take months to close because people never get organised enough to book the time management training, which is a is a nice paradox I think.
Leigh: John, thanks so much for your time today. Before I let you go, what’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received and why?
John: There’s a lot. One that stuck with me for 20 odd years now I think it’s a saying. “It’s not what we say but what we do that defines us.” I think it’s originally from Batman but I’m not a movie buff so don’t hold me on that. To me what that actually means is, we can say wonderful things and you know I’ve spent my life in sales I’m very good at saying things. What people remember is what we actually do and how we make them feel. So think about that every day and to think, “What I do?” It’s really relevant to time management. You know I can say I’m going to do stuff it until I actually do it. It means nothing.
Leigh: John that is such wonderful advice. Before you go where can we learn more about you and your work particularly with PD Training? I understand you’ve also got a special offer for our listeners as well.
John: Yes we do. You can find me on LinkedIn, John Belchamber, with one L isn’t common to have 2 “L’s in the name Belchamber. There’s pdtraining.com.au. I also run an organisation called the OrgDev Institute especially for H.R. people, which is orgdevinsitute.co. I’d like to make an offer, if I can, to listeners of the podcast. I said the number one thing was to know yourself in order to understand others so we’d like to offer all of the listeners a free behaviour profile. It’s an online profile. It’ll take them about 12 minutes in order to get a range of reports that they can look at it themselves as a leader, as a sales person, emotional intelligence and a range of things they’ll get advice on. Obviously I happen to know a company that will help them implement things with that, if they want to. What they need to do is go to the U.R.L. psychometricprofiling.org/start. I understand you’ll send this U.R.L. in the newsletter that people can subscribe to and then they need to enter the magic code: “business.” They’ll be asked to make an 8-letter code and the word is business. They will get access to a free profile.
Leigh: A wonderful offer and a great way for anyone to start their time management and professional development journey. John, thank you so much for being on the show.
John: Thank you very much for having me.
Leigh: Well ironically that’s all we have time for. Hopefully you walk away from today’s chat with John Belchamber with some useful ideas into how to better manage your time so we can all get the important things done. Before I go, don’t forget to make the most of John’s offer code to get your very own free personal profile report. The link again was psychometricprofiling.org/start and the code is business.
Leigh: That’s it for this episode of The Better Business Podcast. Huge thanks again to our special guest John Belchamber. If you need any help with your workplace and industrial relations or just have a question about your obligations as an employer, visit us at employsure.com.au. I’m your host Leigh Johnston, tune in again next month when we tackle another big issue in small business.