THINK BUSINESS — Now Is The Time … By Mark Richardson

Time. We all know what it is.

We all have it. Many people look at how we should be spending it differently.

If you ask someone to define time, you generally get a pause followed by many different words to describe time.

Is time a verb, a noun, or both? In many major sports, mastering time in a game is the difference between winning and losing.

There are adages, like "time is money" that help us better understand the concept of time.

The summary of this reflective rambling is that time is extremely important in both our professional and personal lives. While you may not have focused on the subject of time, in business today more than ever, "time is not on your side" (and might be your biggest competitor).

We all recognize that the world is changing. We all do things differently today than we did five or 10 years ago. However, what has not changed is that there are still 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week.

What you do with this time is what needs to change. So before I give you some ideas and solutions, let's highlight a few "time" dynamics that may help you appreciate this subject more.

Time has a cadence and pace that has definitely changed over the past few years. The speed at which we communicate through technology forces us to address issues and compete differently — much faster. Major players in the mobile technology industry often use speed as their biggest differentiator in advertisements.

Expectations from customers and friends on responses to questions are so fast, they become frustrated when they don't get an instant response. With the proliferation of products and information we not only are overwhelmed but also have little time to keep up. Does all of this sound familiar?

Because you probably cannot change the time tidal wave caused by these dynamics nor can you escape it, you can choose to address it proactively. The following are useful tips that I routinely practice and have observed among other time masters.

Take a Look at the Time

It is hard to appreciate time unless you take inventory of how you are spending it. Just like personal or professional budgeting, you need to look at how you are spending your time to know what to budget for in the future.

Write down what a typical week is like by identifying how many hours or minutes are devoted to different activities or priorities. Try to be specific without being too detailed. Then write what the ideal week is for you to be successful and fulfilled. This should include short- and long-term activities. Invest in working on the business, not just in it. Most of the time there will be a gap. Now you can develop a plan to fix it.

Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking said, "Plan your work for today and evert day, and then work your plan."

While this quote is simple, it has changed my life. The pace of life today has created little time for daily planning. Our to-do lists are not plans. A plan includes analysis. A plan only is meaningful if it can be successfully accomplished. With the complexity of our lives, you should spend 30 minutes to an hour planning your dayÑ every day!

Then you need to monitor the plan, just like a pilot monitors a flight from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. Without a proper plan (remember, not a to-do list) and effective monitoring, your day will crash and burn three out of five days a week.

Mastering your time is the difference between success and failure (or just being average).

Proactive vs. Reactive Time

An exercise I often do with groups that is quite revealing is to have each person write down what percentage of his or her day is "proactive," you are in control vs. "reactive," others are in control.

Take a moment now and do this for yourself (it must add up to 100 per- cent). I have done this exercise with thousands of individuals who have similar roles in their organizations, so the answers have varied dramatically.

What has not varied, however, is that those individuals who are more successful and have their acts together generally identify 75 to 85 percent of their day as proactive, meaning they are in control. If you focus on this dynamic, you will not only accomplish more but also see a substantial reduction in your stress.

In closing, I encourage you to reevaluate the way you think about your time, and I have offered only a taste of some valuable strategies.

If you begin to act on these concepts, the improvement and mastery can be tremendous.

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson is highly regarded as a pioneer in developing standards of business management. He is the author of the bestselling book, How Fit is Your Business. His second book, Fit to Grow, was released earlier this year. Both books are available at

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