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    April 4, 2014 // 4:00 PM

    How to Work Less and Accomplish More: Career Principles to Live By

    Written by Eric Pratt | @

    beach-bummingThis post originally appeared on the Insiders section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Insiders.

    If you’re a business owner you’re probably trying to grow. We all are. We’re also severely short on time and there just isn’t enough of it in the day. 

    If only we could find more time to work on planning, preparation, and prevention, we’d surely be more profitable and grow faster. There is a way, I’m going to lay out the path for you in this article. 

    I’ve had the privilege of learning some hugely helpful tips and skills from some amazing entrepreneurs and business leaders, and I’m sharing. I’m sharing this insight because I know how mastering time management has helped me and my business and believe it can be helpful to you, too.

    The Problem: You’re being pulled in the wrong direction way too often

    We live in a world of urgency, always chasing fires. It seems there is more to do in the day than time to do it, and the bigger you get the higher the stakes become. We can’t ignore client demands, deadlines, and operational challenges that confront us on a daily basis.

    We’re also constantly distracted and interrupted when we do make time for strategy and planning. How many times in a week do you have two dedicated hours to do anything without interruptions? The rise of the information age has perpetuated the problem -- the very same devices that help us manage our time are also monopolizing it on many levels.

    But you have to find a way to make the time you need for the really important things that will drive your business forward. 

    Only 30.8% of our time is actually spent on thing that really matter -- The 5 Choices

    The Solution: Put a plan together, and live your entire life by it.

    There are three critical elements to getting out of this muck for periods of time every week. We have to put together a sensible plan that we can manage to if we’re going to grow faster.

    1) Goal-Setting

    You’ve heard it before so I won’t get long winded. You have to set specific goals and make sure every member of your team understands their role and contribution to the goal. 

    There are many options for setting proper goals, but there are two methods that I have found really helpful and intuitive. HubSpot has what they call SMART goals and FranklinCovey has Wildly Important Goals.  They have a lot of similarities and each has a great process to help you define your goals effectively. What I’ve learned is above all, they need to be specific, measurable, and time-bound, and constantly reviewed with everyone in the organization.Everyone.

    When you create a goal-oriented culture, clarity of purpose is achieved and it becomes easier to measure incoming workload against what’s really important to you.

    2) Proactive Calendaring

    Your time has to be planned in advance. You can’t wing it. What I’ve learned is that planning your entire upcoming week before the week starts is essential to success. 

    My week is always booked with a multitude of appointments before I start my planning, and I have a detailed list of really important initiatives I want to drive forward waiting to be squeezed in. As I start my weekly planning, I set up my tasks, my appointments, and my important goals. After reviewing it all, I fill in all available holes in my calendar with dedicated time toward accomplishing of these initiatives. I spend an hour planning my week, then an additional 10-15 minutes every morning reviewing the day’s activities.

    Calendaring in this fashion will help you focus your time and maximize your potential for goal achievement. It’s not magic, it’s just preparation to help you remain focused and goal-oriented with as much of your time as possible. 

    3) Build a Cadence of Accountability

    If you want these methods to be adopted by your entire organization, you have to ingrain it throughout your entire organization. Everyone on the team has to be on the same page, working toward the same goals, with accountability.

    This cannot, in my experience, be accomplished without regular cadence meetings. We meet as a team every week to review our goals and progress, and each of us report on our weekly lead and lag measures that exist to measure our progress. We celebrate success as a team and hold each other accountable for our shortcomings with language like, “What’s the one thing you can do next week to ensure this metric is hit?”  

    With time and consistency, you'll find that your team will be highly motivated to win, and they really won’t want to let each other down. They’ll stay focused on the very important tasks that they need to accomplish in order to contribute to the company’s goals, and so will you.  

    The Challenge: It’s always going to be easier said than done.

    Of course things won’t always go as planned. They never do. What happens to us as we begin this process is what I call the ‘blow up’. Everything you plan will be overwhelmed by one of the aforementioned emergencies.

    My advice is not to get discouraged -- it’s okay for things to erupt and take you off schedule. You’ll now realize what you’ve missed out on and reschedule the misses over again the next day or week. It’s usually the important activities that get put off due to the urgent. Schedule for the important to help prevent the urgent until you start to see results.

    I try to spend as much of my flexible time on what I’ve determined to be really valuable to the organization:

    • Building key relationships
    • Building and implementing strategy
    • Building my team & culture
    • Financial planning, projections, and key performance indicators

    Your list may be much different. THat's okay. As long as you know what you want to spend that critical time on, and fight against everything that can draw you from it. 

    The Results: Living in ‘the important’ will change the way you see the world.

    With clarity of purpose comes focus and direction. It’s amazing how following these steps can bring to the forefront exactly what you need to do with your time to be most productive and meet your goals. With a commitment to the important, you’ll also become extremely energized. 

    There is little doubt that clarity, focus, energy, and time management will produce real results. My company is a living example of this -- the move we’ve made over the last couple years of adopting and mastering these principles is quantifiable on many levels.

    Tip: Make sure you maintain balance in your life in order to retain your energy and avoid burnout. 

    A Note of Encouragement

    If you want to be less ‘busy’ and more productive as a business owner, you have to spend your time wisely. You have to have clear goals and work your ass off to ensure you’re moving toward them. The good news is that by applying the principles of this article you can actually work less and accomplish more. You don’t have to work three more hours per day -- we all know you don’t have that time to spend as it is. 


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