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“I didn’t have time.  That will take too much time.  There are only so many hours in a day.  I only get paid for this many hours per day.  Why didn’t you meet the deadline? Where are you up to with that thing you said would be done?”

 

Hey it’s Andrew here from safetyontap.com

 

This episode is part of my 2017 end of year challenge – I’m committing to give you two weeks solid of advice, reflections and actions for you to maximise what you learn from 2017, and  unleash your greater potential in 2018.  I’m sharing one episode every single day for the two weeks leading up to Christmas, so check out the other episodes numbers 55 through 65.  There is no particular order, each one of these will be great on it’s own, but listening to more will give you much greater value.  If you are listening to this at any other time of the year, have no fear! – the best time for you to take action on this is always right now!

 

In today’s episode I’ll teach you how to find more time in 2018.

 

A lack of time, or competing time demands, is a common thread in the challenges I hear from the health and safety professionals I speak to, both as a coach and just in general conversation.  “I would have consulted more if I had more time”.  “We underestimated how much time this one would take”.  Or one of my all time most hated phrases, “I don’t have much time during this session so I’ll go through my slides fairly quickly”.  Give me a break!

 

Time is a fixed resource.  Once you use it, it’s gone forever.  So why is it that every single one of us has the exact same amount of hours in a day, and yet some of us are far more effective, far more impactful in our roles, than other people? Time is not a problem for everyone, and this is why.

 

You don’t need more time.  You just need to spend your time more wisely.

 

I’ve had a lot of email exchanges with listeners over the last few weeks, as we start contemplating what 2018 holds for us.  And I posed the question, what will make 2018 a better year for each one of those people.  Some of the responses I got revolved around time – needing more of it, using it better, or just that the passing of time one way change things.

 

My top tips to help you find more time, all centre around one thing which I suspect will have almost universal relevance to you, irrespective of your location, role, organisation or industry.

 

It’s your inbox.  Email is one of the biggest time thieves known to humankind.  There are very few people I know who attribute their effectiveness to an orderly inbox and timely replies to people.  Many of you will listen to these and come up with all sorts of legitimate sounding objections to what I’m suggesting.  Some of them might actually be legitimate.  What I want you to ask yourself, is would you be a more effective professional if you spent more time doing something else vs in your inbox? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get uncomfortable and make some changes.

 

So here’s what I suggest:

– Stop sending emails.  If it’s more than a couple of sentences, have a good think about whether this is more suited to a phone call.  Most of us are in the game of building trust and relationships, which you don’t do on email.  So stop it.  And if you use the excuse that you need a record of the communication, you are probably too worried about covering your butt.  Stop it.

 

– Cancel your subscriptions.  Health and safety people are great at convincing ourselves that staying up to date is a good idea.  So we try and stay up to date, with absolutely everything.  We sign up for every email service and newsletter and subscription thingie under the sun.  And either we read the lot, most of which won’t help us or is irrelevant, or we file them for reading later, which is usually never.  Unsubscribe from these.  Even if you don’t read them they are visual clutter in your inbox and take time to file or delete.  Unsubscribe.  If you want to stay up to date, find a hack – get a summary email service, or have one team member summarise all the disparate emails for the team.

 

– Stop reading emails.  By that I mean practice scanning, look for the pertinent information, anything you need to absolutely KNOW, or to ACTION.  When I challenged someone on this the other day, they agree that they would search for FYI emails, and delete them.  Nothing will go drastically wrong if you are brave like he is.

 

– Contain the time.  Almost nothing these days which is urgent, will only be communicated by email.  So stop checking it all day – set time in your calendar to do emails, once or twice a day.  Be intentional about that time, and stop when the time is up.  If you are worried about missing something, tell people that for urgent matters you need to be contacted the old fashioned way, by phone.  Or text message.  Emoji’s optional.

 

– Set an example.  Make it easier for people to read your emails by being clear about the subject line – include a verb, an action word, so the receiver knows what to do: PLEASE READ, FOR ACTION, DECISION REQUIRED.  Next, in the body of your email, be short.  Describe WHY you are sending it, WHAT you are talking about, the ACTION required, and any WHAT IF scenarios.

 

– Stop replying to emails.  If you don’t get an email asking you to do something, like send information or confirmation, don’t reply.  If you appreciate what someone has sent, sure say thanks.  But you may find that most emails do not really need a reply!

 

– Organise what’s left.  After reducing what you send, what you read, unsubscribed to a bunch of things and setting a better example with your emails, you need to organise what’s left.  First thing I suggest is touch it once.  Open it, read it, and action it at the same time.  By action, I mean only one of four things.  Actually do what you need in response to it,  File or Delete it, delegate it, or schedule it (so make time to action it as a better time).  Every email should be treated ruthlessly like this.

 

– Find an alternative to emails.  This one will really depend on your specific context, but you can find alternative’s to email depending on what you want to do.  If it’s about action, use an action plan tool or app.  If it’s about information, use a blog, your intranet, or RSS feeds.  If it’s about problem solving or discussion, first pick up the phone.  If it’s about collaboration use a collaboration tool like Google docs.

 

If it involves more than one person, you might consider a messaging app or platform, but beware that these can become time sucks too.  Whatever it is, be intentional about how you use it.  And if you enlist your team to agree collectively on actions like the one’s I’ve suggested, then you’ve engineered your social context to give you a greater change of succeeding.

 

Ok now it’s time for reflection and action.  How much time do you actually spend on email every day, every week? How much of that is honestly highly productive? How do you feel about email – is it an enabler for you, or a burden? Which one of my suggestions grabbed your attention, which one can you implement immediately? Which actions can you make a plan to implement in the new year?

 

Every minute you save doing emails, is a minute you can spend taking more positive, effective and rewarding action to grow yourself and improve health and safety along the way.  Seeya!