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Jim Estill's 8 Rules Of Time

By Jim Estill

I study the use of time and how to maximize productivity and enjoyment from it. From these studies, I have come up with the following list of time rules:

1 - It is more important to have clear goals than to be efficient. It is more important to work on the right things than to work efficiently. I liken this to the person who wants to get to Sudbury so gets in their car and drives 150 Km/hour. Does he get there before the person who checks the map (direction) and drives less efficiently at say 100 KM/hour? Driving in the right direction is more important than driving fast. I call this Leadership before Management. Leadership is about direction, management is about efficiency. This is why I called my CD "Time Leadership".

2 - Energy use is more important than time use. I can get much more done if I have the right energy than if I just spend the time. Because of this, I work on things that give me energy (eg. exercise, working on things I am inspired by, avoiding things that drain my energy etc.). I also try to recognize when I am high energy and spend those time doing high productivity tasks.

3 - Know what you have to do. I am not referring to goals here, I am referring to specific tasks. Every course and book on time management talks about the "TO DO list or some variation on it. Part of the reason for this list is to be able to prioritize (see 1). It also helps you to know your loading. One trick on a TO DO list is to put the first action to take to start on that item right on the list. Eg. If I am calling a vendor, I might need to get a briefing on the relationship as the first step.

4 - Learn to say NO - politely of course. If you know your goals and priorities (see 1), you will see what things you are being asked to do that infringes on them. Having a TO DO list helps you know if you have time (see 3).

5 - Learn tricks. For me, the best sources of tricks are from other people who are effective in their jobs. I also get them from books and audio programs. Some of the more effective tricks I use are:

Do the worst thing first thing. I choose the one thing I am procrastinating on and spend 15 minutes on it first thing.

I love the power of while. What can you do while you are working out or driving (of course first priority needs to me to drive safely).etc? Often the answer is audio books.

I love the power of focus. This conflicts with the previous tip but in some circumstances this is the best way to get things done. Focus only on the task you are working on at the time.

6 - Track how you spend your time. On the tracking sheet record what things give you energy and what things take energy (see 2). Determine how you think you should spend your day and from the time sheets figure out the changes you might want to make. One concept I have worked on is "The Perfect Day". What would be the elements of your perfect day?

7 - Get rid of your TV, or at least control your use of it. TV is North America's biggest time waster. I have nothing against entertainment but I think many people use TV as a time waster and do not get great entertainment or learning from it.

8 - Study time use. I have written many articles and published a CD (and before that an audio tape) on Time Management. Even though I have read 40-50 books on the topic, over 100 articles, listened to many audio programs and attended half a dozen time management courses, I always learn something new when I read a new one.

Finally, many people think I am too efficient or time focused. I do not deny that I am somewhat. However, good time use can also lead to a fuller life. Why not spend the time you need to spend effectively so you have more time to do other things you want to do?

About The Author
Jim Estill is CEO of SYNNEX Canada -


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