It has to be said: people who are entrepreneurial (i.e., club owners) often are lousy time managers. It's not your fault exactly. It's just that no one taught you how to manage your time — not parents, schools or business. But, that doesn't mean you must go through the rest of your life with an inability to manage your time. It just requires a behavior change, says Barbara Hemphill, CEO of Hemphill Productivity Institute and author of “Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter Free Forever.”

Good time management stems from three pieces: emotion, system and habit, Hemphill says. The emotional part of it is more than half the battle. A person must be ready to learn how to manage their time. Often, that requires something dramatic to happen to make the person realize that they need help. Then, the person must create a system that will help them manage their time. Finally, the person must make it a habit.

Unfortunately, too many people are busy putting out fires to take time out to look at the bigger picture, says Hemphill.

“If you don't know where you are going, there's no way to know what to do with your time,” she says. “The majority of the world is frantic all day, but at the end of the day if you ask them what they did today to get to their long-term goals, they can't tell you.”

To better manage time, Hemphill says to follow five steps.

  • Manage the vision

    Ask yourself, if I could live my life the way I want to, how would it be? People will make the emotional changes necessary if they want this life bad enough. That means creating a big picture of how you want your life and your company to be.

  • Eliminate excuses

    Once you identify the excuses you are using to prevent yourself from managing your time, you can get past those excuses because, after all, they are just excuses, not reasons. You may think you don't have the time, the money or the help to manage your time better, but those are just excuses preventing you from reaching the goal you created in your big picture.

  • Commit your time

    Once you've identified your excuses and see them for what they are, you must commit yourself and your time to making your goal a reality. You must spend time getting the system in place, learning what you need to do, buying whatever equipment you need and then maintaining that system.

  • Select your tools

    The tools you will need to manage your time may vary by person, but they are both physical and mental tools. Mentally, you must know which of your ideas you need to toss and not expend more mental energy on. Physically, you must get rid of clutter (yes, have a wastebasket handy). You must also get a calendar that works for you and look at how your desk and office is organized. An office with clutter and piles all over not only lessens your productivity, but it sends a message to your employees that you, and the business, are out of control, says Hemphill.

  • Maintain your success

    If the first four steps are in place, you can maintain your system forever, says Hemphill. However, you must recognize that your system may need to change in the future. Just as a runner who experiences an injury must adapt to a new exercise routine or risk not maintaining his or her fitness level, certain changes in business may require a change to your system.

This all sounds well and good, but how exactly does one go about putting these into place? Hemphill says it takes just four simple steps: gather, sift, prioritize and act. Unfortunately, most people are always acting and aren't doing much of the rest of it, she says. If you don't start with gathering, which means pulling together everything you want or need to do, then you can't sift and prioritize. Instead, you will just act, and you may be acting on things that aren't important in the big scheme.

When you sift, you must ask whether you are the best person for this particular task.

“Your ability to grow your business is totally related to your ability to delegate things,” says Hemphill. “There's only so many hours in a day. If you have to do everything, then there are only so many things you can do.”

Therefore, you should make sure that you are doing everything that you do best and then make sure you have trained people to do the rest as you want it done. That takes time in the short term, but it will save you time in the long term, Hemphill says.

Once you sift, you can then prioritize what is most important for you to do to reach your long-term goals. Then, and only then, should you act.

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