Quick Printing
August 2007
Create an extra 90 minutes a day
Want to take control of your day? Try these six time-saving tips
One of the questions I often ask during my seminars is: “How many of you get up before 5 a.m.?” Usually about 20% of the printers raise their hands. “And how many of you get up before 6 a.m.?” Usually about half to two-thirds of the group raise their hands.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that about 75% of printers seem to be early risers. Studies show that successful people get up early. In fact, more than one study has shown that there’s a direct relationship between how early executives rise and how far they go up the corporate ladder.
Getting up early and using that extra, undisturbed time is the single most important thing you can do to start your day off well. An hour’s worth of productivity in the early morning is usually worth two hours in the afternoon or evening. Getting up early is easier on your family life, too—the kids won’t miss you at 6 a.m. if you’re at your office…but they will miss you if you’re not home at 6 p.m.

But there’s more you can do. You can squeeze out at least 90 extra minutes each day by adopting the following six practices.

1. Take control of your e-mail
On a typical day, I receive about 100 e-mails, some of which have documents attached for me to review, and others that ask me to answer questions or give advice. I used to spend 90 minutes a day working on e-mail and seldom felt caught up. Now, I’ve reduced my e-mails to a 30-minute-a-day routine.

Time saving Tips:
I read and answer e-mail only twice a day.

I never read e-mails first thing in the morning. I always accomplish one important thing on my to-do list first.

I resist the temptation to get involved in online conversations on print owner discussion groups, and I don’t get involved when I am one of several people copied in on a particular issue; I let the others solve the problem.

I don’t write e-mails that convey criticisms, complaints, or personal suggestions for improvement. Instead, I handle difficult issues personally or at worst, on the phone.

I keep my e-mails as short as possible.

2. Take control of your phone conversations.
Like e-mail, phone conversations can be wasteful and emotionally draining. Although a necessary part of doing business, phone work should be managed with the same care as e-mail.

Time saving Tips:
I have all of my pre-planned phone calls organized on my to-do list. I have the phone numbers written down to speed up the process. I try to make all my phone calls at two specific times each day—10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Whenever possible, I head off lengthy phone conversations by sending out preliminary e-mails that outline what needs to be said.

When I begin the conversation, I announce the subject. (Example: “I was hoping to talk to you about three things, John. The August invoice, your new sales rep, and…”) I also indicate how long I think we’ll need to spend on the phone. (Example: “I think we can adequately cover all three topics in five to seven minutes.”)

3. Delegate more efficiently (and more often).
It doesn’t take a productivity expert to know that a great way to add extra time to your day is to become a better delegator. The only problem is that printers seem to have a hard time delegating. It’s almost like our entrepreneurial DNA requires us to get involved in every single detail of everything that is happening at our print shop.

Time saving Tips:
When planning activities, I ask myself, “Who could do this as well as I could?” The answer, of course, is, “No one.” Since I am the boss, I am smarter, more experienced, and more customer-oriented than anyone who works with me, right? I’m trying to be funny, but many printing executives ‘delegate’ in a manner that makes my humorous observation seem true. You need to identify others who can help you reach your goals by delegating some of your important tasks to them.

4. Reduce the amount of time you spend on non-productive tasks.
I sometimes live in this make-believe world where I convince myself I am 100% efficient and productive. Yet, when I step back and analyze my daily work habits, I discover that I do things that make me feel important, but do little to help me reach my goals.

Time saving Tips:
The Morning Ritual. You don’t need to spend 60 to 90 minutes getting ready. I shower and dress quickly. I drive to work with wet hair and dry it when I get to work to save a few minutes. I eat a very nutritious breakfast that is mostly liquid- based to provide an energy boost to jumpstart my day. I also go to bed early (8:30 p.m.) so I wake up alert and rested.

Coffee, soda pop, and/or smoke breaks. These are classic time-wasters. If you care about your health, you shouldn’t be smoking, or drinking more than two cups of caffeine a day. I recently gave up my daily habit of five cans of Diet Pepsi, and was surprised at how much energy and time I wasted drinking it—not to mention the $75 a month I was spending.

Personal phone calls. Do your socializing after work hours. If you must handle a personal phone call, keep it to the bare bones—just a minute or two.

5. Work with a sense of urgency
I think it was business guru Tom Peters who first used the phrase, “A sense of urgency” a decade ago. I’ve learned that by doing everything during my workday with a sense of urgency, I do, in fact, stay more focused and accomplish more.

Time saving Tips:
Tempo. Deliberately pick up the pace, and try to move a little faster than usual. Speak faster. Walk faster. Type faster. Read faster. Go home sooner.

To make my days more energizing, I tackle the most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day. The small victory will set the tone for a very productive day.

Eliminate stack trays. Stack trays are the business equivalent of a hazardous waste dump. They encourage procrastination and slothfulness. Get rid of them.

Nuke it! I always cross one thing off my to-do list every day. There’s always something that (on second thought) isn’t all that important.

Handle paper just once. Don’t keep shuffling papers from pile to pile. When it’s in your hands, resolve it.

Punctuality. Whatever it takes, show up on time. Arrive early.

Continuum. At the end of your workday, identify the first task you’ll work on the next day, and set out the materials you’ll need in advance. The next day, make it job number one, and begin working on it immediately.

Read this book. Getting Things Done by David Allen is a life-changing business manifesto that will teach you how to become results-oriented. It’s a fabulous read and one of the five best books I’ve ever read.

6 Learn to say no
For me, this is difficult. Having spent a lifetime taking on virtually every challenge offered, it has taken me a long time to learn to say “no.” But, in the process, I’ve learned a valuable lesson—because many of the things I say yes to have turned out to be things that keep me from reaching my goals.

Time saving Tips:
Here are the four questions I ask before saying yes to any new and challenging idea: Is this an opportunity that advances my goals? If it isn’t: What specific benefit could I get from accomplishing it? If none: Who could I delegate this task to? If no one: What is the best way to say “no”? And lastly, don’t ever forget the advice my grandfather gave me, “Practice saying no until your tongue bleeds.”

Use your extra time doing what matters most. Somewhere inside of you a fire is burning. By getting up early each morning and making those early hours, as well as the rest of the day, more productive, you can help make your life exactly what it should be. By managing your day in a manner that allows you some time to think, relax, and reflect, you’ll have a chance to thoughtfully ask yourself if your daily efforts are helping you reach the goals and purpose you have chosen for your life..
Mike Stevens is one of North America’s most successful small printers. He owns Express Press in Fargo, North Dakota. Starting with sales of $10,900 a month in 1985, volume now exceeds $250,000 per month. You can reach him at mikestevens@expresspressusa.com or visit www.expresspressusa.com.
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