So many leaders have the efficiency equation only half right. Take the business owner who’s enlightened but inefficient. He’s like the absentminded preacher, late to the pulpit with lines of a great sermon running through his head—some written on scraps of paper in his pocket, the rest scattered around his office. His heartfelt attempts to inspire only confuse his flock.
I can’t believe it’s not clutter
Shooting for efficiency without first getting organized is like trying to break the speed limit on a highway under construction. Potholes and roadblocks will fling you into a ditch before you get out of first gear.
Organization paves the way to enlightened efficiency and reaching your goals. Can you be productive with a messy desk and chaotic files? Sure, anything’s possible. But it’s easier to get it done without the clutter. Especially when you add a personal digital assistant (PDA)—BlackBerry, Palm Pilot, Clio, Treo, Mio—to the mix to keep mission-critical data at your fingertips. The idea is to conserve time and adrenaline.
All the time in the world
It hurts to see people who’ve yet to balance efficiency with perspective. A few years ago, after a keynote address to Students in Free Enterprise, I judged a national student-business competition. Later that day, I chatted with a supplier manning a convention booth. By coincidence, his daughter had given one of the forty-five-minute presentations I had judged.
Trim the talk
Imagine. If you have thirty conversations daily, each running four minutes longer than necessary, you lose two hours a day. Zeroing in on the matter at hand and cutting just a little fat goes a long way toward reclaiming your schedule. Saving ten minutes here and fifteen minutes there ultimately frees you up for those times when people need you most.
Three talk trimming tips:
Push your purpose
Be cordial, of course, but clip the small talk. Prior to longer conversations, I list the questions I want to ask and the points I need to make. Just one minute of prep makes for productive and punctual exchange.
Appoint an auxiliary gatekeeper
My outgoing voicemail message was a trusted sentry at Tires Plus, unfailingly repeating: “Hi, this is Tom Gygax. Please leave a message detailing your needs and desires so either the appropriate person or I can get back to you in a more helpful way. Thanks for calling, and make it a great day.” The upbeat message worked because it prompted callers to say exactly what they needed. It stopped them from simply leaving their contact info, the first serve in a maddening game of telephone tennis. It also saved my executive assistant, Dories, a ton of time.
Be upfront, not uptight
For longer conversations, presentations, and informal meetings, be clear about how much time you’ve got. Nothing forces people to condense their points better. A saleswoman once told me she needed an hour. I told her I could afford only fifteen minutes and suggested she pack her points into three five-minute stages: sales pitch, questions, and decision discussion.
When’s the last day you didn’t have a high-priority phone call, an urgent e-mail, or a stressed-out colleague begging for attention? Getting pulled off course is in every entrepreneur’s job description. I call my strategy for dealing with daily interruptions the Six Ds. When something pops up, rather than robotically just doing it, I start with the first option.