Iain and his wife Sheila bought a Scottish country house hotel in 2005. The family put everything they had on the line with the bank to make it happen. But it was the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition for Iain. Naturally Iain through himself into the business, a short while later Sheila had their first child, a boy called Donald.
The business did well but was held back by losses incurred during the quiet months for hotel trade. The peak summer and Christmas periods were a race to make enough to sustain them through the long dark winters. Iain was fully committed to the business, ensuring quality and service standards meant he needed to be in the business constantly. In the first nine years of the business Iain did not spend 1 single Christmas day with his son, nor attend a single school sports day. Iain’s father stepped in to help and it was he that taught Donald to ride his bike, not Iain. It was he that took Donald to football training and matches, not Iain.
Time or more accurately the choices we all make about time, present one of the most common challenges for business owners and leaders.
It’s also one of the areas where there is an overwhelming array of advice, tools and techniques which promise a quick fix. These rarely make much of a difference and none seem to work sustainably.
I have therefore written an in-depth article which takes you through a 3 step process which helps you make much better “Time Choices”, and 7 steps which help you really make this happen.
We need to be up-front and say that time choices are often habitual, that is, choices we make without using conscious thought. As such it can be extremely difficult to identify, isolate and change these decision making processes. There are some great insights into this area in the very readable book; “The Power of Habit – Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”, by Charles Duhigg.
Firstly, let’s be clear. There is no such thing as time management. There is only self-management. We all have the same time. It’s what we decide to do with it that matters.
But we perceive time very differently in the short versus the long-term. Time has a “Goldilocks” zone. We feel right now in the short term we just don’t have enough time. But in the long term we feel everything will be fine, there’s more than enough time to get all those important things done.
The truth is we will have exactly the same amount of time in the future and if we continue to make time choices the same we will have just the same frustration of no time. For many business owners this is an issues which has been present for many years before they finally confront, and win back control over their time choices.
The outside world throws work at you every day. The amount of ‘stuff’ clamouring for your attention is growing every day. Some of it is important. Perhaps making a product or serving a customer. Some of it is not important, it is trivial. It will never stop coming.
But your time is finite, limited. I explain in this paper a simplified version of the ‘Bullet Journal’ and how to use it to structure and support making better time choices. The Bullet Journal® was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer in Brooklyn, USA. Better in that you can chose to allocate time to your important but none urgent tasks. The things that ultimately make the difference between success and business as usual, but are often put off for a future time when you will have some spare time.
If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that time will not appear on its own. But we can create a better future, where time is available for your important or strategic activities.
However, the decision making system on its own is not enough. The business owners I work with admit that they often ‘get in their own way’. Despite their best intentions they seem to derail their plans and go back to old ways despite feeling they really want to change.
These challenges come from the design of our neurology and the ability to identify and manage our emotional or limbic brain, described by as “our chimp” in the book ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Prof Steve Peters.
So alongside describing the system that has worked for many of my clients I have also included 7 things to give yourself the best possible chance of sticking to this ambition:
1. Understanding the difference between commitment and motivation
2. Create a clear plan of what we will do and when we will do it.
3. Define your goal as clearly as you can.
4. Set out a series of milestones for the process.
5. Create accountability by involving others.
6. Allocate a reward to each milestone.
7. Prepare for the inevitable blips and what you will do next.
These give you the best chance of making the change you want. On their own they often seem trivial or childish. Combined they can powerfully support you in making change happen in any aspect of your business or life.
So if this outline sounds like it would be useful for you in your business click here to download the full paper and do let me know if you have any ideas or experiences to make this even better.
And Iain? Iain spent time consistently during the year after I met him to recruit and develop three senior managers into the business. They were young, ambitious and soaked up Iain’s passion for the business. Together the three of them covered the Christmas period so that everyone spent time with their families. Iain also allocated more time to marketing and made inroads into filling his hotel business during the traditionally quiet months of the year by developing and marketing a much specialised offering. The business for the first time in 10 years made a profit every month of the year.
That first Christmas day spent worry free with his family, but especially his father and son, took a year of hard focused effort to achieve. It felt to Iain that “A million and one things went unattended to”, but those things were, in the main, not that important, even in the hotel trade with its exacting standards of quality and service, they did not make a measurable difference.
But the satisfaction of that single day gave 10 years of effort some meaning and purpose, and saved a business and a career.