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Make Time Work for You

By Dan Coughlin
Posted: March 2, 2007, from the March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Julie, a 39-year-old executive for a large corporation, told me she desperately wanted to improve her work/life balance and her results at work. She had two children at home and her husband worked an equally time-consuming job. She was constantly working or taking care of her family. Her business results were not improving, her career was stalling and she wanted to see her children more.
        I said, “Julie, you need to do some things just for yourself, to recharge your batteries. If you don’t, you may very well burn out and that won’t help your company, your career or your family.”
        She looked at me and said, “And exactly when am I going to have time to do that?”
        Does any of this sound familiar?

Get the time
        Here are seven actions to improve your most important business outcomes, accelerate your career and have a life.

       See the business upside of downtime. People often say that they get their best ideas while in the shower. That’s because they stop doing everything for a moment and give their brains a chance to relax. By going on vacations, getting home early and watching your kids play soccer, you actually can gain ideas on how to improve your business results. It seems paradoxical, but when you buy into this concept, you will stop doing so much and achieve even better business results.

       Schedule thinking time. Since ideas come to you when you get away from work activities, schedule one hour a week simply to think. Find a space away from your home, office, employees and customers. Go there for one hour a week. Take out a blank sheet of paper, write down the most important desired business outcome for your organization and turn that outcome into an open-ended question. If the goal is to increase sales by 10%, for example, the question might be, “How can we increase sales to our current clients by 10%?” Then answer that question with as many ideas as you can think of for 45 minutes. Finally, select your best idea and spend the final 15 minutes building your action plan. That one hour can make the rest of your working hours far more productive. It can allow you to work a lot less and achieve a lot more.

       Say “No.” One of my all-time favorite advertisements is a BMW ad that simply said, “No” in large letters. In the small print it basically said BMW says no to a lot of good ideas so it can say yes to a few great ideas. This is tremendous advice.
        How many good ideas are you acting on? Notice I didn’t say, “How many good ideas are you considering?” It’s healthy to consider a lot of ideas. It’s like sifting through sand to find gold. You have to go through a lot of sand to find the gold, but you don’t run to the marketplace with sand in your hand and get excited. You keep sifting until you find the gold. Keep generating ideas and keep sifting through them until you find the one to three great ideas you will act on.
        Don’t try to create more than three great ideas because before you know it, you’ve turned gold into sand. Trying to produce too many ideas at once is a surefire way to generate mediocre results.