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By Frances McGuckin

So many demands on our time and so little time to get “it” all done. Have you ever wandered what It really is? In many cases, It is a monster of our own creation – “I can’t keep up with It,” or “It’s driving me crazy!” or “It’s a terrible stress (or mess)!”

In our businesses, It can indeed become a terrible monster. One way to tame It is to take control of It, because usually, lack of time is our worst enemy and the creator of the It monster. Last month, time-mapping was discussed, a plan that really works if you make time to learn the technique. The one key factor in good planning is focusing. To get a job done and to allow yourself that important quality time, here are some tips:

Telephone calls: Plan to make telephone calls each day to stay connected with clients and suppliers. We are losing touch and are becoming a disconnected society by overusing e-mail. However, control the telephone so it doesn’t become a major “time-muncher”.


During “focus or planning” time, put the telephone onto voice-mail. If you are expecting important calls, screen them by putting the voice-mail onto two rings.

$ Leave a message on your voice-mail saying you will return calls within two hours.
If someone calls to chat at an inconvenient time, politely inform them you are working to a deadline and ask if you could return the call later.
Don’t give clients your cell number unless it’s an emergency. It’s not safe to drive and chat. Use driving time to think instead of talk.

Lunches/”doing coffee”: Lunches are important for networking and establishing relationships, but guard your time against “doing coffee” or extended lunches for frivolous reasons. Often, people want to “do coffee or lunch” to pick your brain to their advantage, not yours.

$ Be selfish and ask yourself WIIFM? (What’s in It for me?)
$ If you are time-starved and there’s NIIFY (nothing in It for you), graciously decline until you do have the time.
Rather than meeting for coffee then wasting time getting down to business, ask the person to e-mail you their questions (or vica-versa) so you can have answers ready.

Delegating: List the jobs you are responsible for, then highlight the “time-munchers” and wasters. Where ever you are not utilizing your talents to the best of your ability means wasted time and talent. Delegate jobs such as mailing, shipping or filing. If you are a small business with no or few employees, perhaps you could utilize the services of subcontractors, casual labour, or even a new cyber-service, “virtual office assistants”, who can prepare much of your paperwork and ease the load through cyberspace.

A cluttered desk and office equals a cluttered mind, so here’s some tips to de-clutter both.
Files: You should be able to find any piece of paper within 20 seconds. Systemize your files:

$ Use different coloured hanging files and file folders for different aspects of your job
$ Keep a file holder on your desk with files you will be working with in that week
$ Keep a weekly follow-up file and review it each day during your “planning” time
Each time you pick up a messy file, quickly clean it out before you put it away. You’ll never get around to cleaning out all your filing cabinets at one, so do it progressively, taking a small chunk at a time.

E-mail: The curse of business – It is information overload. The e-mail It drives most people crazy, between having to answer It, delete It, sort It or download It. Here’s some tips to better control It.

Turn off the e-mail notification sign and sound. Unless you are awaiting urgent correspondence, only check e-mail at scheduled times during the day.
$ Set up in-box folders for different departments or topics, and through your e-mail rules, direct e-mail to these folders.
$ Print out e-mails requiring action, note the action, move into an e-mail folder or delete.
$ Set up your e-mail so that it doesn’t open automatically, delete anything that is junk mail.
Set up e-mail rules and filters to minimize the junk mail. If you use Outlook Express, you can set rules for certain words, phrases or senders to better deal with the e-mail. If you instruct the rules to filter out spam, be careful which words you put into the rules to delete, because sometimes, if you don’t phrase the words correctly, the wrong e-mails may get deleted. Contact your Web page server, as many of them offer a self-serve filtering service.

These are just some small tips to make It easier for you to cope with It all. We all face different stresses and cope with them differently. Being better organized and utilizing your time efficiently will help to make the It monster a more controllable beast.

Frances McGuckin is an award-winning motivational and business speaker, consultant and author of the best-selling Business for Beginners and Big Ideas for Growing Your Small Business (McGraw-Hill Ryerson). She can be reached at (604) 530-3601 or

This column is available for syndication. For information, contact Frances McGuckin at

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