The time-management factors that stop us achieving our goals

Time management is at the heart of our daily lives and unless we are consistent with it, it can be difficult to achieve our goals. Valerie Delforge examines the two biggest factors that stop us:

Problem one: you feel pressurised by your to-do list
People often become stressed about their to-do list to the extent that they feel they cannot cope with it, so they feel deflated when it looks the same every week or at worst give up on it altogether. The more they look at it, the more they procrastinate because it is difficult to work out which tasks should take priority.

I read recently that a to-do list can stop creativity, and that people like Bill Gates have never had them. I have to say it was a compelling article and made me wonder if I could ever lose my to-do list. Personally, I believe that Bill Gates has an army of people next to him who are able to pick up whatever he needs to be done, and I wonder whether the people he delegates to have to-do lists! There are some minds that are able to retain everything – everyone is different – but over the years I have found that people without to-do lists do not work in a structured way. Whether you work as an individual or as part of a team, structure has a direct impact on your business. Because our industry is based on customer service, structure directly impacts the customer experience, so it deserves our attention.

To-do lists are only difficult if we don’t manage them properly. They don’t need to become a chore. Instead, try to view them as helpful tools that can be as flexible as you want them to be. Lists can be overwhelming, but learning to live with that fact will make all the difference. Understand that your to-do list will never be finished and think of it as part of you and how you function.

5 tips to manage your to-do list: 

1. Don’t update it daily That’s when it becomes discouraging; weekly will do. But cross off the tasks you have achieved as you go along.

2. Think of it as a fluid list Nothing is ever set in stone. It’s here to support your projects and act as a reminder. 

3. Be as detailed as you can This will allow you to get all your ideas down on paper, which has a big impact on your creativity. 

4. Keep your personal and work to-do lists together This will ensure you are keeping your work-life balance in line.

5. Keep your previous to-do lists Don’t delete them; they are a great way to see how much you have achieved when you look back. Little steps make a very big step in the end.

Problem two: it's difficult to manage your time killers
Time killers are so hard to manage because doing so involves changing the habits of a lifetime. It is setting the expectations of yourself but mainly of others that can be tricky.

Time killers have a way of creeping in, and unless you are strong at managing yourself they will swallow your day and you’ll feel like you have done nothing but had a cup of tea and talked to Mrs Jones about her problems. I remember days of feeling so guilty about not achieving what I wanted to do because I was stuck in a conversation with someone that could have waited.

Time management has a magical effect on your life. Try these 10 tips for at least three months and see how much time you can create for yourself.

5 tips to manage time killers:

1. Set your expectations from the start “Mrs Jones, how are you? Lovely to see you. I have five minutes right now then I have to make a call…” Of course you should still give time to Mrs Jones, you still want to be in touch with people, but you are in charge of how and when you talk to them. Remember, it’s your time.

2. Train your friends and family members It’s hard for people to understand what you need to do on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure most of my family still think I stand around looking pretty all day and have massages whenever I want. Train them to understand that you have a very demanding job and your time is precious. If you manage their expectations properly you will be more proactive.

3. My favourite phrase is: “Let me look into it and get back to you” You don’t have to do everything right this minute. You can do it when you have the time – you are in charge. But do get back to people, otherwise you will be perceived as inefficient and uncaring. I make a point of not answering people straight away in order to train them that I won’t drop everything just like that. It also allows me to think more clearly about my response.

4. Switch off every device when you start a task That includes your phone, your emails and anything that will distract you. We are not rocket scientists or brain surgeons; most things can wait for half an hour. Saying that, if you feel too stressed about switching off everything you can warn people that you will be out of action for a couple of hours and tell them only to disturb you in emergencies. You may need to train them again as to what constitutes an emergency – when a staff member disturbed me to ask what size uniform they needed to order, I listed what emergencies were: theft, bodily harm and fire. Anything else can wait.

5. Make time for your time killers Structure your day so you are focused on your tasks but also have the time to answer to your time killers. It is important that you find that balance. I used to set aside two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon to walk around the spa and ensure I spoke to everyone. In the end, this negated the need for them to come to me because I was going to them, but in my own time.

Valerie Delforge is a spa and salon business consultant and recently launched the ME tiME management programme to help managers to focus and reach their goals. Her previous roles included head of spa operations for Steiner and general manager of L’occitane UK.