Time management has long been my obsession. It’s really a euphemism for self-management and the end-all and be-all of productivity. (The Entrepreneurial Operating System [EOS] is, at its essence, a self-management program for companies.) One major time management tactic is time blocking.
Recently, I was reminded of this when reading Gary Keller’s “everywhere bestseller”, titled The ONE Thing. Keller is the entrepreneur behind the meteoric rise of the Keller Williams real estate empire, and in his blockbuster book he shares his time management philosophy.
Block Out Your Calendar
Essentially, Keller puts forward a process like EOS, by advocating the setting of a mission and a medium term vision which he then breaks down to annual, quarterly and weekly goals. Ultimately, he asks you to identify your most important activity, “The ONE Thing”, that is the critical ingredient to your success, and block time in your calendar each day to work on it. If you are Stephen King, this will be writing, if you are a brain surgeon: operating, if you are a salesperson: prospecting, etc. He suggests time blocking at least four hours a day for your ONE Thing activity and building a wall around it. Use the rest of your time for your day job, your family, health and all the mundane errands of your life.
Keller’s logic is unassailable, but squeezing four hours of productivity out of an already full day will be a major challenge for most. Especially for an employee who is expected to be available and account for their time, or even for a hired-hand CEO, who has not yet achieved demi-god status. But the principle is readily executable for entrepreneurs: four hours or more is the ultimate goal, but it is worth starting with two hours a day, or even ninety minutes. (Anything less will not make enough of a difference to start the dominoes falling and trigger a self-reinforcing momentum.)
I personally experienced the fruits of time blocking when running my first business in my late thirties. I would get up at 4:30 am, shower, yoga, read for sixty minutes and work two hours on my newsletters, direct mail pieces and promotional talks. When hitting the office at 9:00 am, I already had the most important part of my day accomplished giving me a tremendous boost of energy and self-confidence. The rest of the day was all about meeting with clients and prospects, mentoring colleagues, troubleshooting and removing obstacles to help my team be more productive.
Where to Make Time for Your One Thing
To kickstart the process, most people can create two productive hours in the morning through eliminating two wasteful evening hours by unplugging the TV, deleting social media and news apps from their phones and ordering food instead of burning time grocery shopping, cooking and stacking dishwashers. Later on, some of the lost relaxation time can be recouped by eliminating or clustering non-essential tasks during the workday.
Delivering two focused hours of high value-add activity will give you the reputation and flexibility for cutting off non-essential tasks and setting expectations with your team on how they should communicate with you time-effectively.
Keller quotes Jerry Seinfeld, who apparently uses a month-at-a-glance calendar to hold himself accountable to working on his ONE Thing, which is creating jokes. Each day after having done his hours, he puts a giant X across his calendar. Over time this creates a chain of crossed-out days and builds his motivation to “not break the chain” and maintain his success habit.
Block time every day for your “ONE Thing that would make everything else easier or unnecessary”. Start with two hours a day and protect that time like a meeting with a flaming-hot prospect. If your business runs on EOS, use your blocked hours to accomplish your Rocks. Stick with this system for 60 days and you will never look back.