Why a diary is your most Important business tool

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Published: 23rd February 2010
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"Your diary is like a parachute; it only works when it is open."

Your diary is where the daily magic happens. It's where you plan your time, develop your goals and decide on the direction of your day, your week and your personal life. In fact, the quiet time you spend with your diary (and a coffee) every morning is some of the most important planning time you have. So - how much quality time ARE you investing using your diary each day?

Think about it - how many times at the end of a year have you been given, or bought a diary, enthusiastically used it for a month and then pretty much forgot it? Then again, how many times have you missed a meeting, completely forgotten about a task that you set yourself or missed an important event or deadline? Diaries are crucial tools for managing the one true, non-renewable resource you have - your time.

How to get the most out of your diary

Idea 1: Get the Right Diary for You

Just visit your local bookstore, stationary shop, or look at any online diary store and your head will soon be spinning. There are so many options, so which should you choose? If all you need is a simple Day-to-a-Page diary, then your local bookshop or newsagent should be able to help you. However if you're looking for something a bit more comprehensive, like a time management planning system, there are a lot of really good options.

Whichever diary you decide on, remember that it must be easy for you to carry, have open on your desk and actually use. Some time management diary systems with ring binders and deluxe leather covers might look impressive (and cost a small fortune), but could be impractical to carry around everywhere. Choose one that suits your work and lifestyle.

Idea 2: Now... Use It!

Your diary is like a parachute... it only works when it is open! Take your diary with you to meetings and appointments. I would even suggest you take it home with you each night so you can review any appointments and activities that you could have coming up. By having your diary with you, you'll always know what is coming up and what has to be done.

Idea 3: Set time on Sunday Night to Plan the Week Ahead.

This is one of the most powerful habits you can form. Spend some quality time every Sunday night reviewing your goals and objectives for the week and the month ahead and then plan out the week ahead to ensure that you are reaching those goals.

Idea 4: "I Use an Outlook Calendar an Not a Paper Diary!"

A dilemma facing many professional people is whether to use their email calendar or a paper diary. Basically it all boils down to how much time you spend at your desk. If you spend 80% of your time at your desk then Outlook (or Lotus Notes) should be your primary calendar/diary. If you spend a lot of time in meetings and out of the office, a paper diary will probably be a better option. Unfortunately this might mean having to manage two diary systems: a paper diary and an electronic one.

The bottom line is simply this: whatever diary system you decide to use, make sure you use it. A diary or calendar that is unused is useless!

Be Flexible. Things Change.

Good time management is not, contrary to popular opinion, about cramming every second of your day full of 'stuff'. Quite the opposite! Effectively managing your time means recognising that things will go wrong. There's no two ways about it - it's rare you'll pull of an entire week where everything goes according to plan.

So don't think it's paradoxical when I say that adaptability is a key time management skill.

The Three Rules of Adaptability

Rule # 1: The most important rule of adaptability is deceptively simple - don't expect everything to go right. Do you ever feel frustration when you are delayed or when things don't turn out right? Why is that? It's because your expectations of the situation were different to the way the situation actually turned out.

Let me give you an example.

Have you ever been in a situation where you're packing up to leave on a Friday afternoon and just as you're turning off your computer your boss comes in with an urgent job?

How did it make you feel?

Was there some sense of frustration?

Now, imagine how you would have felt if you had of gone to your boss and said,

"I was thinking of heading off - is there anything you need me to do before I go?"

What's the difference between these two situations? In the first your expectation was that you were going to go home. Your mind was ready to switch off, you were out of the building, even if your body hadn't quite caught up yet.

In the second situation you expected there to be more work - you actually went and asked for it.

Our expectations of a situation completely determine how we will react to it.

If you want to be adaptable, you need to align your expectations to an outcome that serves you - that is, you must expect that all kinds of things are going to go wrong. You must also expect that you'll be able to find a solution to all of these problems and that it's not going to be the end of the world.

Rule #2: The second rule of adaptability is to leave yourself time to adapt. If you've crammed every second of your day full of stuff, you're going to find it much more difficult and stressful to move things around.

For example, if you've planned 8 back to back meetings on Tuesday, what's going to happen if on the way to an appointment the most important client you're meeting that day - the one who is from out of town and won't be back in town for months - calls you and tells you they've been delayed by an hour?

The stress of shifting things around appointments, of moving your whole day around could quite seriously cause you health problems.

However, if you know the most important thing for you to do that day is to meet that client and so you leave the afternoon entirely open - on the off chance that they are running late, that the meeting runs overtime or that the client wants to talk in a more informal setting after the meeting - then a delay of an hour isn't going to be a big deal at all.

Rule #3: The third and final rule of adaptability is to yourself as someone who is adaptable. The things you say to yourself constantly determine the person that you become.

If you find yourself often saying things like:

"You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

"I don't like change."

"I'm set in my ways."

Stop it! If you tell yourself your not adaptable, you'll behave in just that way.

To learn more about managing your time and priorities, visit www.success.net.au or go to www.paulpuckridge.com

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