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Master Time Management with One Question

Time management advice is found in great abundance on the Internet. You can determine how to schedule your day, how to set your priorities, how to delegate, and how to tackle your to-do list. As a service business owner, you face an enormous number of tasks and responsibilities each and every day. What I've come to realize in my years of self-employment that my most valuable asset isn't my contact database or my marketing materials or my business plan.

It's my time. Most entrepreneurs are time-starved. It seems everyone wants a piece of you -- your clients, your family, your prospective customers, your friends, your employees or subcontractors. For most service business owners, there always seems to be too much stuff to fit into too little day. The most valuable time management question that time-starved entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before agreeing to do something is, "How will this serve me?" A business coaching colleague asks the same question a little differently, "Is what I'm about to do going to increase the confusion/complexity in my life?" That's it -- pretty simple, isn't it? So, before I'm about to embark on joining a new organization or committee, or before I'm about to think of another sideline path for my business, I just ask myself this one simple question.

The answer leads me to my next step. Now, a word of caution here---don't get caught in the "but crack". If your answer is, "Well, yes, it'll be good for my business but it's.", you've just fallen into the "but crack", which means that you've negated everything that came before the "but" in your thinking.

If there's a "but" attached to your sentence, more than likely what you really need to do is the opposite of what you're saying. So, in the example above, "Well, yes, it'll serve my business well but it's going to take the next 8 weekends to pull it off," it may not be the great opportunity you think if you already are concerned about the havoc it might bring to your life. What if you're unsure of how this opportunity/task/chance will serve you? How do you make that determination? I borrow a page from life coach Cheryl Richardson's book, Take Time for Your Life, and create what she refers to as an "Absolute Yes List.

" This is your list of the top 5 priorities in your life. For most of us that would include spouse/significant other, family, work or business, hobby, volunteer effort, and yourself. You did remember to include yourself, didn't you? Remember, your time is your most valuable asset. If you don't create time for yourself and make that your #1 priority, I will guarantee you that no one else will do that for you.

When I used to deliver my work/life balance speech to various women's professional organizations, I would have the participants create their "absolute yes" list and then take a survey of hands to see how many had included themselves on the list. Typically less than one-third of any group put themselves on their list, and less than 5% of that number listed themselves first. If what you're considering doesn't fit on your "absolute yes" list, then it's an "absolute no." If it does match your top 5 priorities, then give it the, "How will this serve me?" test.

Creating your list of your top 5 priorities and applying the "how will it serve me" question are the two best tools at your disposal as a service based business owner to regain control of your most valuable asset -- your time. Copyright (c) 2007 Donna Gunter.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at

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