Not too long ago an executive client of mine, a business owner, was lamenting she simply had too much to do in the amount of time she had to do it in. She was working 10 hour days, five days a week and a few hours most Saturday mornings. She said she didn’t mind putting in the hours, but she just couldn’t figure out a way to come up with more time to get at all the important issues she had to deal with. I tried to give her the “we all have the same amount of time” story, but before I could finish, her eyes began to roll and her body language shouted “yeah, I’ve heard that one before; now tell me something I don’t already know.” So I quickly ended my story without the gravity punch line (I’ll write more about gravity issues in future e-zines) and got right to the point.

“Look,” I said, “you need to do something differently if you’re going to get out of this vicious time cycle. Do you agree?” “Yes,” she said, “but I’m not about to be locked into a PDA, wrestle with learning some “wizy” personal planning software or take a course on time management. I don’t have the time! I really know what I need to do, I just need a way to do it more effectively.”

“Well then,” I said, “I really think you have the seeds to your own solution. If you’ll agree to try a couple very simple techniques that won’t add any time to your day, I believe you can make your day 10-25% more effective.” She agreed, and here are those very simple techniques:

The Mirror Technique

Print this question on a small piece of paper:

“What can I do differently today to add value to my business?”

Now tape it to your bathroom mirror or maybe to the corner of your computer monitor if that’s where you start your day. As you look into your mirror or monitor each and every morning, ask yourself this simple question, formulate an action step or two (even if it’s something you’ve thought of before but haven’t yet tried) and decide to execute at least one of these actions today. Make it something meaningful (it can be a small task as long as it’s results oriented) and make it yours (don’t delegate it). But most importantly, whether it’s easy or difficult, make it something you will do today! Adding value is what separates successful business owners from the also-rans; so add value to your business every day.

The Blue Chip Technique

Get hold of a blue chip (a plastic poker chip works just great) and place it in your pocket, purse or someplace you will come in contact with it several times per day. Each time you see or touch your blue chip ask yourself this question:

“What is the most important thing I can be doing now, for my customers and clients?”

Then quickly get to that activity, reject all current distractions and put off all activities that you really don’t need to be doing now. (Believe it or not, many of these put-offs will simply go away or be resolved by you doing nothing.) Asking yourself this question several times per day provides focus and discipline for what any business is all about — your customers. Doing something for them creates momentum for greater results and satisfaction for you — a truly virtuous cycle.

Are these techniques a bit hokey? Perhaps. But if you allow them to evolve into habits they eliminate time-consuming distractions and increase your focus on creating value for your customers. Oh, and my client: She put these techniques to work and is no longer working Saturday mornings — or Friday afternoons, either.