Broadly speaking, skills are abilities that you hone over time through bouts of dedicated practice. These are abilities like knowing how to create an effective powerpoint, or cooking, or multi-tasking. Time management skills follow the same rule, only they’re used to maximise your productive hours. This guide will take a deep look into a set of three skills that go a long way towards better productivity, and more free time. We’ll be explaining what each of them are, why they matter, and then move onto concrete ways you can add them to your own roster of abilities.
The 3 Must-Have Skills for Time Management
- Critical thinking
Skill #1 – foresight
What is foresight?
Foresight is your ability to envision the path to a certain goal and factor in any number of changes to a plan. It means walking yourself through the shortest path to victory and anticipating complications that might hinder you. Anyone can dream of becoming a successful tradie business owner, but the ones who make it knew how to trace the steps to get there: from their business plan to contingencies.
Why does Foresight Matter?
Foresight is critical to time management because every outcome you prepare for is a situation you won’t have to waste time outsmarting in the future. Time management is all about keeping a steady rhythm in everything that you do, and nothing breaks momentum faster than having to scramble for a solution. Conversely, a failure to look ahead often leads to more pressure, less time to think, and sloppy mistakes.
How do I learn foresight?
There are three steps in order for you to improve your foresight.
First, be thorough when planning. Set a clear goal, and exhaustively detail your path towards said goal. Ask the obvious questions, like “Where do I start?” and ”How can I break this goal into smaller objectives?” Then, move on to anticipation: “What could go wrong along the way?” and “What major changes in my industry are on the horizon?”. These questions lead to answers that you wouldn’t have drawn otherwise.
The second step is to ask for advice. Don’t limit yourself to your own perspectives, but seek out others. Avoid the feedback loop: situations where you base your decisions on what you think, without having the chance to entertain alternatives.
Thirdly, use what you’ve learned from past experiences. If you’ve been running your business for a while, then you’re bound to have encountered plenty of situations that repeat themselves in some way or another. Recall why they popped up and how you solved them in the past, and apply those insights to your planning.
Skill #2 – adaption
What is adaptation?
Adaptation is a skill that revolves around learning on the fly, and basing future decisions on past experiences. It often involves building on top of challenges rather than forgetting about them once they’ve been resolved.
Why does adaptation matter?
Tackling repetitive problems is a big waste of time for you, and for your employees. You can blame circumstance all you want, but until you graduate from slapping band-aids onto your problems and instead build solutions that last, you’re just as much at fault. Adaptation is a skill that demands full measures. Without it, the roots of your problems will continue to dig into your business, and you’ll continue to pour resources into a hole that won’t ever plug itself.
How do I learn adaptation?
Teaching yourself to be adaptive is a matter of mindfulness. For every challenge or obstacle that you manage to overcome, note the solutions that worked. Train yourself to recall the processes you’ve gone through: from identifying a problem to implementing a solution. These episodic memories prime you for more creative thinking, and will often lead you to realise that certain challenges you’ve faced in the past share similar answers with the ones you face in the present.
For example, at a glance, enforcing employee punctuality and encouraging them to pitch suggestions during staff meetings are two different beasts altogether. Yet they both rely on a common mechanic: appealing to your employees’ motivations. If a half-month bonus for punctuality worked to keep your staff members arriving on time, perhaps a practical incentive might spur them to take more initiative in addressing problems around the shop. Adaptation is also a matter of targeted problem-solving. Simply put, don’t stop at mopping the floor–plug the leak that caused the damned mess in the first place. The only way to stop a problem from persisting is to address its main cause, and you’d be surprised how often people are content to just buckle down and deal with recurring time-wasters. Now, we know that some problems aren’t as easy to solve as plugging a hole, and there are factors beyond anyone’s control (like preventing customers from cancelling appointments). In cases where you can’t prevent a problem from happening, come up with a set of protocols that let your employees handle it like clockwork. If you can’t find a way to eliminate a problem, the next best thing is to sustain your momentum.
Skill #3 – Critical thinking
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to put new and existing ideas and practices to the test, and see if they truly work well for your business. It means holding no sacred cows, and having the inner strength to let go of familiar things that, in reality, hold you back. Critical thinking forces you to be creative, and to constantly think of new ways by which you and your business can improve.
Why does critical thinking matter?
The worst time management problems come from practices and ideas that we love to keep. These can be comfortable routines, or policies that sound great only on paper. Critical thinking lends you the sense to spot when a great idea sucks, and the will to act on that knowledge. It’s a keen awareness of the timeless saying, “Complacency kills.”
Likewise, critical thought tempers your excitement when you’re hanging on to what feels like a great idea, and forces you to take a second, closer look. All told, you waste less time on poor policies that exist, and save yourself the trouble of having to clean up mistakes that would never have passed a diligent screening period.
How do I learn critical thinking?
Learn to take the “Really? Test”. Whenever you’re tasked with evaluating the worth of an idea, pitch an idea to yourself in the dumbest terms possible and ask yourself if you really think it’ll get you the results you’re after. “Do I really think that spending a hundred dollars a year on a digital storage locker will help my business grow?” “Do I really want to hire another electrician, instead of spending more time training the ones I’ve already got?” It might sound like you’re priming yourself to shoot down every policy or idea you could come up with, but when an idea is sound, it passes the test. “Why not? I’m losing about that much because of missing files around the office, and my staff members are all tech nerds anyway.” “Yeah, I do. No matter how hard I train them, they’re bound to be stretched thin.” This kind of exercise prompts you to defend your own ideas. If any of them can withstand your own close scrutiny, then they’re solutions you can trust. Whatever the case, never let your business run a particular way without asking yourself, “Really?”
The time management skill set is bound to do wonders for you, the people in your life you’ve been neglecting, and the business that’s been eating away at your free hours. It’ll save you time and money, all for the cost of a little effort and mindfulness. If you’re committed to keeping the lights on at your tradie business, hone these skills and learn as much as you can along the way.