5 Ways to Eliminate Time Bandits

2010 | Feb 10 in Business Development , Home Page News , Management

By Erin Duckhorn,

Time is just another word for life.

Michael Gerber

Time management is a skill that a lot of us struggle with. Even with the best intentions and the latest technological gadget that is supposed to streamline your work and improve efficiency, how often have you left work planning all the things you need to do in the morning because you didn’t get to them today? Busy business owners are just that: busy!

What kind of work is keeping you busy?

At E-Myth, we make a very clear distinction between the strategic and tactical work. Strategic work is the work you do to define the results you are there to produce. Tactical work is the work you do to produce the results strategic work has defined. When you think about your day, what percentage of your time do you spend in each area? Where is the greater value for your business?

Even if you know that you need to focus on strategy, how do you carve out time in your day for strategic work when you’re just trying to stay on top of the technical work you have to do? It’s a question we hear all the time from our clients. It doesn’t matter if you’re a retail store owner, a doctor, an IT professional or a contractor; everybody, it seems, is fighting the clock.

That’s why we dedicate a whole process in our Mastery Impact! coaching program solely on time management. With the intention of freeing yourself from the technical work, in this process we take a look at how you’re spending your time to accurately determine how much of your time is spent on productive activities that directly contribute to the results you want, and how much of your time is spent unproductively. This is a  revealing process, and we usually identify areas for improvement very quickly.

Another thing we explore in our Time Management process is what we call “Time Bandits.” You know, those pesky "time stealers" and distractions that take attention away from strategic work—email, a talkative vendor, the telephone, your mother-in-law, broken office equipment… The list goes on.

Finding the discipline to eliminate Time Bandits is an important part of getting to the strategic work you need to do. Below are five Time Bandit Busters (there are 25 more in our process) that might instigate a change in how you approach time management.

5 Time Bandit Busting Tips

  1. Prioritize and Stay Focused Evaluate your daily tasks and prioritize. If nothing else gets done today, what are the one or two items that absolutely must be done? The most successful CEOs of Fortune 500 companies only focus on one or two priorities for a given day.
  2. Delegate as much as you can. Let go of the idea that nobody can do what you do the way that you do it! With the right systems in place, you can properly delegate the tactical work that keeps you from working on your business. There is critical distinction however, between delegating and abdicating, and you can read more about that here.
  3. Set and meet deadlines for yourself and your employees. Set reasonable deadlines for all jobs and stick to them. Hold yourself accountable just as you would an employee. It’s true; work expands to fill the available time so set expectations.
  4. Don’t postpone unpleasant tasks. Those “bitter pills” that you put off can come back to haunt you in so many ways. A situation may become more acute with time, not to mention the fact that it will be sitting in the back of your mind (or somebody else’s mind) becoming a distraction. It’s best to take care of important matters that are unpleasant immediately. Resolution is so much better than wasting precious time wondering “what if…”
  5. Learn to say “No.” Beware of over commitment! You are the only one who can truly protect your time. Learn the art of saying “no” politely. If this seems daunting, try this: when confronted with an opportunity, don't commit immediately. Take a moment to listen to your intuition and refer to your schedule; you may find that declining is the reasonable answer. People know you're busy, it's okay to set boundaries.

Building a successful business requires the ability to see the big picture while immersed in the details, the hundreds of decisions and activities that command your attention from minute to minute, day to day. Imagine the impact it will have if you can effectively establish priorities and focus your attention so your everyday decision-making becomes aligned with your big-picture vision. Eliminate the Time Bandits that take your focus away from the strategic work of the business and you will begin to work on your business rather than in it.

Further Reading

How to Eat an Elephant
Strategic Work: One Step at a Time
Delegation vs. Abdication
Delegate, Rejuvenate & Create

Share Your Story

Any tips you want to share with other business owners about managing time? What has worked for you? What hasn't? Post a comment and tell us about it.


  1. .Jonathan F. says:

    Fantastic ideas! I completely agree.

    Submitted Feb 11, 2010 10:23 AM

  2. .Kerri A. says:

    Thank you for the reminder, all very good tips.  I learned a helpful task prioritizing method called the ABC's.  A tasks have to be done today, B tasks are 2-3 days and C tasks need to be done in the next two weeks.  If a task has been on the C list for over 2 weeks, it needs to go into the "good ideas" folder for a later time--maybe:)!

    Submitted Feb 11, 2010 10:23 AM

  3. .Keith L. says:

    At the beginning of the year my business partner and I set short and long range Business, Professional and Personal goals - each that supports our Primary Aim and are largely focused around working on the business.  We then break down each goal into tasks.  We assign at least one tasks due each week.  By the end of the year (and sometimes earlier) we have met our annual goals and the business has grown that much closer to being a model franchise prototype!

    Since we are a software company, we actually developed a piece of software called OrgPlanner that helps us manage and break down our goals as well as sets up our org chart, positions and standard operating procedures.

    If anyone is interested, they can see it at: http://www.productivecomputing.com/solutions/orgplanner-id-116/

    Keith Larochelle, CFO

    Productive Computing, Inc.

    Submitted Feb 11, 2010 11:49 AM

  4. .Louis S. says:

    Kerri has a very good point. I use the A, B, C, D, E method taught by Brian Tracy. If you use the number system A1, A2 etc for the most important tasks first that really helps also. Another thing I learned from Jack Canfield is to plan your day before you go to bed and visualize how YOU want the day to go. Anything you put in your brain the last 45 minutes of the day your subconscious mind will work on it all night long in an effort to solve it. You end being a lot more effective the next day!

    Submitted Feb 11, 2010 12:41 PM

  5. .mark R. says:

    I use the OHIO (Only Handle It Once) method. I also make sure to delegate tasks to those who can best handle the completion of the task. In my mind it is important to get it done and out the door. I would rather be doing other things 90% of the time, like developing and renewing relationships.

    Mark R


    Submitted Feb 11, 2010 5:29 PM

  6. .Adriane S. says:

    Great information. Thanks for the insights.

    Submitted Feb 14, 2010 10:20 PM

  7. .Rana S. says:

    Very useful information. Looks simple but hard to implement consistently but if you manage to apply these simple rules you can make any day successful.

    I was really stuck in completing unpleasant tasks, but now I don't left any task incomplete because only this can mess up work and home life.



    Submitted Nov 12, 2010 5:19 PM

  8. .Petrus H. says:

    Thomas Edison said that: "Vision without execution is hallucination”. Leaders who work smart are effective planners with a focus on getting things done with the best use of their time and their resources.

    Management coach Padraig Hyland takes a humorous look at time and apparently it can be beaten.

    Watch this insightful time management video @ http://bit.ly/h8nVPL

    Submitted Jan 19, 2011 7:34 PM

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