Time is a weird thing. Sometimes it seems like it flies by, and sometimes the afternoon’s drag. If there’s one discipline that is critical in this time we are living in, it is managing our own time. And sometimes, in our effort to fight against time, we realize that what it really comes down to is hard work and discipline. As Ira Glass recently proposed in an interview on storytelling…

Discipline and the Power of Time

Discipline and the Power of Time

(As salespeople, we may not be doing what most would call “creative work”, but we think this message from Ira Glass still applies to hard work.) Yes, you’ve just gotta fight your way through. Managing your time effectively is one way you can do that.

Why does our conception of time change?

A great role model for high-performing leaders would be our nation’s top scientists. Think of the Manhattan Project. Scientists gathered in 1939 to figure out how to create nuclear power, but in order to tackle such a complex project, they started small. They began with the goal of creating a small reaction just to prove it could be done. Then, they layered more and more efforts on top of one another and eventually succeeded. Same with putting man on the moon.

Today, theoretical physicists are working on warp drives (think Star Trek) that will catapult astronauts into the corners of the universe at faster than the speed of light. How could they possibly accomplish this monstrous task? By breaking the goals of the project down into manageable bits. One of these physicists, Dr. Harold White at NASA, says; “We tend to overestimate what we can do on short time scales, but I think we massively underestimate what we can do on longer time scales.”

There’s a lesson here for all of us.

Don’t let the ‘bigness’ of your stretch goals paralyze you. But don’t overestimate your ability to tackle lots of little things either.

Both of these mistakes cause us to be unproductive.

Setting Goals In Relation to Time

The first way to avoid this common mistake is to separate your efforts into short-term and long-term projects. Insert discipline into these routines and align your goals with the time frame.

On your shorter-term projects, set very realistic goals that you are able to accomplish within one week. Resist the temptation to pile more to-do’s on your list. Better that you run through your list by Wednesday…you can always add more. But it is de-motivating to look at a half-done list on Friday afternoon.

On your longer-term projects, break them down into chunks, and then treat those chunks the same as short-term projects. What can you tackle in a week that will get you closer to accomplishing your long-term goal? Add that to your short-term list (another reason to keep that list very realistic).

Take that insight from our nation’s best scientists, and you will find your warp drive.

How do you manage your time as a salesperson? What is the best productivity tip you’ve ever heard? Let us know in the comments below.