Time management and using it to fuel creativity

July 19, 2021

Written by: Mark Truman

4 min

Time management and using it to fuel creativity

On 10th March 2020, I returned to my desk after humming ‘happy birthday’ twice in the toilet (for anyone unfamiliar, this was the UK government advice to avoid Coronavirus infections). 

It was 11am. That was my email checking time. I was organised.

I found an email from the CEO Gideon Carroll, addressed to the entire company:

Dear fellow employees,

As you know, the Coronavirus is causing difficulties everywhere.  We must do our best to stay healthy.  For anyone who is able, you should consider working from home. It avoids public transport and you can control your environment better. We have Zoom for group meetings.  

We will not make it mandatory to work from home, but I would like you to do so where you sensibly can. Coming into the office should be the exception. By taking sensible precautions and avoiding crowds we can maximise our chances of avoiding it. 

Many thanks,

Gideon

Always ahead of the game, Gideon saw what was coming. 6 days later, PM Boris (seemingly always behind the game), scraps birthday party hand washes and announces a nation-wide lockdown.

It’s been just over a year. This morning, I finally sat down and decided to get organised.

Seeing as we haven’t actually had a physical office for the best part of nine months it seems weird that I’m doing this no. With the kids at home, not at home, then at home again there was a real lack of consistency.

The importance of being organised and managing time is proven fact. Don’t believe me? Check out the 3.2m results on Google and take your pick.

We all have our to-do lists. Some are well prioritised, others are...messy. Mine is often the latter. Sitting down and working out how I am going to manage my time (and reading conflicting best practice on how to do this), one thing stood out.

Give yourself time to think.

Thinking time has generally become scarce. Okay, many of us have been stuck at home and forced into just wandering around parks if we want to go out. But in fuel retail, most have been working, so we will put this to one side for now.

The crux of it is that without time to think, you could be leaving some money on the table or making errors that are costing your business. There is more information available than ever before and the human brain can only process so much of it.

Blocking out weekly or even daily thinking time leads to better digestion of this information that influences decision-making and can lead to new ideas that will benefit your business.

Need more evidence? Warren Buffet claims to have spent 80% of his career just thinking. Former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has two hours of scheduled thinking time per day. Even before they made it big, they were not as busy as us. 

They were not successful in spite of this down time, they were successful because of it.

That’s to say it is the only way to do it. 

Jeff Immelts (former General Electric CEO) worked 100 hour weeks for his whole career. In the fuel industry Gerald Ronson is famed for his work ethic and has built a fantastic fuel business with Rontec; I can’t comment on whether they also spend time thinking.

From the retailers I speak to, fuel can be a very reactive business where a lot of time is spent dealing with issues or opportunities that just cannot wait. I know most retailers spend 30-60 minutes setting prices (depending on the number of stations). Fuel needs to be ordered on time. These are not excuses, but reasons. 

And this is why getting this time to think is so important!

So, after spending some time thinking about stuff, I looked up the best practice for spending time to think. And now I am going to share it with you:

  1. Schedule your day as best you can and put time in just to think. If something comes up, reschedule that time.
  2. Note down anything worth thinking about so you can pick it up in that time.
  3. Spend time outside the office (even if your office is home) during work hours.
  4. Set meeting agendas - no agenda, no meeting.
  5. Prioritise your to-do list.
  6. Don’t be afraid to stimulate yourself - you can draw inspiration from anything.

Abraham Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

You can now take some time to think about that...and everything else.

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