How does a Dragon manage time?

How to be Smart with your Time - Duncan BannatyneBook Review

How To Be Smart With Your Time Duncan Bannatyne

This is the fourth book by Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne, a man who didn’t get serious about business until he was 30, but has since spent three decades building his care home and health club empire.

This book gives us Bannatyne’s spin on how to make the most of our time, a commodity that is allocated equally to us all, he points out, unlike money or good looks.

In the first part of the book he gives a simple but effective processes for identifying our goals in all areas of life: home, work, family, love, friends, money and passion (he takes it for granted that we all want good health). I’ve seen this process before and it really is effective. To establish a goal for each area of life is an essential starting point.

Then comes the killer bit. You take all the goals, bar one, and throw them in the bin. We can only do so much, he argues. One major goal at a time is enough.

Bannatyne runs through a lot of good stuff on how to fulfil this goal. Lots of advice that can be summarised in pithy aphorisms: innovation is expensive, so copy what works; perfectionism is the enemy of the good – second best is close to ideal; play to your strengths. The list goes on…

And that’s the end of Part 1 – you have selected a great goal and got some good advice.

Bannatyne then moves into Part 2, where he focuses on action and the efficient use of time. This is all about time management, or personal productivity. Do the important stuff first, he says like so many other time management experts, and eliminate the trivial. Be efficient and focused.

He quotes research by the Institute of Psychiatry that shows multi-tasking lowers your IQ by 10 points! I just love that, it is a great lesson to learn. In my experience multi-tasking only works at a trivial level. And, of course, you shouldn’t be spending your time on trivia in the first place.

No doubt this is a good book, but there is nothing new in it. I supposed this does not really matter because we don’t need a new system; we simply need to implement what is already available. My experience over 20 years has shown that people spend 15% of their time doing what they need to do to get what they want to get. But really successful people don’t do this. They spend 70 to 80% of their time on these high-payoff activities.

But there is more to being smart with your time that Bannatyne does not even touch on in the book. I cannot agree more that doing the important stuff is critical, as is getting rid of trivia and delegating like crazy. But we can easily go wrong because we do not identify all the high-payoff activities that we must do to achieve our goals.

Or if we do actually spot everything we have to do, too often we then only do the tasks with which we are comfortable.

We can spend 80% of our time selling, for example, but if we do not spend some time prospecting and marketing (or have someone who does it for us), we will suffer feast and famine.

So, I would like to add to Bannatyne’s premise that we must spend our time on the important stuff. We must make sure we do all the important stuff.

With this small gripe aside, I enjoyed the book and its two central messages: define your goals; be efficient and effective. Simple, yet elusive, and undoubtedly the secret of success.

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3 Responses to How does a Dragon manage time?

  1. Phil Tapsell June 15, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    Absolutely correct Mark. Nothing new but all still very relevant at a time when (I still believe) that effective / efficient use of time and focus on high pay off activities is a major barrier to SME success. Of course, you need to know what your high payoff activities are first :)

  2. Sharon Hanner June 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    How very true Phil. I remember asking Mark this question and I noted that he advised that one way of identifying the high payoff activities (HPAs) is to shift to a point where you are experiencing a business in the future that is failed/bleak/catastrophic and, with the benefit of hindsight, ask oneself ‘If only I’d….:
    I found this useful in helping to identify my HPAs. I’d be interested in learning how you and others have been able to find yours.
    Increasingly we don’t know what we don’t know. Recently I was taken by a quote attributed to John Ford that went something like “…. if I’d asked people what they wanted from me they’d have said ‘a faster horse’ …”

  3. Mark Nugent June 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Identifying HPAs can involve a bit of trial and error. I find it useful to categorise the HPAs first. For example, if I want to grow my business this year to £XK turnover, I might realise that really I have only three broad HPAs – 1. find prospects, 2. sell to them and 3. deliver product and/or service.

    I would then think of as many ways to do each of these, but then choose only one or two under each heading to try. Some will be obvious, because we do them already and they work. That’s the plan bit. Then it’s “do” and then “review” – what worked, what didn’t. Then another cycle of plan-do-review.

    You don’t have to get this 100% right, or even close. The very fact that you’ve started to think like this will put you ahead of the pack. And you know what they say – if you’re not lead dog, the view never changes!

    PS – there’s one other critical HPA – planning. Quarterly, monthly and weekly. Time spent planning is some of the most valuable time there is.

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