Is a 12-hour day your idea of taking it easy? Have you forgotten what your family looks like? Is it dark when you come to the club in the morning and when you go home at night?

If your answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably need to rework your schedule — before you burn out.

Mikki Williams — who coaches business and life management through her company Mikki Williams Unltd. — believes that a club operator/owner should spend six to eight hours a day in the club. Often, however, they spend 10 to 12.

If work overwhelms your life and you'd like to take control of your schedule, then get ready to learn some lessons about time management.

  • Look at the big picture and know what you want. “When you don't have a clear mission and strategy defined, it's real easy to spend your time on things that are superfluous,” says Karen Woodard, president of Premium Performance Training, a consulting company that offers a 30-day plan designed to teach time mastery.

    In order to clear up your mission and define your strategy, you must take a look at the big picture. According to Woodard, the big picture consists of relationships, spiritual, physical, financial and professional. “If you can define what you want in those areas, it's so much easier to plan your time…,” she says. “But most [operators] don't know what they want.”

    Therefore, decide what you really want and plan accordingly. For example, say you want to improve service within your club. Not only should you foster a culture in which employees are expected to interact with members, you should schedule MBWA (manage by wandering around) time, Woodard explains. Give yourself 15 minutes every day to cruise the club and give face time to members.

    “If I know what's important to me and what the priority is, then I know how to spend my time,” Woodard says.

    And speaking of priorities…

    Plan and prioritise. Clients who come to Williams to learn time management often tell her that they want to spend more time with their families, less time in work. In other words, they want more balance in their life.

    Sound like you? If so, then you need to schedule time for yourself, according to Williams.

    Once you schedule something, hold yourself accountable. List the things you want to do and follow your schedule. So caught up in your job that you can't squeeze in your own workout? Then schedule it. Write down that you will exercise as soon as you arrive in the club. And stick to that schedule.

    You'll have a better chance of sticking with the program if you keep your schedule close by. A day planner or PDA is a must for club operators serious about time management.

    “It has to be with them all the time,” Williams says. “So when they are blocking out their week or days — probably both — they need to block out the time” for themselves. Operators also need to block out and prioritize club duties: administrative tasks, meetings, and so on.

  • Change your habits. Often, managing your time better is a matter of developing new habits and changing bad ones.

    When you decide which behavior you want to change, establish goals and stick to them. Hang up signs in your office as reminders. Tell people about your new schedules. Ask them to help you remain committed. And don't give up.

    “Never deviate from the behavior until the habit is established,” Williams says.

  • Cut back on meetings. Club operators participate in too many meetings, Williams maintains. She believes meetings can be replaced with interoffice memos, email or conference calls.

    If a meeting is unavoidable, consider delegating someone else to run it (more on the “d” word later). Or if your presentence is necessary, make sure the meeting has a purpose. Tell participants in advance how long it will last and outline all the points that will be covered.

    “I can't tell you how many meetings that I go to that don't have an agenda,” Williams says. “Drives me nuts.”

  • Stand up for yourself. So you sit down in your office, start to sort through the mountain of work at your desk and — bam! — an employee or member comes barging in, anxious to talk. This probably happens to you several times a day, adding up to a colossal waste of time.

    You can cut back on these interruptions by shutting your door (if your office has one) or rearranging the office so you don't face out. You can also give an employee the role of “gatekeeper” — as in keeping people out of your office so you can get some work accomplished.

    If people still wander into your office, try standing up. It works.

    “If you're seated, they're going to come in and sit down,” Williams says. “That's a long interruption.”

    Standing up, on the other hand, sends a clear message: I'm busy. Tell me what you need and get out.

    If standing up doesn't do the trick, then politely ask the interuppting person if you can talk later. “It's OK to say ‘no’ in the following way,” Woodard says. “‘Is this something that needs to be taken care of immediately? If it is, I'll be happy to meet with you. If not, then I'm going to come and find you in 15 minutes or so.’”

  • Delegate! Does the very sight of this word make your heart race a little faster? You're not alone. As Williams points out, club executives are take-charge individuals who believe if you want something right, do it yourself. They're not the types to dish out responsibilities.

    That's too bad because the concept of delegation has evolved, and it can really save club operators time.

    “Historically, delegation was a vertical process flowing downward through a chain of command from a superior to a subordinate,” according to Williams.

    While this process certainly still exists, it's not ideal. Delegation based solely on authority creates compliance, but not necessarily performance. In other words, subordinates will do the job because they have to, but they won't feel empowered from the experience.

    Instead of vertical delegation, Williams favors horizontal delegation. The horizontal process shares work and authority. It's not about dictating assignments.

    “It combines both a formal position of authority and acceptance authority,” Williams explains. “It means everybody is sharing responsibility and authority with others, and holding themselves accountable. It doesn't look like delegation in the old model where ‘I'm the boss, therefore you do it.’ It's more like, ‘We're part of a team, and you're here to participate….’”

    This type of delegation motivates employees. So why doesn't it happen more often? Fear and impatience. As Woodard points out, the average club operator feels it's quicker to do something himself because it takes longer to explain the job to an employee.

    Doing something yourself may save time in the short term, but you'll save more time in the long term by giving the responsibility to someone else. You won't have to do it again! Just make sure you delegate by explaining the job thoroughly. Give directions and detail, and voice your expectations. Don't turn the responsibility over to someone else with a pat, “Do this.”

  • It's up to you. When Williams gives club operators advice about time management, they often tell her she doesn't understand the pressure of club management. They're wrong. A former club owner, she knows exactly what operators face. She also knows that time management is a matter of choice — either you choose to manage your time or you don't.

    In fact, time management really isn't about management at all; it's about taking control of your life. “Time management is really a cliché,” Williams says. “It's more about time mastery.”