Time. It seems that there is never enough and what time we do have appears to be just washing away. If only we could have more time. Question is, would more time really matter? Would we really get more accomplished? Or would it just be more time to waste wishing we had more time? No matter how you look at it, time is the same year after year, month after month, day after day. So if time remains constant, why does it always seem to be moving away from us at break neck speeds? The answer is that we simply fail at time management.
Time management is often associated with being organized, yet being organized does not necessarily mean that you have a grasp of time management. For example, how many times have you started your day with a “to do list” and still did not get everything accomplished. Some would say that there are unforeseeable events that occur and get in the way of completing that day’s tasks. While that may sometimes be the case, it generally is more the result of poor time management than being disorganized. Advances in technology can help keep us organized but they can not hold us accountable for time. The solution therefore is to not only be organized, but to purposely and constructively plan that organization. Some of these tips may be something you have already heard, already knew, or perhaps even currently employ. My feeling however is that if you have read this far, time management is something you are struggling with.
Step #1 – If you do not already have a method of keeping track of your everyday tasks (PDAs, desk calendars, schedule books, etc.) start using one today. Research has consistently shown that those who write down their daily tasks and goals are more than 90% likely to accomplish them. Even a simple piece of paper and pen will work. Whatever is easiest, most convenient, and most comfortable for you to use is what is most important.
Step #2 – PRIORITIZE. It may sound very cache’, but most people spend inordinate amounts of time working on tasks that are really not that important or that are not in sync with their desired outcomes. The tasks or goals that are most important should take precedence over all others first. From there, determine the things that are not as equally important, but have to get done or accomplished to fill in the gaps.
Step #3 – In addition to prioritizing, you should also work through tasks one at a time. Skipping around or completing tasks half way and you will quickly find yourself losing time and getting nothing accomplished. Keep the focus shifted on doing the necessary and not on the “what ifs”.
Step #4 – Account for time wisely. In our present day and age, it is very common to spread ourselves thin, trying to do too many things, be too many places, see too many people, to the point where we can drive ourselves insane. Build time into your daily schedule for things such as travel to and from appointments, meal breaks (can not properly manage time on an empty stomach), phone calls, etc. Avoid over scheduling and give yourself a chance to attack your tasks with the same vigor and energy as the one before.
Step #5 – Always allow time for your personal agenda. It is sad but we will spend more time on things that in the general scheme of life are not really important and less time on the things that should really matter most to us – ourselves, family, and friends. Personal time is vital not only to your mental well being, but to your long term health and prosperity. My personal favorite is exercise. Everybody says that they just do not have the time. I say to them that you can not afford NOT to exercise. It has to be built into your schedule and it should not be something that gets fit in if time allows. There is always time when it is a priority (see Step #2) and it SHOULD be a priority.
Step #6 – Take a deep breath and relax. We worry so much about time that we probably spend too much worrying about where it is going. If you continue to find yourself struggling with time management, perhaps you need to sit back and take a good look at where you are, where you are going, and where you want to be. Grinding it out day in and day out can and will get in the way of your goals and dreams if you allow it. We can all be found guilty of complacency and sticking to our routine on a daily basis even if it is not where we really want to be. It is just what we do and that can be a complete waste of time.
Featured in November 2005 Issue of 422 Business Advisor