The two most precious commodities you have are time and money. You can always make more money, but you can’t manufacture more time. The increased workload brought on by advances in technology makes the efficient and productive use of time more critical in our fast-paced world. There are dozens of plans and programs and yet we still can’t seem to get a handle on time management. It is a skill that everyone can learn to manage ourselves and what we do with our time. Everyone is given the exact same 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. Here’s how to make the most of it.
1. Acknowledge the Problem
We have more demands on our limited time than ever before. The very first step is to acknowledge your issues with time management. Become aware that there is a problem and then decide that you want to solve it. Time management is really self-management. The objective is to change your time wasting behavior patterns to be more efficient, productive and most importantly, less stressed. Without this awareness and commitment to improve self-management, nothing will change.
2. STOP and Assess
It’s critical to STOP and carve out some time to assess your situation. At this stage you need to ask some hard questions, “Am I working 25/8 and what is the purpose of all of this busyness? What am I doing and why am I doing it? What’s the payoff? Am I chasing after things that are not in alignment with my core values? Am I letting other things creep in that distracts me from what I really want? What am I doing with all that free time that technology promised me? Am I working as smart as you could be?” The hardest part is to stop, think, reflect and take stock of you current predicament.
3. Clarify Your Goals
You must have a crystal clear vision of what you really want out of life. At this stage you need to clearly and specifically define your long-term, intermediate-term and short-term goals in your personal, professional and play life. Your written goals must be in alignment with your values, interests, personality traits and skills. What you will discover from this assessment is that there is a gap between where you want to be ideally and your current reality.
4. Identify Time Sucks
Distractions can steal time from us. These can include interruptions, perfectionism, frequent email checking, social media, phone calls, visitors, procrastination, crisis management, worry, TV and unplanned meetings. Begin by creating a list of your top time bandits in order of magnitude. Next, track and write down your all daily activities and for two solid weeks. Estimate how much time you spend on each. List the key activities of your life such as sleeping, eating, parenting, working, commuting, household duties, running errands, leisure time, studying, cooking, exercising, socializing, volunteering and cooking. This detailed list creates an accurate and clearer picture of how you are actually spending time. Start to ask yourself more questions like, “What is the total number of hours I spend on worthwhile activities compared to less meaningful activities?”
5. Say “No” to All Non-Priorities
STOP and think first about your other goals and priorities before you impulsively say “Yes!” You can say things like, “Not at this time. I would love to, but my plate is full. I’m going to pass on it for this year. I’d like to think about it before I make a commitment. This isn’t the right time, but thank you for asking.” Figure out where you have free time before you make any additional commitments. Ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time?” and “Is what I am doing worthy of my time?”
6. Spend Time Planning and Organizing
The more effort you put into planning to complete a task, the more time you will have to actually complete it and be successful. Set some time management goals. Come up with a strategy to minimize or eliminate your time bandits. Start the beginning of the month off fresh by deciding that you will eliminate just one time waster per week. For example, you decide not to take personal phone calls during work and then you train people to only call you at night or on the weekends. The next week you commit to cut in half the number of times you check and respond to email. The next week you decide to not renew your subscription to three magazines that you don’t have time to read. The next week clean out or redo your file management system.
7. Plan Your Work Flow
Are you managing your workflow in the most efficient manner? Everyone functions at different performance levels throughout the day. It’s important to be clear on what time of the day you are fresh and the most productive and also when you are drained and the least productive. We can use this information to organize and find the right time to do our work. Important work/tasks should be scheduled when you are the most energized. Routine or mundane work/tasks should be scheduled when you are less energized. Determine what is the most productive time of the day to do your best work. If it’s morning, then swap an hour at bedtime for an earlier wake up time. Getting into a bedtime routine will maximize your rest and productivity. Consider getting up an hour earlier to exercise and get centered for the day. Reward yourself and celebrate when you accomplish a task, project or activity even when it seems small. If you take care of the incremental, the monumental will take care of itself.