“I just don’t know where the time went.” We hear people say that all the time. Time is just
another word for life. At the end of your life, can you imagine saying to yourself, “I wish I had more cars, boats, jewelry, clothes?” More likely you’d be thinking “I wish I’d had more TIME — time to spend with those I love, time to enjoy my life more.” Getting hold of your time can assure that you not waste a precious moment of your life. Here are 7 tips to help you manage your time-and your life better.
1.Where Does the Time Go Now?
The first step in getting hold of more time is to track what you are doing now. You will need at least a week’s worth of data to have an accurate picture. Get an 8×11 piece of lined paper and divide it into 7 columns for each day of the week and block out your waking hours on the left hand side. For that week, you will be writing down what you do with your time. Write when you begin an activity and when you finish. Most important is to be really honest. If you are sitting at your computer, working on a project and take 15 minutes out to play solitaire, write it down. If you lie in bed a ½ hour worrying before you finally get up, write it down. This is a tedious process but well worth the effort. Key word: Awareness
2. Analyze and summarize your time logs.
The next step is the moment of truth. After you have recorded for a week, sit down and look at your log. It is likely that you will be surprised. Develop a key for categorizing your activities, and mark the log with the key and examples would be M=Marketing T=Telephone E=exercise TV=Television P=Personal and so on. Make this individualized for you. You may need as many as a dozen or more categories. Next get out the calculator and see how much time you spend in each category. Write a summary of what you find. Ask yourself, “Is this how I really want to spend my time?” Key word: Analyze
3. Create a New Daily Routine
Now is the time to get over the shock of what the log has revealed and decide what you really want to do with your time. When you look at how you are actually spending your time, does it reflect your highest values and support your life long goals? If the answer is no, this can be a turning point. You can now create a daily routine that fully supports what is most important to you.
First look at what you want to accomplish in your life. Write down your top 2 work and personal goals and under them, list the activities that support their accomplishment. It is best to start off simple here. If you could only work toward three or four goals each day, what would they be?
What two or three actions would you take toward attaining those outcomes?
Follow the natural rhythm of how your work best. If you are a morning person, try to put your most challenging tasks in the morning. Cluster like activities together. If you must be out for a meeting across town, schedule another appointment in that area on that day. Need to spend some time initiating or answering phone calls each day? Schedule a block of time when you are not likely to be interrupted by people dropping by your work place.
Key word: Create
4. Utilize Technology
There are so many devices to help us stay organized and reminded of what we need to do. The most obvious is a calendar. Whether you use a paper or electronic version, schedule a time each day to put in tasks and reminders. If you initiate a contact with someone that must be followed up on, put it on the calendar as soon as you complete the contact. Buy a timer. Use it to break tasks down into manageable portions. Set it and forget it as you concentrate on your task at hand without keeping an eye on the clock. Set up reminders on your computer, palm pilot or telephone. Automatic reminder websites will email you with reminders about birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. A word about clocks: Don’t try to fool yourself by setting clocks incorrectly to force yourself to do certain things on time. It NEVER works. In your mind, you know you have changed the time, and it only serves to muddle the issue. Key word: Automate
5. Don’t Procrastinate
This is one of the biggest problems that people with time issues must face. Procrastination is not a character flaw; it is a logical response to certain activities that cause some level of discomfort.
There can be a number of reasons we procrastinate. Most often it is because we don’t know how to do something or we don’t think we do it well. None of us want our flaws and weaknesses revealed to ourselves and others. The best way to prevent this painful experience is to procrastinate. In this case, education is the key.
Other times, it is because we find the task boring. This is the time to use the timer. Break the job down into manageable time blocks and then just go for it. When the timer goes off, do something more fun or rewarding, then go back to it later. Some people find that finishing the entire job with a reward at the end is the best way. At other times we don’t do a particular job because we don’t think it should be our job in the first place. We think someone else should be doing it.
Here we have to get honest. Is it our job, or is it something that someone else can or should be doing? Facing procrastination takes courage, but is liberating. Find the reason and usually it can be eliminated. Key word: Proactive
6. Say “No”
One of the best ways to never do what you need to do, is to always say yes to everyone else’s needs and requests. If you are afraid to say no to others and agree to everything asked of you, you are going to be overscheduled, and things will fall through the cracks. It is also likely that you will let things go and people will be upset with you. It is best to under promise and over deliver. You have heard this before, and it is a good philosophy for efficient time management.
Be up front with yourself and others about what you can easily and efficiently accomplish in a day. If you know you can’t deliver at the time they ask, let them know it isn’t possible and give a best estimate of when you think you can meet their request, or simply say no. People are much happier about a refusal today than a broken promise tomorrow.
Key word: Self
7. Nobody is Perfect
Let’s say you get a fabulous schedule. It reflects who you are and your goals. It separates
personal and work time and honors your deepest values….and you aren’t able to follow it 100%.
Honor yourself and the learning process and realize that we are all human and will not always be perfect. Forgive yourself lapses of any kind and resolve to do better tomorrow. If necessary, go back to your original analysis and plan and see if you were realistic in creating your schedule. Everything you do is a learning process. Key word: Perspective
Louise Abbott is a business coach and owner of Creative Resources Coaching. She teaches self employed professionals and entrepreneurs how to grow their business using proven marketing practices and business development strategies. Louise has programs for business people at all stages of business development. She is the past president of the Tucson Coaches Alliance and past president of a Tucson chapter of Business Network International.
Author: Louise Abbott