You have heard people say over and over again: “I don’t have time.” The fact is that every person has the same number of hours in each day and can choose what to do with those hours. According to Benjamin Franklin, time is the stuff of which life is made. If that is true, it means that time management is no more than self-management. As a result of the economic collapse of 2008, there are fewer people doing more work. Many of those who still have jobs are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks they are expected to do. Because very few can do it all, it is important to find some ways to make better choices.
Start with these simple ideas to make your life a little easier. Remember, they are simple ideas, but not necessarily easy; they will require self-discipline, just as developing any good habit does.
- Develop a set of goals and write them down. Consider short-term and long-term goals. Think about establishing goals that will help you balance the eight important areas of your life: professional, social, spiritual, financial, recreational, family, intellectual and physical. If that’s too many, use the YMCA model of mind, body and spirit. Either way, you should be thinking in terms of life balance.
- Analyze where you spend your time now. Develop a simple time log in which what you are doing over the course of two weeks is recorded. You can use the same categories from Step 1 if you like, or you can create some others. The important thing is to get an accurate picture of how you spend your time now. Where you spend your time is a direct reflection of your priorities. Are you spending your time on the tasks that will help you achieve your goals?
- Plan your day and schedule your day, again in writing. What is the difference? Planning is deciding, in advance, what you will do in a given day, week or month. Scheduling is determining when you will do it. Too many people begin their day or their week with no real idea of exactly what they want to accomplish and when. Writing it down has two great benefits. First, it creates a sense of urgency in your subconscious. Because it has been written down, you believe that it needs to be done. Second, it gives you a chance to pat yourself on the back when you cross it off the list. Are the things you are putting in your plan and schedule contributing to reaching your goals?
- Make the most of slow time. There are at least two categories of slow time. The first is when you are not at your peak performance level. Schedule easier tasks for these times, such as responding to e-mails, sorting through mail and returning phone calls. The really tough projects need to be scheduled when you are at your peak.
The second category of slow time includes waiting time. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment or commuting on the train are examples. Always have something to do: read trade journals, complete expense reports or review reports.
- Create and maintain a controlled sense of urgency. Orchestra leaders, football quarterbacks and airline pilots all have it; they aren’t in a hurry, but they are committed to everyone starting and stopping at the right time. Everyone must buy into a sense of urgency. The people with whom you work and play will sense it and take their lead from you. You are someone who is in control of your time and in control of your life.
As you learn to make better choices with your time, you achieve more control over your life. Pressure and stress can be relieved, and you may even get home on time. You’ll have time to do the things you choose to do.
James S. Bain is an author, speaker, consultant and coach. He is the founder of the Falcon Performance Institute, a consulting and corporate training firm focused on productive performance. Bain is currently anticipating his soon-to-be-published book, Never Pass on a Chance to P—A Roadmap to Success.