Are You Managing Your Time or Is It Managing You?
It’s amazing how much some people manage to get done, while others seem to be stuck in a rut without enough time in the day to accomplish much of anything. But, here’s the secret (which is no secret at all): everyone has the same amount of time in every single day. It’s one way in which we are all created equal. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.
Where we are unequal is in the resources we have at our disposal and our abilities to deploy those resources. When people tell me that I have as much time as Oprah or the President (as if that’s supposed to make me magically more productive), I tell them that’s true, but I don’t have an army of minions at my beck and call. If I had hundreds (or thousands) of people doing whatever I tell them to, I’d look like a productivity machine, too.
Here’s the thing, though. None of that matters, and none of that helps me. I have what I have and my job is to make the most of it. In order to make the most of it, though, I’ve got to take action. Same goes for you. Here are the time management tips I’d recommend.
Track Your Activities for a Week
To get a real picture of how you spend your time, try tracking everything you do for at least one week. Use a small recorder to record when you start and stop any task, and include the time. Alternatively, just use an old-fashioned pad and paper. Don’t change anything for now; just live your life as you do.
Now look at how you spent your time. Organize each thing that you did into urgent, important, family, fun, and time wasters. Some things that are fun might fall into the category of time wasting and that’s okay, because you can place limits on some things to still allow yourself to have fun without going overboard wasting time.
Assign All Important Tasks to a “To-Do” List
Everything that is urgent and important should be scheduled. Some people put To-Do’s on their calendars, some send themselves emails via services such as followupthen.com. Some urgent and important things will also be family things. Put it all into the schedule or the list. Give it the amount of time you think it will take, adding a few minutes for padding to avoid run over and missed deadlines.
Schedule Fun Time
Don’t forget to put time for fun into your schedule. Fun often goes with family and friends and it is a very important part of your life. The trick is to schedule the right amount of time and the right amount of fun, without intruding on the important and urgent tasks and activities that you also must do.
Spend Time Each Night and Morning in Planning Mode
My friend and fellow entrepreneur Pam Montgomery recommends that you spend time each evening planning for the next day. I think that’s a great idea. Take the time each evening to evaluate how your day went, decide what could have been done better, or what needs longer or shorter times to accomplish. If you do this, you will get better at creating a plan. Each morning take the time to look over your schedule to remind yourself what is coming up so you don’t forget anything. Never rely on just memory or you will almost certainly get off track.
Create a Plan of Action for Each Activity
It doesn’t matter if the plan is for family time, for business, or something else — if you create a plan of attack for each item on your to-do list, you’ll accomplish it faster with fewer problems. One of the biggest time wasters is jumping from item to item. Stick to one thing at a time until it’s done and you’ll feel as if you have a lot more time in your day.
Train Others to Respect Your Time
If you have a business, especially if you work from home, you will often find that other people seem to lack respect for your time. The real issue is that you’ve not taught people to respect your time. As Oprah (or maybe it was Dr. Phil) once said, “You teach people how to treat you.” Are you teaching people to respect your time? If not, it’s time to start doing so. My mentor Connie Ragen Green guards her most productive time each day and doesn’t let anything interfere with her work.
Never underestimate the power of delegation for getting more time in your day. A good assistant can almost double your time. So while you can’t actually get more time, you can get more done by delegating to an assistant. You can create a situation where you duplicate yourself by hiring an assistant or outsourcing some mundane tasks such as housework or lawn care. There is no such thing as a successful CEO who doesn’t delegate.
Finally, it’s important to always be realistic about what can really be accomplished in any given amount of time. No matter how much you want to be, you’re not superman or superwoman—you’re just a human who is doing their best to manage the resources they have. If you’ve done your best and something doesn’t get done today, move it to tomorrow. As you get better at scheduling, you’ll get it down to a science on how long it really takes you to do any particular task and you’ll have fewer days where you don’t succeed.
I’d love to hear more about your best time management tips. Feel free to leave a comment below.