Today’s a gift; that’s why they call it the present
Where did the day go? How often I’ve asked myself that question. What did I accomplish or cross off that endlessly self-renewing to-do list?
There are hundreds of systems and tips for time management strategies floating around business magazines and the Internet. Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with the system you’re using; perhaps your slate of responsibilities has recently intensified. Or it may be that you feel that you just fly by the seat of your pants every day, running in place. If so, here are some thought starters that may get you onto a new track of organization
What can’t you do because you don’t have time to do it? Think about it and get angry about it. When you can identify what you want to do with the time you “find,” you’ll be ready to move forward.
Substantiate your activity
Track everything you do for two weeks to a month. Write down every activity and the length of time it takes. It may help to chart it into the three busiest sections of your day, typically morning, afternoon and evening. This will include personal, business and family activities, and it may range from personal grooming, cooking and cleaning to exercise and study time and work tasks. It may be that you want to free up time during your work day or time during your personal hours. This will help identify time wasters, too, such as switching to Facebook while you work.
Evaluate the results
Do you see that you’re taking too long to do certain things? Could this be because you don’t have a realistic activity plan that assigns appropriate time limits to tasks? Can you do any task less frequently or delegate it? Consider your habits–do you procrastinate? Are you easily distracted? Do you allow interruptions or lack a suitable system for managing them?
Look at the day planner systems on the market and talk with the women within your professional and personal networks about the systems they use. Originate your own, if you like. It’s easy enough to set up a calendar with prioritized lists in a spreadsheet or word processing program. If you’re determined to train yourself to follow a new pattern, remember that it takes a minimum of 30 days to create a new habit.
What’s key is to be motivated to set limits, draw boundaries and determine when you will permit interruptions. The most powerful word in the English language is “No!” If a request for your time puts you on overload, use it. When an interrupter requests your time, politely respond that they don’t want to talk with you right now because you’re too distracted and can’t respond appropriately to their needs. How the people around you treat your time, which for entrepreneurs and freelance workers is the equivalent of money, will depend on your ability to set boundaries.
Since life doesn’t always follow a clock or a schedule, know that almost everything will take more time than you expect or think it will. If every minute of the day is scheduled, an unexpected delay or an emergency can result in a snowball-headed-downhill effect that could impact your clients, co-workers and even family schedules. Build in a cushion by planning only 45 minutes of every hour and allow at least three hours each week for something unforeseen.
Get it in writing
Every expert in business planning and goal setting is clear: you need to know what is important for you to do and how much time it will take to do it. Clarifying activities, goals, time required for each and then developing time lines for accomplishing each one can be the important first step toward achieving effective time management.
When goals are identified, determine what is urgent–a task that must be done because of an immediate or planned deadline–and what is important, an activity that relates to your business plan and priorities. Keep social and business functions separate, although it is possible that they may overlap to some extent, particularly if your business network allows you to build friendships across your industry. Both can be scheduled and prioritized, but make sure you don’t procrastinate the items relegated to the “urgent” column. Allow adequate time for both. And make sure that you schedule quiet time or the time you need for rest and rejuvenation.
When you have taken the time to be analytical, to discover what you do well now and what you can improve on, it’s time to celebrate. You’re not confusing activity with achievement and you’re reaching the deadlines and objectives that you have set. Keep in mind that you may need to tweak your system a little bit as you go, and remember that one of the most important keys to time management is to maintain a positive, reflective attitude that moves you forward. HLM
Sources: creativitypost.com, inc.com, sjsu.edu and the constantly evolving time-crunching systems of the writer.