Everyone has twenty four hours each day for a lifetime. Time is constant, yet we are not. We consistently ask ourselves “Where did the time go?”
How each of us manages our time is a reflection of our personality type, our lifestyle, our beliefs, our abilities, our expectations, and the expectations and demands placed upon us by others. What can we do to help ourselves make better use of our time? There are many effective time management strategies. I have some to share with you.
#1. Get yourself organized. Lack of self-organization truly wastes your time. How easily can you find your car keys or house keys? Can you locate & retrieve important documents and files? Do you know where your socks are? To get organized you can start by taking an honest look at your environment to see how things are kept, where they are kept, and how easy is it to retrieve them. Do you need it or, do you want it? Does it serve a practical purpose? Does it still fit? Is it still relevant? Everything has its place. But perhaps that place is no longer with you.
#2. Focus on completing the urgent tasks first. Urgent is doing something that must be done, and it is important to you that it gets done as soon as possible. It feels like the right thing to do, and when you do it you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and maybe even relief. Prioritize urgent tasks, and don’t be afraid to ask for direction especially if it is work related.
The challenge with completing urgent tasks is that they may not be much fun, and may not be the easiest things to do. They may be unpleasant and stressful. Really now, who wants to deal with all of that?
In dealing with unpleasant and urgent tasks, it is natural to look for some type of escape, even if it is temporary. We may decide to replace the urgent task with something less stressful, and it now becomes “very important.” We convince ourselves that we feel better. Eventually we may get around to completing the urgent task, but not right now, because we are focused on doing something else. And it is very important.
In the back of our mind, this urgent and undone task is lurking around like a bad neighbour with a hedge cutter. Procrastination and avoidance are guaranteed time wasters. Benjamin Franklin once said: “You may delay, but time will not.” Here are my tried and true solutions. Do it now. Get it over with. Move on.
#3. Break down the urgent task into manageable components. It is less overwhelming and simpler to manage. First identify and acknowledge what you have to do. Ask yourself the following questions: Why you are doing it? How will you do it? When will you finish it? Write down all the parts and activities required to complete the urgent task. Separate them into smaller tasks to be completed within a specific time period. Always have the end in mind.
#4. Remove distractions. It is amazing how distractions can become so important to us, especially if they are created for us by other people. We lose focus on completing urgent tasks because we allow distractions to become daily habits or expectations. Establish your ME time and stick to it. Close your door. Hang up a sign. If possible, turn off your phone (warning: this can lead to symptoms of acute withdrawal!). Do not read, respond to or send unrelated emails. No social media or news briefs. Unplug, disconnect, and tune out.
And finally, time spent well is a life well spent. Sometimes you have to take the time to get focused on the tasks at hand. Sometimes you have to take the time to enjoy life’s important moments and important people. Sometimes you have to take the time to do absolutely nothing at all. Make your time count before your time is up.