Time Management Tips
As our days get busier, time seems to slip by more quickly. We seem to stress more over the little things, and wonder why there aren’t enough hours in the day. Yet, have you ever looked at how you spend your days? Have you ever really studied your time to see where all your efforts are going?
You may be surprised that you have the time after all, if you would just organize your days better, and if you were more selective in how you spent your time. The key is to make the most of your efforts by concentrating on the tasks that give you the highest pay-off in the end. Here are a few tips on how to analyze your schedule, and how to make the most of your waking hours.
The first step in the process is to see where your time goes. Select a typical week in your schedule. Then set up a chart to track the following::
- Time the activity started
- The activity
- The activity category
- Work or business—This includes time spent at work, time spent after work hours on the phone with clients, or at your computer on a project
o Work-related—This includes things such as networking events, conferences, or other tasks not a part of the job, but a part of growing your business or career.
- Home—This includes maintenance of the home, upkeep, etc.
- Family—This includes outings, events or time spent on family, such as soccer games, recitals, or parties.
- Time spent on the activity
- Value or priority of the activity
- High=Something that needs to be done, otherwise there would be serious consequences
- Medium=Something that should be done, but could be put off for a while without consequences
Low=Something that does not have to be done, but it’s
something you may want to do
Include a good sampling of early morning, evening and weekend hours as well as your work day
Look at your log with a critical eye. How do you answer the following questions:
- Where did I spend the most time?
- Did I spend the most time on high-priority tasks or trivial
- Did I have a good balance of work and family in my time?
- Did I work late into the night on high-priority tasks after
spending the day on trivial tasks?
- Did my tasks achieve my goals for the week, or did I still
find unfinished business at the end?
- Did I spend any time on tasks I enjoyed?
- What are my strengths? What can I accomplish quickly?
- Backups of computer documents, especially if you own a
- A list of all your credit cards, bank accounts, etc.,
including phone numbers for each company
- A list of emergency contact information
- Copies of investment information should you need to draw on the accounts
Once you have analyzed your time and addressed problem areas, you can come up with solutions to handle those problems. This is where some eye-opening decision making can come into play. Do you want things to stay as they are? Or do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you enjoy the tasks you spent the most time on, or would you rather be doing other things?
Some answers may require more than a scheduling change. You may discover that you need a life change or even a career change. That can happen over time, but first you need to address the present. What do you need to accomplish today and next week and next month in order to work toward a shift in priorities and tasks? Setting up an action plan and scheduling your time accordingly will help you on your way.
The Action Plan—This is set up to look ahead to the week as a whole, but it should be reviewed daily for possible changes.
- Set goals for the week
· Prioritize your goals (High, Medium, Low) or (A,B,C)
- Write down the steps needed to achieve those goals
- Work these tasks into your scheduling
- Enter your ‘fixed’ events into your calendar such as
appointments, work schedule, etc.
- Look at the High or A priority goals on your list
· Schedule time in your week to accomplish those tasks
- Look at the Medium or B priority goals—can any of these fit
into your schedule without losing family or work time?
- Do the same with the Low or C priority goals—Don’t stress if you can’t fit everything in, especially these unimportant tasks.
- Tackle the most challenging chores on your list first. We
all tend to put off the difficult or unpleasant. But by getting
it done, you rid yourself of that stress and are free to
concentrate on the easier tasks.
- Don’t schedule more than you know you’ll have time for. We
often set our sights high just so we can say we finished a job.
But is it ultimately worth it if you lost sleep, had very little
family time, and suffered from stress headaches every day?
- Preserve contingency time to handle the unexpected.
Emergencies always arise, or things may not go exactly as you
hoped or planned. By padding your time, you have time to handle
these emergencies, or if there are none, free time for those low
priority items on your list.
- Allow for time between appointments—Don’t schedule them
back-to-back. You may need travel time, or time to re-group and
collect your thoughts. You may also run into unexpected traffic
which will delay you. · Verify appointments 1-2 days
beforehand—Verify both the time and place so you don’t waste
time waiting for someone in the wrong coffee shop on the
opposite side of town.
- Take phone numbers and directions with you. You may run into an emergency and need to call the person, or they may not show up and you will have their number handy.
Goal-setting is not just a week-to-week task as this example implies. Yes, it is important in order for you to complete the day-to-day work that needs to be done. But you should always have your eye on the big picture.
Do regular reviews of your goals. What were your goals for the week or month? Did you accomplish what you wanted? Did you find your tasks took up more time than you thought? Less time?
Also look ahead. What are your goals for the next month? Will you accomplish them by finishing the tasks on your weekly lists based on past experience? What are your goals for the coming year? Do you want to learn how to write a business plan? If so, have you scheduled time for a class, as well as preparation, into your schedule? And most important, what are your goals in life? Do you plan to stay in your career forever? In your home for the rest of your life? Do your daily and weekly tasks work toward your larger goals, or against them?
A well thought out plan will help you accomplish your goals and help you work toward what you want out of life. Remember, you are in ultimate control of your destiny.
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