The most consistent complaint I hear is “I don’t have time.”
Many people just don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish their tasks or their goals. Add in the necessities like sleep, food, exercise and hobbies and time gets even more stretched – and stress level ratchet up.
Whether self-imposed or work–related, we are simply trying to accomplish too much, too fast, too soon.
So how do we fit it all in and still get it all done?
Sometimes it’s becoming less of a “yes” person. Sometimes it’s putting a system in place & learning to prioritize. Sometimes it’s asking for help. All of these things take practice and dedication.
I can spend an entire day on the intricacies of time management and discussing approaches to use time more effectively. I did that once, in fact, about 10 years ago when the company I worked for sent me out to an intensive day-long Franklin Covey Time Management course. I walked away with tips and habits I still use today.
In the interest of time - see what I did there - I am going to give you 5 basic steps to help you manage your time and start checking those tasks off of your to-do list.
Step 1. Find the time killers. Many people do not know how they spend each part of the day. Keep a 2-3 day log and record at half-hour intervals the activities you do. You might be shocked by the amount of time you spend on the phone, chatting with co-workers, surfing the internet, or watching TV.
Step 2. Set long- and short-term goals. Setting goals requires in-depth thinking and helps put your life into perspective. When you review your log from Step 1 ask yourself, “Am I doing things that are helping me work towards my goals?”, “Are there things that I am spending my time on that are actively blocking me from achieving my goals?”
Step 3. Identify your immediate goals/tasks and prioritize them for today and this week. At the beginning of each day sit down and determine what you need to accomplish that day and that week. This should take between 10 – 30 minutes. A lot of people think this is wasted time, but it can pay off in hours saved through the week. You do need to be realistic with your goals. Find what works for YOU.
Step 4. Use a daily planner. A daily planner can help you organize and simplify your day. Whether paper or electronic, having a place to track it all saves time and helps you lay out the big picture easily. You don’t have to schedule every minute, but setting up chunks of time can help you stay focused and on task.
Step 5. Do a nightly audit. Take 10 minutes each night to reflect on your day. Did you accomplish your goals? Did something unplanned come up and take time away from other tasks? This can help you re-prioritize for the following day and find additional gaps in your schedule.
Always remember, time management is an ongoing process and ever changing according to your needs and schedule.
If you are looking for a little more guidance, here are some additional ways to make better use of your time.
- Say “no”
- Protect against boredom by bringing along easy tasks or books
- Plan ahead for disruptions and build time into your day for catching up
- Get it done - don't wait until "later"
- Eliminate distractions by turning off automatic email notifications, hiding your cell phone or closing your office door
- Plan time for you each week or at a minimum each month
- Reward yourself with something meaninful