7 Best Ways to Manage Your Time
I’ll make you a bet … that you never have enough time … to finish all the things you’ve got to get done … and to do the things you want to do.
In fact, if you’re like most people I meet, talk to, and work with, you’re probably swamped at work and snowed under at home.
Well, that’s a lousy way to live. So what's the answer? How can you take control of your time and your life? And still like yourself because you are taking actions filled with integrity?
I find all of the following seven strategies work very well. At the very least, pick one or two of them and put them into practice. They’ll work wonders for you.
1. Stop confusing your use of time and the results you get
This is a tough one for me personally. I’ve always been proud of how hard I work and how long I work.
Unfortunately, you and I can spend a whole lot of time on a project and not have much to show for it.
So we need to realize that our overstressed, out-of-balance lives are seldom connected to how many hours we spend on a project but how well we use those hours.
As Randall Tobias, CEO of Eli Lilly, points out, "Historically we looked at whose cars were in the parking lot at 7 p.m. and we made the assumption that they belonged to corporate heroes hard at work. In truth, some of those people were probably poorly organized or spending time on the wrong things. We have to get our focus off measuring activity and onto measuring results — not the number of hours put in but what gets produced."
To use your time more effectively …
2. Say "no" once in a while
Some people think if they say "yes" all the time, they're going to be more popular and have greater career advancement. That's not always the case. You may simply be labeled as a sucker or a doormat.
The "no" word is one of your most powerful weapons in the battle against time.
Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, spoke about that. She said, "If I accepted all the requests I had to serve on boards or committees and to attend luncheons and dinners, I wouldn't have time to accomplish anything else. Help out when you can. Participate in good causes when you have the time, but there aren't enough hours in the day to do it all. You can't manage your time if you give it to everyone who asks for it."
3. Maintain a master calendar
Keep one master calendar that has EVERYTHING on it from your personal and professional life. If you have two or more calendars, you’re going to overlook one of the calendars once in a while, which is bound to get you in trouble.
On that one calendar, write down everything, from business meetings, sales calls, business travel, school conferences, transportation needs, doctor's appointments, and everything else.
And yes write everything down. DON’T RELY ON YOUR MEMORY.
Otherwise, you will forget some things and that will waste your time and hurt your relationships. All you have to do is forget when to pick up your daughter from school or forget to return that call to a prospective customer and watch those relationships go downhill.
4. Use lists
It always amazes me how much time this saves me and will save you.
So list every step of a project and you won't have to redo the entire project because you forgot a crucial step.
Make a grocery list and you won't have to run to the store a second time for forgotten items.
Use daily and weekly lists rather than one huge monthly list because that will tend to overwhelm you, giving you more fogginess than brain clarity.
5. Start with some unpleasant tasks
Most people waste more time thinking about dreaded tasks than actually doing them.
But if you get one or more of your most disliked jobs out of the way first, you'll get a great sense of accomplishment and a lift for the day. You'll enjoy the rest of the day, knowing your worst task is out of the way.
As I tell my kids, if you have to eat a frog, don’t look at it too long. Do the unpleasant tasks first. Get them over with.
6. Eliminate distractions
Distractions come in a thousand different forms ... everything from coworkers who want to keep on talking and talking, to a TV set that is always on, to the constant bombardment of new emails.
It doesn't matter what the distraction is. They all have a few things in common. They disrupt your attention, spoil your focus, and waste your time. They stop you from working and they stop you from moving forward.
The next time you're tempted by a distraction, stop and ask yourself a couple of questions. Will I feel better about myself if I give in to this distraction? Or will I feel better if I stay focused on my priority?
Those questions put an instant stop to my feeble attempts to rationalize any bad choices.
7. Limit your priorities
If you have too many priorities, in effect you have no priorities. And that’s a crazy way to live.
That’s why I like the Chinese proverb that says, “One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.”
I would advise you to list all the things you must get done and all the things you want to do. And then prioritize them into A’s, B’s, and C’s … where the A items are vitally important to you, the B’s moderately important, and the C’s would be nice to have but you could live without them.
Now that may be a little challenging. You may be tempted to say they’re all important to you. Everything is an A.
No they’re not. You must make some decisions. You have to limit your A priorities or you’ll sacrifice your highest priorities to a variety of less noble pursuits; such as being the #1 salesperson in your district but having a family that hardly knows you.
Your time is your life. Manage it … WISELY.