Surprising (Yet Not Really So Surprising) Time Management Secrets
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Possibility Thinker
One certainty in life is that time is a finite resource. No one is sure how many days, weeks, or years they have to finish doing what they want to do. But isn't it true that some people seem to do more with their time than others? They make more and produce more with the same amount of time that everyone else has.
We all have the same 24-hour day in which to dream, set goals, and complete tasks that will help us meet those goals. But some people are simply getting more done than others. Some people make their dreams come true while others continue to dream. Some make their goals a reality. Others let their goals languish for lack of action.
What is the difference between the successful ones and those who are not successful? Are they just better at time management? Is it because some are action takers and others fail to act on their goals?
In some cases, it boils down to how they choose to use their time. Luckily, there are some time management "secrets" that you can use to get more things done. See what they are by reading on.
1. What is most important?
3. What is least important?
You may recognize these from Stephen Covey's advice here from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey talked about setting up four quadrants of activity and establishing priorities. He always urged his reader to "put first things first." Do the important activities first. Give them top priority. Avoid wasting time on the urgent but not important tasks that cause you to waste time.
Examples include working on an important project with time blocked out so you aren't distracted as opposed to answering emails or taking phone calls as they come in. When you respond to emails and phone calls as they arrive, you are responding to other people's priorities on their timetable, not yours. You are being driven by a sense of urgency which has nothing to do with whether or not it is important to your overall goal.
So, identify tasks and set your priorities carefully. Determine what is most important over what is least important first. And avoid having matters that are urgent but not important take up so much of your day. By establishing priorities, you can get a handle on your time in ways that you never thought possible.
Saying "no" is one of the most important things you will ever learn to say. Learn how to say "no" to protect your time. Ask yourself, "Is this use of my time right for me now?" Does it cause you stress? Did you agree to do something out of duress? Did someone shame or bully you into saying "yes" when you wanted to say "no?" Say "no" more often and find that you are freeing your time to for your priorities, not other people's.
Disconnect from Technology.
Unplug the phone. Turn off email notifications. Get off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Turn off all distractions until you have completed the most important tasks on your list of things to do that day. The idea of multitasking is highly overrated. In fact, most people can't do it as well as they think they can. They wind up wasting time because they have to go back and re-do tasks. In the end, they waste more time than they save. So unplug for the time when you need to concentrate. Tune in to the task(s) at hand. You will work faster and get more done. You will also have more time to do other things because you have become more efficient with your time.
Your priorities need to be put on the calendar. Schedule everything. Schedule the 15 minutes you need to use social media for business or personal purposes. Schedule the hour you want to spend with your kids at the park. Every important activity should be on your calendar. If you have a project due in a week, you should have five days of scheduled time to work on the project before the due date. This helps avoid a lot of stress as the deadline looms.
Unless the house is on fire or a child is bleeding, ignore the telephone and interruptions from family if you work at home. Get an assistant to answer phones and handle people dropping by your office unannounced if you work outside your home. They are interruptions that are not important and probably not even urgent.
Check your email at scheduled times during the day. Explain your expectations to your children, spouse, and family when you are working at home. Close the door. If you didn't schedule it, you don't need it. (That is unless the house really is on fire or a child really is bleeding, of course.)
Whether it is the housework, cooking, or customer service, outsource as you can afford to. There are huge payoffs to outsourcing the things that are time suckers. If you can't afford to outsource, then schedule household duties. If you work from home, establish clear boundaries. Divide your time just like you would if you worked outside the home. And, automate as much as you can to save yourself time on the job.
Remember "Once, and You're Done."
Multitasking is not a bastion of efficiency. Instead, seek to touch each task only once and finish it. For example, when you check the mail, touch it once. Keep it for action or toss it. But don't just push it from one place on your desk to another. Schedule time to pay bills. Deal with any issues that came up with a letter or email - right then. Schedule time to deal with office mail, bills, and other routine matter.
Check Your Schedule Regularly.
At least twice a day set a time to check your schedule. Usually, the morning is good and at the end of the day is good. Ensure that you have your priorities in order. Add anything new to your schedule and remind yourself of what you need to do the next day. Checking your schedule helps you feel accomplished at the end of the day. And it reminds you of what is coming up tomorrow so you will feel prepared.
It is important to be serious about following your schedule. Use technology to help. Use Google Calendar or Outlook for your calendar. You can sync these services to your smartphone to help you remember what it is that you should be doing. It may seem "geeky" to be so serious about a schedule. But it is the only way to make sure you are making the most of your time.