By Elvie Look
Are you struggling to find enough time to do the things you need to do? You’ve probably heard the saying “Work smarter, not harder” which really has a lot to do with it.
But before I talk about time management, I must tell you that I do get a lot accomplished, and that is where my fault may lie. I need to do less. I can be a bit of a Martha Stewart in that, I want to take on everything, do it all homemade, and do it perfectly. So, if I was having a dinner party, I used to make everything from scratch. But, I have learned to mellow out over the years. Doing everything from scratch doesn’t mean my guests will enjoy it more, they enjoyed our time together more when I was relaxed and happy. So I have learned to let go.
Time management is like housework, no one keeps it perfectly all of the time. Life changes and messes it up day by day. We just have to learn to be flexible and adjust with the changes. So don’t feel bad if you find you need to improve in time management, you are not alone! There is always room for improvement in everyone’s life. My husband Ken wants to see me work less, and I am working very hard towards that goal. That is my long-term goal, so to reach it, I have to work a little harder now, but that brings me to the first part of time management:
1. Set Goals
Your goals should start first of all for the day, plan your day and the activities you would like to accomplish. Many start with a To Do List. I asked my Facebook Friends how they kept a To Do List. Some used technology like a calendar on their computer, some used a notebook, others used both. It really doesn’t matter which you use, just use the one that works for you.
One method could be to keep a combined To Do list in a notebook with dividers. The front would be where you keep a daily To Do List, the next section would be broken down for things that must be accomplished for the week. The third section for larger projects that must be accomplished that month. This helps to keep you on track so nothing gets forgotten. As tasks come to mind, add them to your list, and cross them off as they are completed (my favorite task).
2. Set Priorities
You can set priorities by numbering each item according to the importance, and then to the best of your ability, handle those activities in that order. Personally, this did not work for me. I preferred to review the whole list, and make the decision at that moment, then do it. After it was checked off, I reviewed the whole list again. Sometimes time or my mood dictated what was my priority. Again, whatever works for you is what you should do.
I would like to share some excerpts from the book I am reading right now, “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy. I highly recommend this book, he gives 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time.
A Simple Truth – he says, “The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life. As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks and responsibilities just keep rolling in, like the waves of the ocean. Because of this, you will never be able to do everything you have to do. You will never be caught up. (I swear he stole that line from me, I have said that many times, work is like trying to bale the ocean.) For this reason, your ability to select your most important task at each moment, and then to get started on that task and to get it done both quickly and well, will probably have more of an impact on your success than any other quality or skill you can develop. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. The second rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long. Take action immediately.“
Powerful, eh? (yes I am Canadian…) But I love how he words it.
More on priorities, you may choose to make exceptions and handle your list according to your preference. Sometimes I just feel better if I can cross off 6 small items on my list, that feeling of accomplishment fuels me to tackle the one ugly frog that is left. So you are allowed to be flexible, your objective is to stay in control so that what you are accomplishing is your choice and not by chance.
Don’t rush through your jobs or worry about trying to get everything done on your list. I appreciated what Time Management Consultant Alan Lakein stressed, “One rarely reaches the bottom of a To Do List. It’s not completing the list that counts, but making the best use of your time.”
Also, by working on more difficult tasks first is often best because you are more alert and able to concentrate earlier in the day, so they may get done in less time. Whereas, if you leave them to the end of the day when you are tired, they may take twice as long.
3. Distinguish Between Urgent and Important
In order to do this, consider the results that each task will bring. Will finishing the job produce significant benefits? Will it help you materially in your business? Will it help you be a better parent? Will it make future tasks easier? If not, it may not be a high-priority task.
One professor said, “Important things are seldom urgent and urgent things are seldom important.” Such as the urgency of fixing a flat tire when you are late is greater than remembering to pay your vehicle insurance premium. Unfortunately, many of us spend our days fighting fires under the false pretense that they are urgent. The result is we are ignoring the less “urgent” but more “important things” in life.
To determine priorities, you need to ask yourself some questions to decide if this is truly important or just urgent. Can the urgent matter be put off? Can you get it done quickly and move on? Can you delegate the task to someone else?
You will find it more rewarding when you work at the things that are important and give you greater results rather than the things that just keep you busy in activity, but you are not really moving forward on your long-term goals.
4. Be Neat And Organized
You may think that being messy seems so much easier and not realise how being neat and organized helps you manage your time better. One thing that is a complete time-waster is disorganization. When you don’t put things away where they belong, then when you are in a rush or need that item, you waste time looking for it. By organizing your home and creating a home for everything, you find things easier and quicker. Your tasks get completely easier and in less time. Try making neatness a habit, keep everything neater, and see if it makes your life easier. I give some great tips in my book “21 Steps From Chaos To Calm.”
5. Prevent Burnout
As I noted at the beginning, we are sometimes our worst enemy. Perhaps we put too much on our plate, make unrealistic To Do lists, set unachievable goals, and then we burn out and get even less done. Are you burning the candle at both ends? If so, you cannot keep up with that pace before you “burn out” and then you will not be able to accomplish anything.
So be realistic with your expectations, your goals, your To Do list. And if you tend to do too much, then write this down on your To Do List:
- Take a coffee break
- Sit down and rest for 15 minutes
- Go for a walk
- Stop work at (set a time) and regardless of what is done or not done, shut down for the day and rest
Perhaps you need to write it on your To Do list, and then you will include time for yourself in your management of time.
There are no fixed rules for personal organization of your time, rather, effective time management means selecting the appropriate task for right now. It means discerning what activities yield the best results and spend your time on those as much as possible. You need to be flexible, adaptable, and find what works best for you.
WAYS TO SAVE TIME
1. Have a clear set of values and goals in life. It is the key to setting daily priorities.
2. Work on tasks requiring concentration when you are most alert.
3. Make phone calls when you are most likely to contact the person.
4. Delegate work whenever possible. It frees you to accomplish more, and it gives experience to others.
5. When doing paperwork, try to handle each piece of paper once, rather than giving it a temporary ‘parking place.’
6. At meetings with others, stick to an agenda. Have specific starting and finishing times.
7. Organise your work area with needed tools close at hand.
8. Do not feel obligated to accept every social invitation that comes your way. Learn to say no tactfully.
9. Standardize shopping and packing lists as much as possible rather than writing up new ones repeatedly.
10. Get sufficient rest and relaxation so that you can work effectively.
11. Set deadlines.
12. Do not procrastinate.
13. Break overwhelming tasks into smaller ones.
14. Do not be a perfectionist. Concentrate on what is truly important.
15. Make good use of waiting time. Write a letter, read, or accomplish some other essential task.
16. Know that there will be occasions when you will need to spend time on activities you would not choose. Do not waste time fretting about it. Instead, work to get it done.
Elvie Look: Your Professional Organizing Coach who is helping people get organized with her easy tips and suggestions. These systems help the busy mom, businessman or woman, entrepreneur or student learn the keys to organizing in simple, actionable and manageable steps. She teaches how to get organized and maintain your organized space while carrying on your normal busy life. She is the author of “21 steps from Chaos to Calm.”