It’s About Time

Some of us do it better than others, but sooner or later our busy lives make it imperative for all of us to examine the way we use – or squander – our valuable time.

Time management is generally not a skill we are taught in school. In fact, we wouldn't necessarily know we weren't working productively until pressed to do more in a shorter amount of time. If you are coming face to face with an overwhelming workload or missed deadlines, you're probably ready to learn some tips on using your time more effectively. Keep in mind that overhauling your current time management habits takes time and effort. Here is a simple system of practical rules and hints to get you started:

Know what you want from your time: The proven way to do it is to set goals, and to set them intelligently. Until you accurately map your tasks, there is no way to assess a plan for accomplishing them.

Learn to see the difference between urgent and important: Important tasks are those that lead you to your goals, and give you most long term progress and reward. Those tasks very often are not urgent. Many urgent tasks are not really important.

Know and respect your priorities: Aim to do the important things first. Remember the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of reward comes from 20 percent of effort. One of the aims of time management tips is to help you refocus your mind to give more attention and time to the most important 20 percent.

Plan your actions for achieving your goals: Convert your goals into a system of specific actions. The planning process itself will stimulate your brain to come up with efficient solutions. Planning will also help you to identify potential conflicts and crises, minimizing the number of urgent tasks.

Keep meetings short and sweet: Meetings are great tools for focusing in on objectives, assigning tasks, measuring progress, motivating a group. They can also be horrendous time-wasters. Don't schedule a meeting unless you have ample reason to justify one. Have an agenda and stick to it. Don't let others digress, use it as a platform to showcase their speaking abilities, or make it into a social gathering.

Schedule time for your tasks: When there are too many things on our to-do list, it's easy to lose our concentration and do even less. Undone things circulating in your mind are also a big drain of your mental energy. Sometimes there is no way to get those things out of your mind except by doing them, or by scheduling them in a trustable system, convincing your mind that they will be done in due time.

Leave a cushion of time between events: Scheduling appointments, meetings and projects too closely together is a guaranteed stress-fest. It leaves you vulnerable to even the slightest delays, which will occur. Spread your schedule out. Use the in-between time to collect yourself, take care of incidental things, prepare yourself for your next event, and allow for delays. That extra cushion of time will leave you less frazzled, and more productive, in the long run.

Know how you spend your time: Keep a time log for one week, and then analyze it to see where your time gets allocated. This is a good way to monitor how your management tips and techniques are working for you, and where you need some adjustments.