You have heard people say this over and over again: “I don’t have time.” The fact is that we all have the same number of hours in each day, and we choose what to do with those hours. We choose whether to stay in bed, get up and go to work, or show up at our exercise class.
We choose whether to write a letter to our mothers, take out the trash, clean the garage or paint the house. We choose what kind of work we want to do, where we want to live, who we want to live with, and what hobbies we like to pursue. Our lives are a collection of our choices.
Ben Franklin said, “Time is the stuff of which life is made.” If that is true, it means that time management is no more than self-management. As a result of the economic collapse of 2008, there are fewer people doing more work. There is more competition, which means more proposals, more sales calls and more projects to be done by fewer people. In short, many of those who still have jobs are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things they are expected to do. Since very few of us can “do it all,” we had better find some ways to make better choices.
While there are a lot of good habits that you can develop to better manage your time, it’s best to pick a few to get started. Master those and then move on to another group. Start with these simple ideas to make your life a little easier. Remember, they are simple ideas, not necessarily easy. They will require self-discipline just as developing any good habit does.
1. Develop a set of goals and write them down. Consider short-term goals and long-term goals. Consider establishing goals that will help you balance these eight important areas of your life: professional, social, spiritual, financial, recreational, family, intellectual and physical. If that’s too many, use the YMCA model of mind, body and spirit. Either way, you should be thinking in terms of life balance.
2. Analyze where you spend your time now. Develop a simple time log where you will record what you are doing over the course of two weeks. You can use the same categories from step one if you like, or you can create some others. The important thing is to get an accurate picture of how you spend your time now. Where you spend your time is a direct reflection of your priorities. Are you spending your time on the things that will help you achieve your goals?
3. Plan your day and schedule your day, again in writing. What is the difference? Planning is deciding in advance what you will do in a given day, week or month. Scheduling is determining when you will do it. Too many people begin their day or their week with no real idea of exactly what they want to accomplish and when. Writing it down has two great benefits. First, it creates a sense of urgency in your subconscious. Because you’ve written it down, you believe that you need to get it done. Second, it gives you a chance to pat yourself on the back when you cross it off the list. Are the things you are putting in your plan and schedule contributing to reaching your goals? If so, great. If not, you may want to consider eliminating them from your list.
4. Make the most of slow time. There are at least two categories of slow time. The first is when you are not at your peak performance level. Maybe this occurs right after lunch or maybe you’re just not a morning person. Schedule easier tasks for these times. These are good times to respond to emails, sort through your mail and return phone calls. The really tough projects need to be scheduled when you are at your peak. The second category of slow time includes waiting time. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment or commuting on the train are examples. Always have something to do; have trade journals to read, expense reports to complete or reports to review. Think of all the little, but important, things you can get done during this slow time. An interesting side benefit is that all of a sudden, it seems as if you never have to wait for a doctor or dentist. When you have something to do, they always seem to be running on time.
5. Create and maintain a controlled sense of urgency. Orchestra leaders, football quarterbacks and airline pilots all have it. They aren’t in a hurry, but they are committed to everyone starting and stopping at the right time. There is a sense of urgency that everyone must buy into. The people with whom you work and play will sense it and take their lead from you. You are someone who is in control of your time and in control of your life. These are old rules, but they apply to today’s new game. Doing more with less is not only possible, it’s required in today’s economy. As we learn to make better choices with our time, we achieve more control over our lives. We can better balance our work time, our play time and our rest time. We can relieve pressure and stress and maybe even go home from work on time. You have time to do the things you choose to do. “I don’t have time” is a lie!
James S. Bain, MBA, is an author, speaker, consultant and coach. He is the founder of the Falcon Performance Institute, a consulting and corporate training firm focused on productive performance. He has been a featured speaker at numerous regional and national conventions and will soon have his book, Never Pass on a Chance to P- A Roadmap to Success, published. Learn more about Bain at www.fpiteam.com.