“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain
Have you ever wished for a few more hours in the day? Why is it that some people seem to get everything done effortlessly and others feel that time constantly eludes them? The secret to managing your time well isn’t working more hours. The secret is working smarter, not harder. It is about prioritizing the important things and learning to use the time you have more efficiently and effectively.
Some of us, by nature, organize and get tasks out of the way before we relax, while others of us play first and work later. It is important to first recognize which type you are and whether your style is allowing you to have the life you really want. Maybe you are super-organized at work, but burned out because you don’t know how to make time for yourself. Maybe you are naturally a less organized person who knows how to relax, but you are dissatisfied because you aren’t fulfilling your goals and dreams.
Rather than labeling yourself or beating yourself up, realize that time management is an area of your life that you can strengthen.Like a new muscle, it takes practice and repetition to make it stronger. To help you get started, here are some steps to streamline your days at work and at home. Try the first one or two that jump out at you:
- Allocate time for planning and organizing.
- Create to-do lists that are realistic, not intimidating. Use only one to-do list.
- Under-schedule your time: leave time for the unexpected and for interruptions. When you estimate how long something will take, add on 1/3 of that time.
- Schedule your time in a way that reduces interruptions which lower your productivity.
- Check email in the morning only AFTER you have completed one task (project, paper, document, etc)
- Practice the art of intelligent neglect: eliminate trivial tasks.
- Prioritize what is most important and do that first.
- Consider your biological prime time: at what time of day do you work best? Plan to do your most important work at that time.
- If you say yes to everything that comes your way, learn to say NO.
- Ask for help and delegate.
- In the evening make your to-do list for the next day, so it will be out of your brain and on a piece of paper. Leave work with a clear head and a clean desk.
- Acknowledge yourself daily for all that you have accomplished.
Also take a look at the two biggest hindrances to using time effectively: procrastinating and lacking purpose. We usually procrastinate when a task seems too daunting, too large, too complex, or when we feel we won’t be able to handle it. When you get that “deer in the headlights” feeling, try “chunking”: break the large task into smaller,manageable action steps, and start with the first one. We also often drag our heels or use our time inefficiently because we are bored, unengaged, and uninspired.The most effective people will tell you that they love what they do and are aligned with a greater purpose. When it comes to managing your time, you may need to ask the larger questions, “Am I doing what I love to do? Am I doing something meaningful to me?”
As you strengthen your new time management muscle, keep your focus on getting organized so that you can live the life you came here for. Instead of being a chore, good time management can be your ticket to bigger fun, greater satisfaction, and a vibrant, exciting life.