How often at the end of the day do you say, “Where did the time go?” and feel you haven’t accomplished anything?
You’re not alone. Time management is one of the thorniest issues we all face. Part of the problem is that we cannot see or touch time – it’s not tangible. We’re adept at organizing things we can manipulate – cluttered rooms, a messy desk, even computer files – but time is elusive and escapes our grasp.
In order to manage time, we need to visualize it as concrete and finite. Picture time as a collection of wood blocks – either 24 hour blocks, 48 half-hour blocks, or 96 15-minute blocks. Remove the blocks for sleep and what remains is all you have in a day. Tomorrow you will get a new set of blocks and the cycle repeats. Time doesn’t stretch – it isn’t spandex, but armour.
I’ve been reading a lot recently about time management and several concepts keep repeating:
If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, how can you use your time? If you are clear about your goals it is easy to set priorities. When you have priorities, you will know how to allocate your time. Setting goals may seem difficult, but I believe we all know what we want. We just may not be able to articulate it. Ask yourself what you crave. What are your dreams? What drives your behavior? Pay attention to what you enjoy and do well. What areas of your life are most important – work, family, friends, spirituality? Visualize what your ideal life looks like in ten or twenty years. These are your goals.
Know what prevents you from using your time efficiently. There are two broad categories: external factors you can’t control and internal factors you can control. External factors include your assigned workload, health issues, environment and distractions. Internal factors include knowing your body clock and identifying psychological roadblocks like anxiety, fear and procrastination. If you can identify what is holding you back, you can develop strategies to overcome them.
These are the actions you need to take in order to accomplish your goals. Managing your time is all about managing your tasks. Look at your goals and decide what you need to DO in order to accomplish them. Ask yourself what will move you closer to your goals. If something seems too vauge or intimidating, break it into smaller chunks. Ask yourself the question: what’s the next action? Is it a phone call? Is it an internet search? Do you need to consult with somebody else? Write it down.
This is the last piece of the puzzle. Systems range from simple “to-do” lists and calendars to elaborate digital programs that run across various platforms. There are a lot to choose from and it comes down to personal choice. Know what kind of learner you are – are you visual, aural or kinetic? Do you like paper planners you can spread out, or do you prefer electronic systems? Find a system and/or planner that fits your work habits and lifestyle. What is important is that you find a system that captures the tasks you need to accomplish, and that you USE it.
I’ve only scratched the surface of time management. It is a big subject and I’ll come back to it in greater detail in later blogs.