Life today seems unmanageable. Most people feel stressed and out of control. With the endless number of emails, demands and interruptions many are stuck in a rut of hopelessness never accomplishing the things they want to do. They have problems sleeping and are constantly worried. In many of my workshops, people ask the question – How do I manage my time better? I believe that managing our time is only part of the solution. A bigger part of the solution is adopting a mindset that recognizes we are the ones choosing how we spend our time.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
When it comes to managing time, a few principles guide my actions:
- We will never get everything done that comes at us in a day
- The most important things to us should not be left undone
- We need to schedule time for the most important things
Keeping these principles in mind, we need to make deliberate choices about what we will do and what we will not do. Incorporating regular practices into our lives will help us manage our results and stress. Try the following practices and see how they work for you:
- Set Goals – know what your most important goals are personally and professionally. At work you will have goals that you create yourself and others that are set for you. The best goals are written in the SMART form – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Specific
- Keep a Master Task List – when you keep a paper or electronic list of all the things you need to do – it takes stress away because at least you won’t forget them. Also – you can use the list to plan how you will get them done. Make a practice of adding “to do’s” to your list throughout the day. Outlook is used by many companies and has a good TASK feature. In fact you can drag an email onto the task icon and it will automatically create a task and populate it with the text in the email.
- Do Weekly Planning – I do weekly planning on Thursdays. I look at the week coming up and all the things I need to do and book time in my schedule to get it done. I book meeting time for other people – so I book worktime for myself. When I do that – I preserve the time I need for the most important things. I also book time for exercise and other recreation.
- Do Daily Planning – stop working on tasks 10-15 minutes before you leave for the day. Review your task list and schedule and see how you did. Cross things off your list that you completed and plan for the next day by forwarding the things you did not get done to the next day/s schedule and adding the new things that came your way that day. This way you can go home and enjoy your evening instead of worrying about the next day.
- Say No – you cannot do everything – so when items come your way that are less important, be prepared to say No or not right now. If you do not manage your priorities – no one else will. Also – be prepared to have discussions with others to clarify what is required and understand the importance before you decide.
- Relax & Rejuvenate – You will not accomplish much if you are sick or burnt out. Take the time to exercise and enjoy life. Take time to connect with friends and pursue sports and hobbies and other interests. If you are not healthy mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually you will not have the energy and focus to get things done.
We do better when we have good routines and effective practices. Give yourself a chance and you will manage the unmanageable.