We all wish that there was more time in the day. When the day is over and we look back at what we accomplished, oftentimes we wonder where all of those hours went. If you’re like most other people in the world, then time management might be an issue. We’re all just a little bit crunched for time. We say things like “There’s not enough time in the day,” or, “I don’t know where I’ll find the time,” and “I never have time for myself.”
Effectively managing time is a skill that so many desire but so few have.
We think that we never have enough time because we’re so busy responding to life’s curveballs, if you will. And, when we seem to free up just a little bit of time for ourselves, we get hit from left-field with something that we simply have to respond to. Furthermore, it seems like even when we’re not getting hit with problems, we can’t seem to find the time to manage our daily tasks to begin with.
So, how do we find the time to do anything then?
Time management isn’t this elusive form of Black Magic that so few understand. In fact, anyone can efficiently manage their time as long as they get organized first. Without organization, it’s difficult to see just what needs to be accomplished in the day and how important each of those things are to your long-term goals.
When you get organized with your time, you not only increase your ability to manage your daily tasks effectively, but you also increase the likelihood of putting time where it really counts: towards those long-term goals that you harbor deep down inside. If you’ve never done any goal setting in the past, now is the time to get started because it’s an absolute must-have prerequisite to effective time management.
Why is goal setting so important?
Well, goal setting is just one part in the four-part process of effective time management. However, it helps to set the playing field because if you don’t know what you’re aiming at you could go about your days spinning your wheels being repeatedly frustrated. If you want to manage your time efficiently and achieve your hopes and your dreams in the process, then you have to make sure you’re clear and concise with what you want out of life, and subsequently, your day.
An absolute must prior to being able to manage your time effectively is to set clear goals on what you want in life. You might think to yourself that you already know what you want, even if you haven’t set goals down on paper. If this is the case, then you’re very wrong. Why? Because setting clear goals down on paper is remarkably different than merely setting them in your head.
If you engage in passive goal setting, then you’re less likely to have a good handle on your time management. This can lead to severe frustration, because deep down in your subconscious mind you might know what you want, but you haven’t organized those desires into clear goals. It hasn’t become visceral for you.
Actively set your goals by deciding exactly what you want, when you want it by, and why you want it. You have to be absolutely precise here when doing this. Don’t be afraid to write out exactly what it is, down to the very last detail, that you want. Don’t just say you want a lot of money, say the exact amount of money you want, what specific date you want it by, and why you want it.
The second step in effective time management is organization. You have to get organized if you want to properly manage your time. But how do you get organized? Well, first thing is first, you have to set your goals. If you didn’t do that, then stop reading and go do that now.
Once you’ve set your goals, you have to organize them. What are your long-term goals? What are your short-term goals? Break your long-term goals down into milestones so that you have a target you’re aiming at each month, week, and day. When you know what you want to accomplish one year from now, you can easily break that down into monthly, weekly, and daily targets.
Once you have your list of goals organized into milestones, then you know what you’re aiming at. When you wake up in the morning, you can have a better sense of purpose. It will also help to ensure that you’re doing a little bit each day towards those goals, no matter how small of an amount that is.
When you can organize goals into milestones, and you place that list in front of you, your mind can’t ignore what needs to be done. If you choose not to get organized, your mind has an easier way of helping you to avoid those all-important daily tasks every day.
In 1994 Stephen D. Covey released a book entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where he discussed a system for managing time that was originally introduced by Dwight D. Eisenhower. This system splits up activities into four quadrants based upon two factors: urgency and importance.
So, in your day, a task can be categorized by these two factors. They are as follows:
When you look at your list of milestones and daily tasks, you can categorize what area each of them falls under. The best way to effectively institute this method is to spend a week first tracking everything that you do. Where do you spend your time? Jot it down. If you spent 15 minutes making phone calls to bill collectors, jot that down. If you spent 1 hour at the grocery store, jot it down.
At the end of each day for that first week, write the quadrant down next to each task for what it fell under. How much of your time did you spend watching television (Quadrant 4), or working on your long-term goals (Quadrant 2), or dealing with emergencies or crises in your life (Quadrant 1), and so on.
After the first week, look at how much time you spent in each quadrant. The goal in life is to spend as much time in Quadrant 2 and as little time in Quadrant 4. How much time did you actually spend in Quadrant 2? After you’ve completed this exercise, take your daily list of tasks and jot down the quadrant each of them falls under.
If you watched television for 3 hours, then you lived in the dismal Quadrant 4 that day. You want to spend as little time with Quadrant 4 activities as you can if you want to effectively manage your time. Sometimes we can’t see just how much time we’re wasting unless we look at it in this manner.
One of the hardest parts of time management is the dreaded procrastination that tends to rear its ugly head all too often. How do we avoid procrastination? Well, we can set all the goals that we would like, get organized, and prioritize our time, but if we can’t follow through with our list of things to do each day then we’re wasting our time.
So, how do we avoid this?
Procrastination has been termed the silent killer and it’s one of the biggest deterrents to our goals. We all say that we want to accomplish something, but when it comes down to managing our time with some sense of efficiency, we can’t seem to get things accomplished. Procrastination seems to be around every single corner.
However, the only way around procrastination is to be completely aware of what needs to be done. If you can set clear goals, get organized, and prioritize your time, you’ll be well on the way to destroying any propensity for procrastination. If none of that works, then try the 15-minute rule.
Set a timer on your watch, smartphone, or anywhere else, and set to doing something you’ve been putting off for just 15 minutes. That’s all you need to commit to: 15 minutes. What you’ll come to realize is that an object in motion stays in motion; once you get started, you’ll most likely keep going. The hardest part is simply getting started!