Time management skills are something everyone needs to come to grips with. It doesn't matter whether you're a stay at home mom or dad, or the top executive of a Fortune 500 firm. Time is a finite resource, and you should approach it with a plan.
For most of us this is a difficult proposition. Often the demands on our time appear to be overwhelming. We just don't know where to start. Fortunately, with a little conscious effort we can take control of our lives. With this in mind I'd like to take a look at 5 specific things we can do to improve the use of our time.
- Create lists
- Do the hard things first
- Are your tasks Important? Are they Urgent?
- Set deadlines
Creating "To Do" lists is a task many of us give lip service to, but rarely pay it the attention it deserves. It seems like a lot of extra work when you could just get the ball rolling and skip this step. Sounds logical, but it's not.
If you listen to many of the top performing athletes in the world they will tell you how they use visualization techniques to consider how each and every game is going to go before the game starts. In essence, they are creating a to do list before every game.
Stephen R. Covey, in his book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, stressed the need to "begin with the end in mind". No successful person, regardless of their vocation, would consider going through life without a plan. Why should you?
I prefer to create lists on a daily basis. These are not written lists - at least not in my case. If you feel you need to write things down to keep you on track, go ahead. I just haven't found it necessary.
Every morning, as I'm taking the dog outside for his morning bathroom break and a bit of exercise, I mentally create my list for the day. What's left over from the day before that I have to worry about? What's new on the agenda for that day? By the time I leave for work in the morning I have my mental list for the day created.
The point is to organize your day. Have a plan, don't just go into the day on a wing and a prayer. This will reduce your stress levels, and it will increase your chances of success.
Do the Hard Things First
Do the hard things first? That's right. The natural human inclination is to put things off as long as possible. Given the choice between two tasks, we will invariably choose the easy path. But in the real world, we're only putting off the inevitable. It's better to tackle those difficult tasks as soon as possible.
When putting your list together in the morning give some thought to which tasks are more difficult. Then move them to the top of your list. If you get the difficult tasks out of the way early in your day, the rest of your day will go a whole lot smoother.
Perhaps more importantly, you're stress level will actually go down as the day goes on. Also consider that you will be better able to handle difficult projects in the morning when you're fresh. Your overall productivity will increase.
Are Your tasks Important and Urgent?
Not all tasks are created equal. If you divide the demands on your time into different categories, you'll soon realize that some tasks are important but not urgent. Some are extremely urgent and must be dealt with immediately, no matter what you're working on at the time. And still others are not important at all.
You should spend the majority of your time dealing with the important and urgent tasks. Only devote time to other activities when you have extra time. This will help you avoid wasting your valuable time. Checking your Facebook in the middle of the work day is neither important, nor urgent.
Even if you are not presented with deadlines by your boss or Organization, set them for yourself. When you work with predetermined timelines you'll develop a sense of urgency that will keep you on track. If you don't work with and end date in mind, you'll be far more inclined to put things off till a later date.
Procrastination is something we all have to come to terms with. How many times in a day do you tell yourself I'll get to "that" later? We all do it, every single day. Setting deadlines will allow you to take control of your life, and it will help to reduce stress.
For me delegating is a very difficult thing to do. There's always a sense that if I don't do it myself something will go wrong. This is, of course, the furthest thing from the truth. We can't take on everything. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness, it' actually a sign of strength.
If you can delegate tasks to others, it will free up your time to concentrate on the things that are most important to you. Believe it or not, other people are perfectly competent too! So resist the urge to take on everything by yourself.
Do you think a top defence lawyer does all their own research? Absolutely not . They rely heavily on legal assistants. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for them to research every single case and prepare a defence. The ability to delegate is an essential tool in any successful lawyers arsenal. There's no reason you should be any different.
Do you manage your time well? Where do you think you can improve? Leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.