A Lesson in Time Management

A Lesson in Time Management
A Lesson in Time Management
Some advice on how to utilize your time wisely and efficiently at work, home and play and to get more out of life in the process.

Just Say No

Whatever happened to doing what you want to do? We all know that certain tasks such as doing the laundry, grocery shopping and taking the kids to soccer have to be done. And there are many others, like playing video games, gossiping on the phone and fantasizing about Brad Pitt at your desk that do not have to be done at all. Well, maybe fantasizing about Brad Pitt is necessary once in awhile. But when it comes to those minute-munching activities that you can control – delegate them – if you can, that is. By delegate I mean – hire a nanny. Ask your assistant to do it. Get a pool boy (just make sure he looks like he acts in a daytime soap opera). If this is not possible, say NO! How many times has someone asked you to do something that they could have done themselves, and more importantly, that you didn’t really want to do – but you did it anyway?

Be true to yourself. Instead of trying to please everyone else around you, please yourself by checking the items off of your own list. Think twice before you make a commitment to bake cookies for the committee meeting or take on that extra project at work that was neglected by your lazy coworker. Remember that other people’s problems aren’t your responsibility – they have to help themselves. So stop trying to play Mother Theresa and say NO. If you can’t delegate, and you can’t say NO, then ask for help. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss that you are in over your head at work, or ask your husband (nicely, of course) to divvy up some of the household chores. You do have a choice in everything that you do – it’s your life. The trick is to stop feeling guilty about being who you are. You cannot be all things, to all people, all of the time. That being said, no one is going to want to be around you if you’re not happy anyway. Take care of yourself first.

Delete, Ignore, Delete

How many emails do you receive each day? Hundreds. And that doesn’t include all of the text messages, bbms and voice mails either. Before opening and reading every single email that you receive, scan it. Most email servers, including Microsoft Outlook, have the functionality that allows you to preview your incoming messages before you read them. Same goes with incoming texts, bbms and voicemails on your Blackberry. After you scan, if it’s not important, don’t waste your time – delete, ignore, delete. Also, be sure to unsubscribe your email account from mass marketing emails so that if you don’t delete, you are not tempted to take a gander at them (and probably buy something that you do not need while you’re at it). And finally, ignore the people that want to waste your time. When they try to bother you, kindly tell them that you are busy. That is all that you need to do. Focus on the necessary, and what you want to focus on. Ignore what is unnecessary and what is none of your interest. Don’t allow other people to pressure you to do otherwise.

Don’t Diddle Daddle

This is a big one. Now, don’t get me wrong – it is absolutely imperative that you live in the moment, and enjoy life as it comes at you. But there is a big difference between doing this, and hanging out by the water cooler talking about Mary’s transparent dress instead of finishing that report, or sitting on the couch watching Jerry Springer while you put off writing your essay. I find that the people that complain that they don’t have enough time the most, are those that diddle daddle. Then they wonder why and complain that they are working on the weekend, while my work is done, my workout is complete, my house is spic and span and I’m out getting a tan. Don’t diddle daddle. It’s such a sad waste of time.

Put it into perspective – say you waste 60 minutes per day gabbing to colleagues about nothing at work. Multiply that by 5 days, and it becomes 300 minutes, or 5 hours per week. Multiply that by 52 weeks, and it becomes 15,600 minutes or 260 hours a year! That could be your gym time. Or your time to run errands. It could even be time to pursue a creative personal project. The simple truth is – it could be anything that you want it to be! So own up to dragging your feet, avoid the trivial and use your time wisely. Saying you don’t have enough time to do something is usually an excuse. As Adam Hochschild reminds us, “Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.”

Stop Thinking and Just Do It

Trust your impulses. They are there for a reason. Unfortunately, we humans have gotten so used to using our brains 24/7, that we can’t seem to shut them off when we want to – such as when we want to go to sleep or make an important decision. Meanwhile, we are educated to judge, criticize and analyze everything around us all of the time because we are told that it is “the right thing to do.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but this is not always the case.

Too many times have I watched people miss an opportunity or make a poor decision because they simply thought about it too much. So stop thinking and just do it! Attack that new work project by believing that you can do it – instead of wasting time thinking about how hard it seems. When a problem comes your way, instead of replaying the situation in your head and trying to figure out what went wrong – step back, quiet your mind and look at the big picture of the situation, rather than at the details. When you do this, the solution will present itself more quickly, and you will most likely come up with more than one. The same thing goes when you are faced with making an important decision. Instead of weighing the pros and cons, look for signals in your body – are you anxious? Excited? Scared? With that, ask your inner voice for answers. Instead of thinking about the answer, feel the answer. It is already inside of you. Don’t be afraid to act on your intuitive instincts, even if you make a mistake. Usually, those illusive mistakes turn out to be successes with time.

Be a Planner

I know, I know – this is very easy for me to say, as I am a natural born planner (third and final toot) and I do it for a living. I also know that planning is not an appetizing activity for all of those more spontaneous (and arguably more fun) souls out there – I hear you. But I’m telling you, it is the only way to get things done on time and done right. As Mike Holmes says, “make it right.” So, if you’re a more traditional fellow (no offense) and prefer those hard copy planners, buy one. I recommend the daily planners that allow you to plan your day by the hour, every day. If you’re more tech savvy, your Blackberry will handle the planning for you – it will even remind you to do things! Don’t rely on your brain to juggle everything at once and use the help that is out there. Studies show that when you record a task, activity, appointment or goal in your planner or Blackberry, you are more likely to do it. Why? Because it is physical proof of what you should be doing, and if you don’t do it, you are more likely to feel guilty about it. I knew that guilt came in handy for something.

Use your planning device as a memory tool and a motivator so that you can achieve your daily goals. Once your plans are recorded and in plain view, it is easier to refuse temptation and other things that attempt to disrupt your plans. I also recommend that you pressure yourself a bit by setting tight deadlines. Try to underestimate the time that you need to do something, so that you fit more into your day. When you put the time-crunch on yourself, you are more likely to stay focused and get more done, while ignoring all of the distractions. A little stress can be good sometimes. Ask for more from yourself, and you will get more. Robin Sharma was right when he said, “focus married with time produces mastery.”

The most important thing to remember is this: try your best, and whatever you can’t get to, let it go and do it another day. As much as you try to manage your time, don’t forget to revel in each moment while it’s there. Don’t be too hard on yourself and give yourself plenty of time to relax. If you’re not in balance, you won’t be of use to anyone anyway. The key is to use the above time management tips to create more time for you to have fun and enjoy life. So don’t be afraid to power down and ignore that Blackberry once in awhile – it could use a rest too.



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