When it comes to time management, it doesn’t matter how many “to do” lists you write out or how many affirmations you say, if you’re not clear on WHY it all matters, you’ll never break the habit that is procrastination.
Is this you?
You spent a little too much time procrastinating today, so you’re up late finishing a project. By the time you fall into bed, your spouse is asleep, but you’re so frazzled it takes a while longer for you to settle down. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you feel as if you could sleep another two hours, so you hit the snooze button over and over until the absolute last moment. Suddenly there’s no time for breakfast—you’re already ten minutes behind and you’re due to start work NOW.
You’re hungry and stressed and it’s hard to focus on your email in-box. You really need to eat something, so you take a quick break to get some chips and a cup of black coffee. Ugh, you wish you could lose a few pounds, but that’s something you’ll think about “tomorrow” – today you’re just hungry!
You decide to work through lunch, but your friend calls to invite you to an early dinner. You pass this time because you feel like you’re on a roll only to find out later that your group of friends planned a weekend hangout and forget to invite you since you missed dinner. You force yourself to work late as a way to suppress the guilt for telling your friend “no”…and so the cycle continues.
There’s one way in which the world is always fair: everyone gets exactly 24 hours a day, not a minute more or less, no matter who you are. However, some people manage to accomplish a lot more than others with the same number of hours—and they do it with less stress, too.
One important difference between the people who get a lot done and those who don’t is how well they manage their time (AND their energy…)
What Is Effective Time Management?
Effective time management is set of guidelines or habits that you can use to make the absolute most of the limited amount of time you have. Having great time management strategies can make the difference between having a life filled with stress, confusion, late fees and disappointments, and one filled with friends, family, money and leisure.
Getting more done is the obvious benefit of better time management. There’s probably no one out there who wouldn’t want to add a few more accomplishments to their life list, whether in the realm of work, hobbies or family. The less time you waste, the more time for the important stuff. Similarly, if you use your hours more effectively, you’ll discover that you have more time to do what you want to do, instead of what you have to do.
Stress, skimping on sleep, eating on the go and other characteristics of the terminally time-constrained are all very bad for your physical and mental well-being. Using your time well and handing in a report when it’s due leaves you feeling calmer, lets you get to bed on time and maybe even allows some time for working up a sweat at the gym.
Everyone has one: the friend is who reliably 20 minutes late to everything. For me, that person is my mom (heh maybe that’s why I am obsessed with efficiency!) If you’re that person, you know that your relationships suffer. Friends stop asking you for coffee, your spouse gets annoyed, and your kids get a reputation for never being anywhere on time. If you’re up late finishing your work or spending weekends catching up, you miss valuable time with your family and friends, too.
Effective time management can lead to opportunities in several different ways. A reputation for promptness is definitely an asset when you’re someone who takes on clients or is hoping to start doing so! Also, when you’re feeling hurried and stressed, you can develop tunnel vision and not even see a great opportunity when it’s staring you in the face. Lastly, when you develop a reputation for efficiency and getting things done, people will come to you with new opportunities, thereby saving YOU even more time not having to spend it looking for these openings.
Time = Money
It really is true that time is money. Wasted time translates into lost income, while every hour you save can be turned into a money-making opportunity. Furthermore, rushed work can mean work filled with expensive mistakes. A fast food meal eaten on the fly—because you’re late once again—is more expensive than a thoughtfully prepared bag lunch. An easy way to increase income and reduce outflow is to manage your time more mindfully. THIS is why I teach my own clients how to run a successful business in less than 30 hours/week!
Strategies for Effective Time Management
You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional planner or a personal assistant to find ways to manage your time better. There are a number of simple strategies you can use that will put you on the road to time management effectiveness.
Schedule an Hour Dedicated to Planning Each Week
Make an appointment with yourself to plan your coming week. Seriously – get it on your calendar and treat it as non-negotiable. Friday’s a good day to do this, so you can spend the weekend feeling good that you have your ducks in a row for Monday morning. Think about your short-term and long-term goals and plan to make progress—even just a little—on each one every week. Make it pleasant for yourself, too: get your favorite caffeinated beverage and listen to your favorite music. Soon you’ll associate your planning time with positive feelings.
Track Your Energy
In my opinion, THIS is the most important part of time management and that is – ENERGY management.
Everyone’s energy levels rise and fall throughout the day. Spend a day or two taking notes on when you feel clearest and most energized, and then plan your most difficult tasks for those times. Trying to do difficult tasks when you’re drained or burnt out is a recipe for procrastination. You should also be sure to build in short rest breaks every hour to an hour and a half of work. Use these times to get a breath of fresh air or take a quick walk. This will prevent the downward turn in quality work that can happen after a few hours of uninterrupted concentration.
Take Advantage of Technology—But Don’t Overdo It
There are tons of calendar apps, note-taking programs and organizational aids available for your phone and laptop. It can be tempting to try all the latest, hottest gizmos that promise to save you time and keep your stuff in order. However, they can also be a time suck as you have to relearn each new app and reenter your information. They can also scatter your focus. Personally, I use my business planner (which you can snag a copy of!) and my Outlook calendar – that’s it!