Time Management

‘If I use my time well, I gain time.

If I use my energy well, I gain energy.

If I use my wealth well, I gain wealth.

In this way, I find leisure in everything I do.’

 Ken O’Donnell

Good time management is important in all areas of life. If you use your time wisely your life will be meaningful and fulfilling.

We all have exactly the same amount of time each day. It’s what we do with it that counts. How do you currently manage your time? Do you have a plan? Think of what you have to do in the next week. How have you planned to get it all done?

The golden rule in time management is ‘put first things first’. Do things in order of importance and don’t waste time on trivialities. Be clear on your priorities. Ask yourself: ‘What could I do that I’m not currently doing, that would make the biggest difference to my personal or business life?’

The Action Plan

An Action Plan is a chart, updated weekly, which sets out your priorities, the actions you need to take and timescales.

The best way to use an Action Plan is to keep it on computer so that it can easily be amended and updated. The best time to review it is on Sunday evenings, or just before your working week starts.

Goal
 Milestone  Timescale  Notes Imp/ Urg?
         

 

Identifying the Urgent and Important

In his book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Dr Stephen Covey suggests that you classify things to do under four headings:

  • Urgent/important
  • Urgent/unimportant
  • Not urgent/important
  • Not-urgent/unimportant
Important Not important
 

Urgent

 

Urgent and important

Do these first

 

Urgent but not important

 

Not urgent Important but not urgent

Allocate time to these every day

Not urgent and not important

 

 

The important but non-urgent items map the course of your life in the longer term. Allocate some time to these every day

Dr Covey states that many of us get so bogged down with the unimportant and non-urgent, that we lose sight of what really matters. He also points out that the important but non-urgent items are usually those that build your future. They do little to ease your immediate workload, but they map the course of your life in the longer term.

Identify your ‘time robbers’ – those habits and distractions that take up too much time and stop you pursuing more rewarding activities.  Write them down, then look at what you’ve written. What do you intend to change?

Keeping and using a ‘to do’ list

What happens if you go shopping without a list? You waste time, buy things you don’t want, and forget some of what you do. It’s the same with your time – when you make a list of things to do, you keep yourself on track and make better use of your time.

Correct use of a ‘to do’ list can increase your productivity by up to a third. Here’s how:

Use a small notebook or loose leaf pad. (Alternatively, you may prefer to use an electronic organiser.) Update your list of ‘things to do’ continually. When you have a new task to complete, add it to your list. When you have completed a task, cross it off.

 

If urgent (tick) Things to do today

Day/date…………………………………

Done? (tick)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.

Each evening, make a list of what you intend to do the following day. Mark each item either urgent or non-urgent, and either important or unimportant. Make sure you include everything – work, recreation, household duties, etc. Then rank all items.

Use a pro-forma similar to the one above. Complete one every morning as soon as you are ready to get started.

Work down your list tackling one task at a time. Complete each item before moving on to the next.

When you think of something that needs to be done, add it to your list. When you finish a task, tick it off. If you don’t get everything done today, add it to tomorrow’s list if it’s still important enough.

At the end of each day, carry out an evening review. Cross off anything you haven’t done which no longer needs doing (i.e. because events have overtaken you). Add in anything that needs to be added. Then start the cycle again.

Remember to focus on the most important, not the most pleasant. Postponing tasks simply because they are unpleasant clogs the brain, reduces your creativity and gets you bogged down in trivialities. Moreover, they rarely get more pleasant by being postponed.

Further hints on time management

Use wisely those times when you’re at your best

Do what requires maximum energy and attention when you’re at your best. Your brain can only cope with so much when you’re feeling jaded, and you’re likely to make mistakes, so use those times to get the routine tasks done.

Decide when you don’t want to be disturbed

Fix times when you definitely do not want to be disturbed. Tell others and put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door.

Organise your work environment

Keep your workspace tidy and well organised. Nothing wastes time as much as looking for things that have been misplaced.

Do things well enough

Avoid exaggerated perfectionism – nothing is more time consuming. Doing routine things well enough leaves you time for more important things.

Don’t lose your spontaneity

If an opportunity comes up to do something you hadn’t planned for, go for it; you may not get another chance. If the weather’s good and you have a chance to take a walk by the sea, do it. These moments are precious and add hugely to your quality of life – and you can always catch up on your work later.

©David Lawrence Preston 25.4.2016

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