Manage your time most effectively

Three People sitting thinking about managing timeBy Paul Clifford

Time is something most, if not all, of us wish we had more of. But short of finding a pill to enable us to sleep less and still function as usual, which currently would either be illegal and/or pose health risks, we are stuck with managing the time we have. So what are some ways to manage your time most effectively?

1.    Allocate time to important things

Determine the things that are most important to you and try to allocate time to reflect their order of importance.  For example, you may find your partner and/or children top your ‘Most Important’ list.  When looking for ways to manage your time most effectively, reminding yourself of what is important will help you make choices.  This is big picture thinking.  It can be tempting to become tunnel visioned, mesmerised by the things right of front us and get all worked up about getting them done.  But how do these things stack up in the bigger scheme of things.  Would you rather look back on your life and be thankful that you spent significant periods of time teaching and playing with your child or will you be more pleased that you devoted time to work and obtaining financial security?  Does the house always need to look immaculate or is it more important that you take time for you on weekends to reflect and recharge?  There are no right answers but better to think about it now than look back with regret.

2.    Be ok with letting things go

Some things may not get done or not done as well because you’ve made a choice to devote time to your highest priorities.  Living with the fact that not everything can get done or done well is a huge challenge for many people.  Many of us have set unrealistic expectations for ourselves about what we must accomplish and fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others.  We judge our own performance in the game of life.  “Susan is able to do all these things.  She has a 60 hour job, a husband, 3 kids, she trains 4 days a week and writes a blog.  How does she do it?  Why can’t I?”

Well, who’s to say Susan is doing well.  Maybe she’s stressed out but just doesn’t show it?  We often make huge assumptions about those that we compare ourselves to.  The assumptions are manufactured by us, often with flimsy or no evidence and are almost always unfavourable to us.   Why do we keeping drinking the Kool-aid rather than taking a good hard look at whether our assumptions stack up and whether making comparisons is good for us in the first place.

Coming to a place where we don’t compare ourselves to others and just stay true to what is important to us is highly liberating.  This allows us to let go of things that we were only doing to keep up with the Joneses.

3.    Get the timing right

A useful time management strategy is to do things when your mind and body are most ready to do them.  For example, are you a morning or evening person?  Amy and I are morning people.  We could sleep in but we know we get a lot done in these early hours of 6-9am.  I do particularly because there are fewer distractions at that hour – no phone calls and the office is usually empty until about 8am.  However I know people who are much more productive in the evening, preferring to stay up later and get things done when others are tucked away in bed.

Getting the timing right is more than just about syncing in with your morning or evening preference.  It’s also about choosing things to do that are suited to how you are feeling at the time and knowing when you are going to be more productive doing particular tasks.  As an example, I often write best on the weekends when no one else is around and read best at the end of the day when I am more tired.  As such I usually plan my schedule so that I have several hours blocked out on a weekend morning to write and allocate reading to after 5pm.   I also tend to write best in one hour blocks so as soon as I notice I am getting bored with writing I immediately take a break and go for a run or do some other task away from the computer and then come back to writing after about 30 minutes.

4.    Delegate

Sometimes it can be tempting to want to do everything ourselves.  “It needs to get done so I might as well just do it myself”.  However, this might not be the most efficient use of yours, and others’ time.  It can be useful to look at who in your life is best placed to complete certain tasks.  This includes work colleagues, family and friends.   At times we can get a rush out of being in a rush and feel like we are getting somewhere because we are ticking all these items off our to-do list.   However, in the sometimes irrational panic to get things done we can take things on unnecessarily.  Maybe someone else can help us out.  They may be willing, have more time and may even be better skilled and more knowledgeable in the applicable area such that they are best placed to complete the task for us.

Good time management is not about getting things done ourselves as quickly as possible.  It is about making choices about what is the best way to do important things and that may involve enlisting the help of others.

5.    Cultivate quality time

Just because something or someone is on the top of your ‘Most Important’ list doesn’t necessarily mean you can, or have to, assign the largest quantum of time to them.  Instead it may be better to think about managing things to enable the time spent to be of the highest quality possible.

As an example, should your partner be on top of your list, it may be useful to identify the spaces where you and your partner connect the best.  It may be that you know you are most relaxed and in sync with each other when you are out for dinner or away for a weekend having got up to date with your ‘what’s important to do’ list.  By planning ahead to book your dinner or weekend away you have time to get the important things up to date and as such relax when you have time together.   The quality time may not be a large quantity of time but the richness of the experience will probably live on and sustain you through the next instalment of the 9 to 5 grind.

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