Time – Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

“A man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

I often get asked how to best manage time and the short answer is you can’t – but what you can do is better manage yourself and your activities based upon your priorities.  Time is like money in that you can spend it or invest it but unlike money, you can’t save it to use in the future.  To more effectively use your time, ask yourself regularly, “What is the best use of my time right now?”  Better still, follow the 5 step process I outline below and you will start seeing results in no time at all.

Step 1: Get clear on your roles & goals
Step 2: Establish your priorities
Step 3: Develop a plan on how you are going to spend and invest your time.
Step 4: Plan each day in advance, reserving time for your important tasks.
Step 5: Review your use of time weekly, monthly and quarterly.

What are the roles you need to play in your life?  As a son or daughter, relative, husband, father, employee, coach etc.  Make a list of all the roles you are currently playing or would like to play and how you want to be perceived by others you influence in that role.  E.g. Father – my children always look forward to me walking in the door and rush to greet me knowing I always make time to just ‘be’ with them and have fun with them.   Once you understand your roles, you can then set goals within each of those roles.

Without goals, we tend to spend, squander and massacre our time on activities that have little benefit to us.  Every activity you do can be classified in terms of importance and urgency.  Urgent tasks are typically time related and are something you need to do for somebody else.  Important tasks are those that take us one step closer to our goals.  If you don’t have your own clear written goals, you will fall victim to never being able to say “No” and helping everyone else apart from you achieve their goals.  By regularly investing time on tasks that are important and not urgent (the ones you are most likely to put off), you will get great long term results.  To get what you want in life, you need to have long term, medium range and short term written goals that you review regularly.  Every goal needs to pass the SMART test, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results oriented and Time related in order to be effective.

Until we establish the relative order of our priorities and values in life, it is difficult to act consistently and without feelings of conflict.  When you understand your priorities it is easy to make decisions around how to use your time and feel good about those decisions. Write a list of your most important values and rank them in order, then type up this list and keep it somewhere you can refer to it regularly.

Develop Your Plan
Use Microsoft Excel to put together a 7 day planner of your time (default diary), setting aside time for each of your roles and commitments.  Ensure you reserve blocks of time for unexpected tasks that come up.  Don’t over commit yourself to begin with, it is better to not be too ambitious.  It is enlightening to also audit how you currently use your time (in 15minute intervals) over a couple of weeks to understand where your time is currently going.  Print out your default diary and tape it inside your physical diary, as well as using a hard copy each week to stay on track.

Plan Each Day in Advance
Complete a to-do sheet every day before finishing work, allowing your subconscious to work on the tasks while you sleep.  Each day before starting ANYTHING else at work, review the tasks on your to-do list, ranking them in order of importance and urgency.   Pick off one or two of the high importance tasks and allocate time for them within your default diary for the day first before allocating time for any urgent tasks.    Having a set timeframe in which to complete tasks will help you be a lot more productive when working on the task.  At the end of each day, write a new to-do list of any tasks not finished and the new tasks you have inevitably generated from your day at work.

At the end of each week, review what you have accomplished, congratulate yourself on your successes and look for opportunities to fine tune your time plan for the next week.  By continuing to develop your time management skills and tools to a level of excellence you will begin to achieve exceptional results.  If you are only ever average at time management, you will only ever achieve average results in your life.  Use the 80:20 rule to your advantage by identifying the 20% of your activities that are currently getting you 80% of your results.  Do more of these activities and your results will compound.

So, what are you waiting for, don’t waste another minute.  Make this week your best week ever.

Jeremy Carter

Fusion Business Strategy

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