Time Management: Why It Matters
If there’s one thing people talk about, maybe, even more than the weather it’s time. More specifically, how we don’t have enough of it, how we wonder where it “flies” off to, and how in the world we can get all that we need to do DONE in the amount of time we have.
It’s not a case of creating more time, however (even if we could!). What we should be focusing on is spending the time we have wisely – not wasting time on activities or even thoughts that won’t carry us forward.
Effective time management will do more than just lead us to a more successful life, it’ll GREATLY reduce the amount of stress in our lives. A great deal of stress comes from thinks that are UN-finished and UN-done. When we find a way to effectively manage our time, we’ll get more things done and have fewer reasons to stress.
What’s more, as we accomplish more, our self confidence will grow and, before you know it, we’re practically unstoppable!
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, we have to confront how we manage our time… or if we even do. Right up front, it’ll help to realize one very important thing: Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Mother Teresa, and Marie Curie EACH had the same number of hours in their day that we have. EACH had the same number of days in their week and the same number of days in their year as we have.
And look at what they did with it!
These people, and countless other giants, knew one of the greatest secrets of all: If you waste time, you waste your life. Pure and simple.
Many people will argue that it’s harder to focus on work in the time we live in. They’ll argue that with technology, television, video games, dvds, and so forth – there are simply too many distractions. They’ll even try to make you believe that people such as Lincoln and Washington had an advantage – fewer things to distract them from their work. Nonsense! I agree, there are tons of distractions and many of them are the biggest wastes of time ever known to man.
However, we have far more advantages today than the men and women who lived before us had. We have washers, dryers, Kroger, automobiles, e-mail, computers, refrigerators, Starbucks, top-notch eyeglasses, the best doctors, and the list goes on. We may have DISTRACTIONS but they had extreme DISADVANTAGES. Yet they persevered. A lot of it had to do with determination and character – traits that, in my opinion, they’d still possess if they lived amongst us today.
How can you improve your time management skills and, thereby, improve your quality of life?
Below are time management tips that can help you get on track and stay on track.
- Plan each day. If you’ve never been a fan of to-do lists, please give them a shot. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t use to-do lists. They help to round up and organize your thoughts and goals. Write the most important things at the top and tackle those first. This way, if the unexpected comes up, the most important things have been done.This prioritizing will help you take care of both the most important things on your to-do list as well as those things that aren’t quite as important.
- Don’t waste time – not even an hour. When you sit down to watch a television show that you’re only watching because it’s on (admit it, we’ve all done it), ask yourself, “What could I accomplish in these 60 minutes instead?” If you’re a writer, depending upon your medium, you could write 3 blog posts, an entire chapter, or a couple of articles.
- Delegate. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of delegating. I don’t know why – maybe because I was an only child. I was just always accustomed to doing it myself, if it were within my powers and abilities. However, if you have children to help with housework, or co-workers to help with a task – utilize them. It’s far better than taking on so much, yourself, that you turn into a first class grouch.
- Focus on each task. If you don’t take the time to “get it right” the first time, you’re only going to have to re-do it… which is one of the largest time wasters ever. Allot enough time for each task to do a great job, not just a good job. Having said that…
- Don’t obsess over details! Wasting time trying to achieve perfection simply wastes time, frustrates you, and keeps you from getting more accomplished.
- Break large, time-consuming tasks into smaller tasks. If there’s an especially large task you have before you, break it down. Work in “chunks” – piecing the puzzle together until it’s a work of art.
- Embrace the 10-minute rule. It’s a beauty! You work on a task that you’ve been putting off or dreading for a good, straight 10 minutes. More often than not, once you’ve started, you’ll finish. Then it’s over and done with, never to haunt your good spirits again.
- Evaluate how you’re spending your time. In The Skinny on Time Management by Jim Randel (the link leads to my review of this outstanding book), Randel calls Self-Awareness the Sine Qua Non – in his words “You can’t go anywhere with time management until you are aware of how you are spending your time.” He goes on to recommend keeping a “time journal” for a week or so. The goal is to see where you may be wasting time – then you can do a little brainstorming and find how you could utilize this time better. For example, if you find that you spent 2 hours watching a baseball game (a favorite pastime of mine that I wouldn’t even dream of giving up), use that time to work out as you watch your favorite team. If you do your pilates, weight lifting, yoga, or even aerobics (running in place, calisthenics, etc.) during the time you’re watching a game or television show, you’ll free up the time during the day when you’d normally work out. You might also consider ironing, cleaning, writing, checking your e-mail, engaging in social media, or any number of other activities.
- Limit distractions whenever possible. Set aside specific time for specific projects and cut off all potential distractions. As a mother of three daughters and 5 cats, and the wife of a busy bee husband – I don’t distract easily. I can write, code, or do any other tasks while carrying on 4 conversations, petting a cat, and cooking supper. Necessity breeds the ability to find a way to do far more than one ever thought and since children and husbands don’t come with PAUSE buttons, I’ve learned to just keep on keeping on. However, most people haven’t had to develop this knack and they can (and do) get distracted easily. Simply cut out and cut off any distractions that you may have while working on your to-do list.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. It may sound like I just segued into a fitness or health article but, a healthy lifestyle can improve your focus and your ability to concentrate. These traits can help you get more done in less time.
- When you need a break, take a break! If you allow yourself to get stressed and burned out, you will undo all the good that you’ve done. Remember, you aren’t a machine! When you feel like you need a break – even a mini-vacation – take one. A little while back, I felt like I couldn’t write another word, type out another recipe on my food blog, install another plugin, or customize another theme. I wanted to cringe when I thought of words that normally excited me: Plugins, blog, search engine optimization, courting Google, affiliate programs, e-mail, and so on. I LITERALLY pushed myself away from the computer and didn’t return until a couple of days later. In that time, I caught up on a few books, gardened, worked on the bird stations in our yard, and played with cats. Can you say MENTAL VACATION!?!?! I returned to my work refreshed and invigorated. I know it’s not always possible for those who don’t work at home… those who have to answer to someone other than their cat. But, when possible, take a little time away – not just partially away… completely away. When you return, you’ll be a ninja!
P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the sweet e-mails concerning the loss of my mother.
It was a terrible loss that just fell from the sky – she was far too young to die and it was a terrible shock. But I’d compound the tragedy, and make her as mad as a hornet on a July morning (in case you aren’t from the South, that means DANG mad) if I didn’t try to get on with my life.
And this would be me trying to do just that. With a heavy heart and overwhelming sense of loss – but trying the best I know how.