Let me give you some thoughts on time management. Here is a list of things you should consider to make the most of your time:
1. Run the day or it will run you.
Part of the key to time management is just staying in charge. Here’s what usually happens: We start something and we’re in control, but as the day starts to unfold, we start losing it. It’s like running a business. If you don’t stay on top of things, the business will run you before long. You have to stop every once in a while and say, “Wait! Who’s in charge here?”
Here’s a good phrase to remember: “Some will master and some will serve.” That’s the nature of life, and you have to make sure you become the master. You have to run the day. You have to stay in charge.
What is the key to staying in charge? You must have your written set of goals with you at all times. Prioritize your goals and decide which are important. Constantly review your goals, then make them a part of a well-written game plan.
With your game plan in hand, try to separate the majors from the minors, the really important things from the things that you just have to do. And prioritize. A little thought will save you a lot of time.
Is this a major day or a minor day? Adjust your time accordingly. Is this a major conversation or a minor conversation? A lot of people don’t do well in this area, and here’s why: They major in minor things. They spend too much time on things that don’t count and too little time on things that should count.
2. Don’t mistake movement for achievement.
You probably know some people around you who are just plain busy being busy. You’ve got to be busy being productive.
Consider this: A man comes home at night and flops down on the couch. He says, “I’ve been going, going, going.” But the real question is, “Doing what?” Some people are going, going, going, but they’re doing figure eights. They’re not making much progress.
Don’t mistake movement for achievement. Evaluate the hours in your days, and see if there’s a lot of wasted time that you could manage better.
3. Concentrate on where you are.
You’ve just got to zero in on the job at hand. Don’t start your business day until you get to the business. I used to start my business day in the shower. I’m trying to compose a letter in the shower. I’m not awake yet, and I’m trying to compose a letter. I found out that it doesn’t work that way. Wait to get to the office to start your work. Don’t start your business day at the breakfast table. It’s not good for the family, and it’s not very productive.
So here’s what you’ve got to do. On the way to work, concentrate on your driving. In the shower, concentrate on the shower. At the breakfast table, concentrate on the family. Wherever you are, be there. Don’t be somewhere else. Give whatever you’re doing the gift of attention. Give people the gift of attention. Concentrate on where you are.
4. Learn to say no.
Boy, it’s easy in a society like ours to just say yes too much, to over-obligate yourself. Then it takes all that time to back out of it. Don’t say yes too quickly. It’s better to say, “No, I cannot do this”. It’s nicer to say that than to back out later.
Being too eager to please can be dangerous. You need to appreciate yourself, your time, your limits.
One of my colleagues has a good saying: “Don’t let your mouth overload your back.” Being too eager to please can be dangerous. You need to appreciate yourself, your time, your limits. Know when your commitment to someone else will end up taking time away from yourself and your family. Appreciate your special time alone. And appreciate your time with those you love and those who love you.
This is especially important when it comes to charity work. A group of entrepreneurs I know have been very successful in their own business. They get a lot of press. And they’ve been swamped with requests to do pro bono work. They must get a couple of offers a month to sit on one charity board or another. Here’s how they handle it: They take all requests, weigh them for time commitments and evaluate them for opportunities. Then they take a collective vote on which two they’ll accept during the next year.
You can’t immediately say yes to offers that sound prestigious. You can’t immediately say yes to social functions, even if they sound like a lot of fun. You’ve got to say maybe and take time to evaluate what’s truly important to you and what will just take time away from your ambitions and your family.
Be eager to please yourself and your family. Don’t be so eager to please everybody else. Appreciate your own limits. You don’t have to fill up every second of the day; take time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
5. Appreciate the little details.
Your success should be a pleasure. Appreciating what you’ve acquired and what you’ve done and who you’ve become is important. It’s an important component in fueling your future achievements. Just knowing that you finished all you started out to do that day… that’s encouraging! It’s these little daily gains that continue to fuel your achievement.
Let’s say you’re figuring out tomorrow’s game plan tonight, and tomorrow looks pretty light. So all you write down for tomorrow is “cleanup day.” Clean up all the little notes on your desk. Write all the thank-you notes you haven’t gotten around to writing all week. Take care of a few phone calls that keep getting shuffled from one day to the next. It’s just minor stuff. Nonetheless, it’s the little stuff that keeps weighing you down until you get it done.
So you spend your day in cleanup mode. You file the notes, write the thank-you cards, make the phone calls. It’s not a major day. But at the end of the day, you feel you’ve accomplished so much. Why? Because you’ve taken care of so many little details. It’s the little details that can make a major difference. You feel like you’ve really achieved something during a day that started out to be so minor.
Little achievements are just as important as big achievements. Success is the constant process of working toward your goals, little achievement by little achievement. Little achievements produce big results. Anything is possible in those 24 hours we’re given each day.
Adapted from Leading an Inspired Life. This article was published in January 2017 and has been updated. Photo by @MyJuly/Twenty20