We all have 24 hours in a day. The need to husband our time wisely came up three times in conversations that I had this week. Everyday we wake up to unlimited choices on how we mange the most precious resource we have, our time!
When starting your day you need to set your priorities. What do you have to get accomplished, what do you need to get accomplished, and what do you want to get accomplished?
One way to set your priorities is to establish a list, this can be a hand written list or accomplished through a time management app. Your list needs to include tasks that you absolutely must do that day. Stephen Covey describes this as the quadrant of items that are both urgent and important. This might include taking your kids to school or going to work. If you are freelance, it might include meeting with a client are completing an article on deadline. One example is filling up your car with fuel when the fuel light has come on; if you don’t make this a priority, it will take a lot more time when you run out of gas on the highway!
Next comes the list of things that we need to accomplish, these are the items that are important, but not urgent. These items have to get done but if you don’t accomplish them today, the world doesn’t end. These items may move into the urgent category if you keep putting them off. An example of this is filing your taxes in the United States, there is plenty of time in February and March, but when you want until April, this becomes urgent and important.
Finally there are the things you want to get accomplished. These are items that may not rank as high on your priorities and are the items that are nice to get done. These items often include going to coffee with a friend or watching a movie. Relaxation might be under valued on your priority list at times, when we don’t make time for ourselves, this can lead to burn out.
It is up to you to set your priorities! You know what you value and your time is limited, spend your time on the things and people that matter most to you.
Today we are bombarded with both physical and virtual distractions. Take a few extra moments when you are tackling a project to minimize distractions while you complete your task. Three ways to do this is by organizing your materials, turning off notifications, and letting others know when you will be available.
When working on a task, it is best to gather all of your materials first. For example having all of your ingredients ready when making a meal, running to the grocery store when you are preparing food is a major distraction. When I prepare an article, I gather my sources first and then begin writing. Physical clutter is also a distraction, remove items you don’t need from your work space, keeping only one or two for sentimentality or motivation.
Notifications from e-mail and social media can distract us from the task at hand. Schedule time and prioritize your e-mail and social media time. Turn-off notifications when you are working on a project. You don’t want your dinner to burn, because you lost track of time surfing your favorite social site.
Friends, family, coworkers, and colleagues can all interrupt us while we accomplish our tasks. Schedule block-out times when you can’t be disturbed. Letting others know that you need to work on a project and when you will be available is a great way to manage your time. When you are preparing dinner and you want to be distraction free, let your partner and/or children know when the meal will be ready. This gives you the time you need to prepare the food, while they can work on homework or other tasks.
You will get more accomplished by focusing on tasks and then moving to the next.
Learn to say “No”
Saying “no” can be difficult. We are all limited to 24 hours in a day, which means that we can’t accomplish everything. This requires us to learn to say “no.” Say no when you really aren’t interested, when you can’t commit the time, and when it isn’t your task to accomplish.
We are often invited to events that we aren’t interested in and go because we feel obligated. One way to turn down an event which isn’t right for you is to link together two people that have the same interests. When approached by a friend or cowor
ker, you can say, “No, but I think Jane is fan of horse back riding, why don’t you ask her?”
There are time when you are overwhelmed and your life can be out of balance. There are so many things that we should do: working out, acts of charity, spending time with friends and family. Sometimes we can’t do it all. You need to determine when to say “no” and minimize the stress in your life. Maybe you reduce your volunteer activities to once a month or let a friend now that you don’t have time for a movie, but they could join you for a hike.
Sometimes we do the work of others, because it is easier than confrontation. Perhaps you have a colleague at work that asked you to help with a report once and now they expect you to do it all the time. It might seem easier to just continue to help rather than to say “no.” Most people don’t like confrontation, but we need to empower ourselves to take our lives back and say “no.” When you have a rationale discussion with your colleague, they might not even be aware that they were imposing on you.
Time is our most precious resource. We need to spend it wisely.
Life is a Project!
To learn more about the Covey Quadrants check out this awesome video from Don Howe!
4 Quadrants of Time Management – Golden Nugget #80