Time has incredible power.
It remains constant, but our perception of it changes constantly. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, and give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious, at other times we waste it.
But time is a manageable commodity that we should control, not the other way around. The most successful people recognize that they are in charge of how they spend their time. Below are five strategies to adopt (and 13 bad habits to drop) that'll make you a time management expert.
1) Understand the difference between "efficient" and "effective."
Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things.
Working efficiently means doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B in a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield the most important results.
You might be wondering, "Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?"
In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It is much more valuable to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often, we are bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.
2) Eliminate these 13 time-wasters.
Time-wasters are interruptions that come from the people around you as well as from within yourself. Some of these are unavoidable, but reducible nonetheless.
Identify the most frequently sources of distraction in your day, then work on consciously eliminating them from your days one by one. As a means of comparison, I have included a list of common time-wasters you can start with:
- Scheduling less important work before more important work.
- Starting a job before thinking it through.
- Abandoning jobs before they are completed.
- Doing things that can be delegated to another person.
- Doing things that can be delegated to modern equipment.
- Doing things that are not actually part of your real job.
- Keeping too many, too complicated, or overlapping records.
- Handling too wide a variety of duties.
- Failing to build barriers against interruptions.
- Allowing conferences and discussions to wander.
- Conducting unnecessary meetings, visits, and/or phone calls.
- Chasing trivial data after the main facts are in.
- Socializing at great length between tasks.
3) Set priorities wisely.
When setting your priorities, there are two famous principles to remember.
The first, Parkinson's Law, states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. Parkinson's Law makes setting priorities twice as important. If you do not know what your priorities are, your other work will expand to fill in the extra time. It will take longer for you to accomplish less.
The second law of note is Pareto's Principle, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Another way to look at it is that 80& of your business comes from 20% of your clients.
4) Use a to-do list the right way.
This tool is a valuable aid to managing your time. A to-do list organizes your thinking and planning onto one form in the least amount of time with the maximum amount of efficiency. Such a list is especially helpful if it coincides with the record keeping you already do for your company.
After a short time, you will find yourself handling a greater volume of work without increasing your stress. You will simply become more efficient.
As mentioned above, Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Your to-do list should, therefore, define a specific amount of time (if possible) for each activity. This will keep your work from "expanding."
Triage your list in order of priority. Work on high priorities first. In listing your activities, it is helpful to spell out the result you hope to achieve as well as your process for completing the task. Stating when, where, and what you are going to do increases your chances of doing it successfully.
As the day goes by, check off completed activities and make any notes that seem relevant. In the evening, make out a new to-do list for the next day and include any activities you could not complete the day before. Always save your to-do lists for future reference and evaluation.
5) Change your bad habits.
Managing your time efficiently and effectively requires changes in your behavior and thinking. Those changes require practice. Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In overhauling your time management of time, you need to take small steps. Start today by working on one area of behavior that'll improve your time management. After you have improved in one area, choose another, and so on.
How about taking a moment, right now, to list the ideas you would like to implement? Review this blog and jot down the items of most immediate value to you. Then put them on tomorrow's "to do" list for action. Remember this: If it is not affecting your actions, it is doubtful you believe it.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on Platinum Rules for Success and has been republished here with permission.