Is your schedule jam-packed? Is your day overloaded with meetings, managing your business, planning for the future and day-to-day work? Do you get to the end of the day and wonder what you really accomplished? Is your work day overflowing into your home life?
Do you wish you could get a handle on time management once and for all, so you could run your life rather than your life running you?
You’re not alone. Don’t let the march of time spin you into a tizzy of stress and desperation. Apply these top 7 secrets and watch your time expand to include what’s most important to you.
Secret 1: Prioritize—Put your “rocks” in first.
What’s most important to you? Building your business? Getting a promotion? Leaving work at 5 p.m.? You need to focus on your priorities—the things that matter the most to you. Identify your top priorities right now. These are the “rocks” that you put in your schedule before adding lower-priority items.
Secret 2: Target your action.
Do your action items line up with your priorities—the rocks—that you just defined? If they don’t, you’re spending your time on non-priorities. Once you determine what the rocks are, scan your vast to-do list. Hone in on 3 rocks that you will accomplish today. For example: (1) Work on new project, (2) Contact 10 past clients, (3) Have meeting with boss about promotion.
Go to work on these priority tasks. When you complete them address other to-dos. Don’t get side-tracked by unimportant things. Learn to prioritize and stick to your list. Be honest and productive about what you really need to get done now.
Secret 3: Focus your mind first.
Consider focusing your mind as a warm-up before stepping onto the field. When you wake up, do you hit the snooze bar 7 times? When you do finally get up, do you jump out of bed, gulp a cup of coffee and run out the door? How you start the morning is a reflection of how you live your life. Instead, start your day with 15 minutes in which you focus your mind in solitude. Your brain will sharpen and your productivity will increase just from this one step.
Secret 4: Take something off your plate.
OK. You’ve calmed your mind in the morning. You feel sharp and ready to go. Now look at your week, your month, your entire work schedule and remove something. Review the things you do regularly that consume too much of your time or drain you. Do you have to do them personally? Can you outsource them? Are these things important, or are you just in the habit of doing them without thinking? Remember the priorities that you set in Secret 1. The truth is, there are many things on your lists that are not urgent and not important. Remember: just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean you have to do it!
Secret 5: Complete something you’ve been putting off.
Shorten your to-do list. If you let things pile up, they’ll rob you of time when you need it most. Get something done that’s been on your list day after day. This will immediately refuel your energy and free up mental space to focus on priorities. Clear off your desk or return a phone call. Then pause and take a moment to enjoy the satisfaction of getting things done. Take one hour this week to complete something you’ve been putting off.
Secret 6: Declare yourself complete.
“Finish each day and be done with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Business consultant Tex Johnstone says this step is key. If you face the end of the day and 185 unanswered e-mails still sit in your inbox, say to yourself, “I declare myself complete.” This sends a signal to your brain that you’re done. Free yourself to let go and move on with the rest of your day. Your days could, and sometimes do, extend into twelve, fourteen or even more hours. Save time for the rest of your life too. You’ll be happier. And more productive.
Secret 7: Accept that you can’t do it all at once.
“What? But I want to do it all!” you may say. This one can be hard to agree to—especially if you’re passionate about work and life. But remember that what you take on can take place over a period of time. It doesn’t all have to occur right now. Once you realize—and accept—that you can’t do it all right now, you’ll experience immediate relief and free up new hours in your week. Do what matters most with quality, then move on to the next thing.
Now that you’ve discovered these 7 secrets to time management, schedule time for one, two or three of them into your calendar today. Start practicing these skills right away. You’ll spend less stress and energy on things that don’t matter, and gain more time for the important things in life.