Time Management, Part Two—Creating a Proactive Schedule
I hope in the past week you were able to begin clarifying your core priorities and values, as well as the exact reasons why you want to be diligent in managing your time.
Here is what we are covering this month under the topic of Time Management:
1. Developing a Philosophy of Time Management—Establishing your priorities and values. As important as how to manage our time is first and foremost the why, since the why is the force that pulls us toward our dreams and determines the how. First we’ll look at the philosophy of time management and then determine our priorities based on the values we believe in and hold in the highest. Last week, we discussed these things in depth.
2. Creating a Proactive Schedule—Allocating time based on your unique priorities and values. Once you know why you are managing your time and the priorities and values you strive for, then it is important to understand where you currently spend your time and how to strategically budget for maximum performance. You see, something will always master and something will always serve. Either you run the day or it runs you. Today, we will look deeper into this aspect of time management.
3. Breaking Through Barriers—Eliminating time wasters and overcoming procrastination. Many folks know what to do, but it is often the things we shouldn’t spend our time on that get us off track. It’s important that we not mistake movement for achievement. It’s easy to get tricked by being busy, but the key question is: Busy doing what? Next week, we will look at how to overcome procrastination and eliminate time wasters.
4. How to Gain More Time—We’ll talk about time-management pointers and how to reclaim one to two hours a day through delegating, skill improvement, multitasking and improved focus. These are things anyone can do to gain more time in their day. Yes, there are only 24 hours in each day, but we can maximize those hours by working “smarter” rather than longer, and employing other skills along with our time management. We will look at these ideas in two weeks.
This week I want to get down to the basic nuts and bolts of time management. I want to discuss how to proactively schedule your time and allocate it based on your priorities and values.
Once you have determined what your priorities and values are—what is most important to you—you will want to take a hard look at where you actually spend your time.
Essentially, this consists of two basic processes. First, we want to take a look at where our time is currently being spent—an “inventory,” if you like. It is always wise to start from wherever we are and with whatever we’ve got. From there, we’ll want to begin setting our schedule according to our priorities. This could be called “budgeting.”
A financial model may be best for us to review in order to help us understand how to go about this. Most of us are familiar with analyzing our finances. The first thing we do is track where our current spending is and then we write and begin adhering to a budget. This is extremely effective if you are disciplined enough to follow through, and the same principles work quite well when we look at our time management. The process is so simple, yet so very powerful.
Have you ever truly looked at where you are spending your time? I mean virtually minute by minute? This is the first order of business because I am sure you will be surprised.
A time inventory is done by taking a small journal, calendar or notebook and writing down everything you do during the day. I recommend doing this for at least three or four days, but it really is most effective when done for a week or two, since there are some things we might only do once a week.
Begin tracking what you spend your time on. Write down everything. If you spend 10 minutes on the phone, write it down. If you sleep for eight hours, write it down. If you eat lunch for 45 minutes, write it down. If you commute 35 minutes each way, write it down. If you watch television for three hours, write it down.
Certainly even one day will begin to reveal some of your patterns. A basic day may show that you sleep for eight hours, eat for two and half hours, work for eight hours, drive for one and a half hours, talk on the phone for three hours, and watch television for three and a half hours, among other things, of course! Hopefully what you will begin to see is that you are spending the right amount of time on some things that fit with your priorities. You may realize you are neglecting other things, and certainly you will see there are things you are spending an inordinate amount of time that are opposed to your priorities.
After a few days or so of doing this, sit down and total up your “spending.” What does it look like? Where did your time all go? Are you happy with how you spent it? These things will become clear, because if you track it moment by moment, the numbers will not lie. I believe it is so important to make the distinction that time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you can’t get more time. Once spent, it’s gone. Assessing our time expenditures is the first step toward getting our “spending” under control, because it will show us that our memory of how we spent our time can often be a little foggy. It’s powerful when we understand, grasp and apply the principle of wisely budgeting our time.
Just as a person may realize that they have been spending $250 a month eating out when they really only want to spend $100 month, you can begin to set a “time budget” for yourself.
Now, I would suggest that budgeting be done once or twice a week, but some of you may need to do this every day, especially at the beginning of the process.
Let’s assume for a moment that you work a typical Monday through Friday workweek. You may want to sit down on Sunday evening and spend a half-hour going through your schedule for the upcoming week. Use this time to group your activities together as much as possible to maximize your time.
For example, you may want to assign one hour each day to answering phone calls or e-mail. Often, our days are interrupted and we work inefficiently, because as we work on something, the phone rings and we answer it, and then we have to try and pick our task back up (often right in the middle) and go back to work. This is very inefficient. It is better to have a set time to make and return your calls. Perhaps you need to schedule four half-hour slots a day. This is where knowing your own business comes into play, but the idea is to schedule your tasks so that you do them when it is best for you and your management of time.
You may budget five 45-minute lunches during the week. Well, if by Friday you have spent your “budget” on lunches, perhaps you will have to skip one to keep yourself on budget. Just as you would stop spending money if you were to reach your financial budget, this same principle will help you with your time.
Now apply this to all of your activities throughout the week. Again, you might need to do this each morning, and that is OK—tailor it to whatever works best for you.
The key is to set these time budgets according to your priorities. By putting actual time frames into your calendar, you place your true priorities at the forefront of your schedule, allowing them to drive your activities, instead of just doing whatever urgent matter is at hand.
Time management takes discipline because at times you will have three hours scheduled for some important project and something else will be screaming for your attention. Often it will seem to either be more “urgent” or more fun. Either way, you will need to have the inner fortitude to say no and follow your time budget. The key here is to not allow the “winds” of the urgent blow you off course and prevent you from accomplishing your established priorities. Use your schedule—or time budget—as a rudder to guide you through your day and help you reach your goals.
The idea here is to be proactive in the use of your time. Too many people take what comes to them rather than proactively pursuing their chosen priorities. Budgeting your time will help you immensely in achieving the success you desire!
Until next week, let’s do something remarkable!