How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? ― Dr. Seuss
I hear it all of the time – from business colleagues, from friends, from family, from kids, from myself – we are all so busy. We cannot get everything done. We offer apologies for the delays. We shuffle and reprioritize. We cannot believe how fast time passes. Our kids grow up too soon. Our parents get older too fast. WE celebrate another birthday when it feels as though the last one just happened.
Time management is on my mind a lot. I also spend a great deal of my time worrying about other people and how they manage their time (mostly associated with our teens). Let's face it, when you rely on others, which we all have to do, your own time is impacted by others' decisions regarding time management. As I thought about this topic, I came up with at least a dozen examples just from last week of how my choices on what to prioritize and spend time on impacted others or how their choices impact my own time.
Much has been written and taught about time management. When I Google time management, I get no less than 508 million results! This is comforting in some small way because I know the subject is on a LOT of people's minds. In the search for the best advice around managing time effectively, here're the tips that resonated with me the most from my readings. I hope they also help you as well to provide guidance for how to help your staff (and family) who may struggle with managing time.
- Clock time doesn't matter. Even Albert Einstein surmised that time is not absolute and that the "the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion." What matters most is real time. Real time is your own personal state of mind where time flies by when we are doing something enjoyable and drags when we become mired down by things that are not fun to do. The good news is that when you remove the traditional notion of a clock (with its requisite minutes, hours, days, months and years) the mental real time IS manageable because it is ultimately controlled by YOU.
- Time is made up of our thoughts, conversations with others and actions that we do. There are only these three things in time. We can actually manage how much of our time is spent on each of these things. Take some time to assess how much time is spent on each of these three things and whether or not they help you to accomplish and succeed in your work/life. You can then begin to actively shift among these things in order to meet your own goals and daily activities most productively.
- Come clean with yourself. Admit you cannot possibly do everything you think you should do, have to do, want to do, or that others ask you to do. The best thing you can do to help yourself with these competing priorities is to ask yourself "what is the best use of my time and energy today?"
- Consider the big picture. I really loved this particular piece of advice that recommended taking a 10 minute self-assessment of not just what you have to get done day to day with current projects or tasks, but also taking an honest account of the myriad of other roles in your life and business (parent, spouse, child, manager, thought leader, volunteer, and on and on), as well as jot down all of the things that you aren't getting to (unfinished business, creative pursuits, new product ideas, etc.). This can lead to an honest assessment around how to prioritize things that meet more immediate goals and/or the longer term vision you may have for yourself professionally and personally.
- Break it down. Think of a wheel as your larger vision (whether business or personal) and the spokes as ways to reach it. Each day, target six very simple, measurable and accomplishable tasks and activities to work at each spoke of your wheel. If you don't get to the six, carry them over to another day. You will begin to see progress and feel achievement toward your own vision.
- Schedule a chunk of time each day where you work without interruption – no phone, no e-mail, no texting, no meetings – in a quiet and purposeful way by yourself. And yes, by the way, you do HAVE to schedule this time in order to make it happen. Define 'chunk of time' whatever way you have to in order to make it work with your day.
- Roll over unfinished business immediately to the next day and do that first.
- Be kind to yourself. Recognize that it is okay to do 'enough.' If you are working at the spokes of your wheels each day, and consistently accomplishing the small things that are getting you closer to your goals and vision, then you are doing the best you can. Acknowledge the work that you do get done, rest, recharge and see your accomplishments build.
Until next time…if you have any initial reactions to this column, please feel free to e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.