Thursday, December 17, 2009

Manage your precious time


Time is relative. What is our time and existence on planet Earth in comparison to the history of the universe? A week of honeymoon seems barely like a few hours while one hour in the dentist's chair feels like an eternity. Time once passed cannot be reversed nor can it be replaced, it is gone forever. Time is not an expandable commodity. Everybody has the same amount of time in a day or in a year. To waste your time is really wasting part of your life. There are so many useful and wonderful things you can do with your life. However, there is only a limited amount of time so that you simply cannot do everything or help everybody. You have to choose how you are going to spend your precious time. Do not waste your time spending it with people you don't like or doing things you dislike in order to be liked by others. Instead use it effectively to achieve your goals and to fill your purpose in life. Time budgeting always pays dividends because you can choose to use it to make progress toward your goals and purpose in life. It is your responsibility to decide how to make the best use of your time.
Time management techniques are tools to help you achieve more control over your life and function more efficiently. You can't really make time, find time or get time. What you can do is manage your precious time. Effective time management requires that you know your purpose in life, your needs and your goals very clearly. It also requires that you devote some time to further your plan. By properly defining your needs and goals, you can save a lot of valuable time. In your daily activities, you have to balance your family responsibilities, your work, your social interaction and your personal discretionary time. Don't let your business activities control and take over your personal time with your family. Remember jobs, goals and problems come and go, but the most important people in your life are with you for a lifetime. Treat your personal and family time as a top priority. Ensure your family spends dinner time together to share food, and experience good spirit and humour.
Organize and execute the tasks around priorities. Decide what is really important to you. Tasks must be planned and a list of things to do must be made to achieve your set objectives. You have to identify which of these tasks are urgent and vital. You make specific plans to accomplish them first. Usually crises require your immediate attention. You have to make sure you are not beaten up by problems and emergencies all day everyday. Otherwise you will be always stressed out and forever responding to crises.
The most effective way of managing your time is to spend a great deal of time doing things and tasks that are not urgent, but are very important. This is the essence of effective self-management and of being proactive. It involves things like building relationships, long-range planning, regular exercising, preventive maintenance and reflecting on your primary purpose in life. In this mode you are proactive, opportunity-minded, effective and you are dealing with the tasks of greatest worth to you. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because they are not urgent that you can postpone them for a later date. Avoid the pitfall of saying to yourself that you can always do something tomorrow. It is easy to procrastinate and lose your interest and focus on what needs to be done. Instead, ask yourself what is the one thing that you could do that would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal or professional life. Decide to do it now, on a regular basis and watch how your effectiveness improves. Once you can see positive results, engage yourself in these types of activities for a longer percentage of your time.
Avoid interruptions, they can make you waste a lot of time. If you have to drive somewhere in a hurry you choose the shortest route with the fewest traffic lights and stop signs at intersections. Allowing interruption to interfere with your work and your planned activities usually decreases your productivity and efficiency, and reduces your ability to focus. During a normal day you encounter three types of interruptions that can waste your time: your environment, other people and yourself. One of the most frequent interruptions is yourself. Have you ever noticed that you sometimes leave something you started to do something else? Or you are working on a project, then your mind wanders to something else. Each time you do that, you tend to make a mental note for yourself to remember. This type of interruption inevitably takes away part of your time, focus and energy. Write down what you have to do and stick to the tasks at hand.
The second type of interruption is environmental. Traffic jams, queuing for anything and broken equipment are examples of environmental interruptions which waste a lot of your time. Take another route, alter your schedule and fix what is broken in order to avoid and control potential interruption as much as possible. The third interruption is other people who just want to chat with you or tell you their problems. They can approach you in person or by telephone. They are usually the most difficult to control and can be your biggest time-wasters. If you are doing an important thing, avoid casual interruptions from others by telling them tactfully that you are busy. Learn to say no when they ask if you have a minute. If you usually receive lots of telephone calls, it's essential to have an answering machine to screen the incoming calls. Return all important and urgent telephone calls as soon as possible. Set aside a period of time, keeping it as short as possible, to return all other calls at the same time. By planning your day and eliminating your main interruptions, you can accomplish a great deal more in less time.
Take charge by tracking how you spend your time. Tracking time can be made easier with a daily schedule like your personal time log. You can now look ahead with your goals in mind and schedule time to achieve them. Write down the main activities that occupy each hour or half-hour in your log. To be more effective, make quick and simple daily, weekly and monthly schedules. It would defeat the purpose if you take an inordinate amount of time to prepare these schedules. Set realistic time frames and be flexible within reason. Schedules and plans are useful tools but don't be chained to them. You want the freedom and flexibility to respond to unanticipated events, relationships and experiences in a meaningful way. Record what you plan to do and what you actually did with your time. Keep careful record of your time for a week. This will provide accurate information about how you are currently spending your time. Analyze your entries and check whether you are spending your time wisely. If necessary make adjustment so as to be able to reach your goals and live purposefully. Remember that the realization of your goals can easily suffer from being awarded insufficient time.
Death reminds us of the value of time. We all know we won't be on this earth forever. It's only when we face the fact that each of us has a limited time on earth that we will begin to live each day to the fullest. Time is one of our most valuable commodities and it is also one of our most precious gifts. The concept of time management does not mean you can't give your time to others, by volunteering to contribute in something worthwhile, by listening to a friend's problem and by helping others. Remember to respect other people's time too by being diligently on time when you are expected. Managing your time effectively in this fashion helps your personal development in a nurturing manner. The use of your time reflects the degree to which you have made the principles of personal management and development a part of your life.

Extracts from my book: Become your best