Here are some smart ideas on time management that you can leverage to increase your productivity at home, work or play. This article was written by Ann Latham on http://www.forbes.com
- You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.
There are 24 hours in each day. You can’t change that. As long as you focus on managing time – searching for systems, lists, and tools – you are ignoring the real issue: how to manage yourself.
- “Too much to do” and “Not enough time” are victim words.
Every time you repeat those words, you are letting yourself off the hook for managing yourself. You are blaming circumstances beyond your control and subscribing to victimhood. Of course, there is too much to do! Of course, there is not enough time! Get used to it!
- Too many priorities means no priorities.
You cannot have too many priorities. By definition. Priorities are those top few tasks that deserve attention next. If you have too many, you have none. You have to know your top few priorities at any time.
- The more priorities you have, the less you will accomplish.
If you have 2-3 priorities, you will complete 2-3 tasks. If you have 4-10, you will complete 1-2. If you have more than 10, you will complete none. I saw this on a Franklin-Covey video and I totally agree. The more items on your list, the more time you spend messing with the list, jumping from task to task, and feeling paralyzed by indecision.
- Your to-do lists are crazy.
Pull all your lists together. Then try estimating the time needed to accomplish all of those tasks. What are the chances that the total exceeds all available time? Even if you shrink the numbers, convinced that you will suddenly be faster and more focused than ever, I bet the total exceeds the hours in a day.
- Your to-do lists are incomplete.
Not only are your lists crazy long, they are incomplete. Think about it. Have you included enough time for meetings, email, and phone calls? Questions from customers and staff? Time to sleep, eat, exercise, relax, and call your mother? What about time to search for everything from people to passwords? Or rebooting, correcting credit card expiration dates, and sitting on hold? Everything. Now how do those total hours look? And what are the chances you’ve anticipated everything likely to pop up? Face it, there are not enough hours in a day!
- It’s time to accept the fact that you won’t finish everything.
As long as you believe you can – or need to! – finish everything, you will be frustrated and ineffective. And as long as you remain in denial, the longer you will avoid making the tough decisions about your top priorities.
- Out of six ways to deal with work overload, most people choose the only one that doesn’t work.
So here are the six ways to deal with too much to do. The first five are effective. Unfortunately, most people go for the sixth.
- Accomplish more – This option is simply wishful thinking unless you actually find a new, faster method that makes a measurable difference. You won’t save significant time just trying to be faster and more disciplined.
- Postpone – Some things can wait. Push them out.
- Cut corners – Cutting corners sounds bad, but it isn’t. Not everything has to be awesome or perfect. As a recovering perfectionist and software engineer, I know of what I speak! Just because engineers can create products with awesome features, doesn’t mean the customer appreciates those features enough to foot the bill! Before starting any task, always ask the question, “How well?” Those last tweaks are usually discernible to no one but yourself.
- Ignore – Some tasks just don’t need to be done. Our lists fill up with them thanks to forces such as; consistency for the sake of consistency, old habits, business-as-usual, compulsiveness, favorite activities, bad processes, and unlimited cool ideas.
- Delegate or outsource – Too many people are doing tasks that should never be on their plates in the first place. If you don’t know how to delegate effectively and confidently, you need a dose of process clarity. If you are a control freak or simply unwilling to let go, knock it off!
- Neglect to choose one of the above – This is the only ineffective option and the most common method for dealing with too much to do. You have five good options, but they require a conscious decision. What happens when you take option #6? Some tasks are abandoned, others are postponed, and corners are cut. But not by conscious decision.
When you fail to manage yourself, establish top priorities, and make conscious decisions about what to do and what not to do, the stress is unbelievable and the results aren’t pretty:
- Squeaky wheels get the grease.
- Your inbox and meeting schedule control your day.
- Important tasks are trumped by easy tasks that you can dispense with quickly in exchange for the feeling of progress.
- “Fun” tasks, those for which you always have time and energy, somehow get finished.
- Short-term initiatives beat out long-term efforts.
- And every week you copy and sort those To Do lists hoping they will magically become feasible.
It’s time to bite the bullet, narrow your top priorities list to 2 – 3 items at any one time, schedule time on your calendar to tackle those items, and devote the rest of your energy to focusing and getting them done. Quit wasting so much time and energy listing, managing, and prioritizing the things that deserve to fall through the cracks.
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