Article #10, May 20, 2003
Time Management – Tools That Work
One thing I hear very consistently from my clients, friends and business associates is that they need help with time management. In my experience, time management is all about having a system that works for you, setting priorities that are appropriate for you and learning to say no.
A great way to find a system that can work for you is to ask organized people what they do and try it! You may need to stick with each attempt for awhile to see not only if the system works for you, but if it doesn’t, pick out pieces that do work and integrate them into your overall system. By asking people with successful systems, your investment of time is minimal. Later in this article, I’ll share what works for me.
Setting priorities is also a very personal subject and requires a little bit of thought. (I do my best thinking in the shower at night.) In order to set priorities that are appropriate for you, you need to fully understand what you value. For example, I value my children above all else, then I value my other family, my closest friends, then my business. Outside of these big values, I also value friends, other people, education, money, good food (especially good chocolate) and warm weather. Knowing these values, in order, helps me make decisions about how I spend my time every day.
Today I was asked to participate in a coaching organization’s regular meetings. These meetings are at night, taking me away from my children, and do not provide me an opportunity to build my business. They are also fairly expensive at $32. This doesn’t mean the meetings have no value, in fact they’re a lot of fun and give very useful information regarding coaching; they just don’t fulfill my highest values right now. I have to say no.
Sometimes doing all the right things still isn’t helping – you’re still feeling overwhelmed. Often, you will need to take a step back and eliminate some of the everyday things that are getting in your way. I have a great tool called the Clean Sweep that can help with that – let me know if you’d like to give it a try.
To try it on your own first, make a list of all the things that are draining your energy. Things like: you need your 6 month dental check-up, and it’s been 9 months; you need to call your Mom; your bills are always late or almost late every month; you want to get your carpet cleaned before the weather gets hot; school is almost out and summer camp decisions have not been made; etc. Sound familiar? This list doesn’t even mention work!
After making this list, see if you can remove anything as not important and forget about it. (Want to get that cute used office chair fixed or just throw it away?) Next, see what you can delegate to others – including items you can pay someone else to do – and make a separate list for those. Prioritize what remains for yourself and get going. Notify everyone of their assignments, put deadlines on as many as you can and re-evaluate often to track progress.
You will begin to feel more in control very fast; then you can go back to the systematic approach and try it again.
Here’s what works for me.
- I keep all appointments and required phone calls in my paper planner, so that everywhere I go, I have my schedule. I also have all important personal phone numbers and timing for required doctor appointments for the family in there.
- My girls and I clean the house every Sunday and have a list of necessary tasks on the computer we print out each week.
- I plan our dinners in advance, using the grocery store planner. This saves money, too. I shop only once/week, usually only going to one store.
- For work, I always leave plenty of time between appointments so I’m not running late whether I’m working in the field or out of my home office.
- I very often ask myself questions when something new comes up like, “Will this opportunity make me money in the short term? Ever? Is it worth my investment of time? Does it support my values?
My system is not perfect and ‘stuff happens’ every week, no matter how organized I am. I am able to handle the stuff, though, because I have a good system that works for me.