Best Practices for Time Management

Over the last year how much has poor time management and disorganization cost you—hundreds or thousands of dollars? Keep in mind that if you continue to do the same thing you have always done you will get the same results.

Good time mangers are rare, but that does not mean you cannot be good at managing your time. It might be a good idea to follow through on a few of these practical tools if you are finally ready to take control of your time and your life. Use your desk as a work area, not a storage shed. A cluttered desk creates a cluttered mind.

Keep it clean and neat. Don’t waste time rummaging through the fallout of a cluttered life just to find a stapler.What is your impression of a person with a messy desk and work area? Does it create or diminish their personal credibility? Set aside a few minutes each day to organize your desk and work area.You’ll find it easier to get things done with fewer peripheral distractions.

Have your phone be a service — not an intrusion. The telephone can be an incredible time saver or a terrible time waster (sometimes both in the same day). To enable your phone to best serve you, set up a system of rules relating to your priorities.Answer and return calls following the system you set up. This works for the office as well as the home. If dinner is the primary time you and your family use to communicate, do not accept interruptions via the phone. The ringer has an off switch for a reason.

Complete what you start. Time is a limited resource. It is best to measure the value of completing a project you have started versus that same energy being used toward a new opportunity. Remember that you do not build a house by moving from one foundation to the next foundation; it requires discipline and vision to stay with it until the final touches are complete. The discipline may seem hard at times but the rewards are worth it. It is much easier and more profitable to sell a completed house than it is to sell one with no walls.

Use your transition time. Think of all the activities you can accomplish in five to 10 minutes. Use this list during the day to make use of the small pockets of waiting time or transition time.Also list all of the things you can do while traveling in a car or on an airplane. Stop seeing time in the form of hours. By focusing in on smaller increments of time, you are able to focus in on smaller tasks — the ones that usually slip through the cracks or build up into larger tasks. How much easier is it to take five minutes to do your filing every day than to let it pile up until you begin losing important documents? 

Utilize other people’s time. How much is an hour worth? If you earn $32 on average for an hour of productive activity an hour is worth $32. You can spend that hour mowing the lawn or you can pay a neighborhood kid to do it for you for $10, putting you ahead by $22.When you are faced with multiple uses of your time, look at which add money or fulfillment to your life and do those.Whenever possible, farm out the rest.Most professionals use this tip to increase personal productivity, but it also works to add balance and enjoyment to your limited lifespan.

Keep a garbage can near your work area and use it often. Don’t let procrastination bury you under a mound of paper. Take action on every piece that enters your space. Deal with it, put it in an “in” basket, file it or throw it away! The majority of clutter is related to a reluctance to throw things away. Get in the habit of tossing non-essentials. Not only will it clean up your environment, it will make way for new and better things to enter your life.

Systemize routine tasks. One of the biggest time wasters is stepping over the same territory time after time after time. Track your steps throughout a day and see how many tasks cause you to spend time traveling to and from a destination, then look for ways to improve the efficiency of such travels. This can be as simple as how many times you get up to fax items or as big as picking up the kids from school and dropping them off at practice. By simply coming up with a system for routine tasks you will dramatically change your effectiveness.

Meet for coffee versus lunch. A business lunch often takes one and a half to two hours of time. A great option to the standard business lunch is to meet over coffee. Most coffee houses provide comfortable chairs and tables and some even have conference rooms for public use. After you order your coffee you are able to focus on the business at hand and the person with whom you are meeting instead of on the meal you are eating. Plus you never have to worry about having spinach caught in your teeth or whether or not your table manners are up to the challenge of the three forks flanking your plate.

Separate the majors from the minors. Each of us is given only 24 hours in every day. How you choose to use the minutes that make up each of those hours determines the quality of your life. Make a priority list and then compare the time you spend relative to that list. If you are spending a majority of your time on minor things it is time to make a change.

Track your time. Track your priorities. Try to get these two tracks to match so your actions more closely match your goals. Since you are the only one living your life you are the only one with the power to choose how you spend your time.Make sure you are investing that time on your major priorities. 

An ancient Chinese proverb says that the person who moved mountains was the one who began carrying away small stones. Avoid attempting to put all of these time tools into practice at once.

Choose one. Turn it into a habit. Watch your life begin to change for the better.

Best of success to you!

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