The Power of Time Management

If you're like many of us, you're trying to do too much. Maybe you've made too many promises, have too many commitments, too many duties. Energetic and curious people like you may have too many interests, start too many projects, have too many things to do.

If you have to work and/or take care of a family, that can take up most of your time. Maybe you have friends that take up a big part of your time. There's nothing wrong with that, but think about all the things you have to do. Can you ever possibly finish them all in your lifetime?

What about your "bucket list"? You know, all those things you want to do before you "kick the bucket" You better do some of those things right now, or it may end up never.

There are two things you need to do to solve your too much to do problem. 1: Set priorities, and 2: Practice good time management.

Sometimes setting priorities may be the most difficult thing you can do. If you can't possibly do all the things you must do and choose to do, then you must drop some things.

If you're in the phase of your life where you have to work and raise a family, maybe you can also go to parties with your friends, participate in sports, take up a craft or enjoy a hobby. But at the same time can you also get involved in politics or do volunteer work?

Maybe you're in a different phase of life, like retirement, where you have more discretionary time. But one thing older people know is that time flies. Weeks seem like days, months seem like weeks, years seem like months. You are still limited by the number of things you can do.

You didn't get a huge list of things to do by accident. Sure some things on your list you are required to do, like work, family, life maintenance, and personal hygiene. But other things you chose to do. You chose to do them because you want to do them and because they are important to you. It will be difficult to choose which ones to give up.

Prioritizing involves making a list and putting the items in the list in order of importance and desirability to you. To make your list, use a flexible medium like a computer document or sticky notes. Make entries for things that you are forced to do, like work, running a family, maintaining the house and car, family activities, personal maintenance and hygiene.

Then add to the list things that are discretionary, like activities with friends, recreational activities, arts, crafts and hobbies, discretionary shopping, involvement in neighborhood and political activities, and volunteer work.

Don't rush the list making. You may find it difficult to list everything that takes up your time. One thing to do is take a walk around your house or apartment. Take a walk around your garage and yard if you have one. You will probably identify many projects that lie in limbo.

Once you've completed your list you may understand that it contains too many activities, many that you can't complete, or even get to in your life time. It's time to get real and decide which activities you need to drop.

You might delegate or outsource some tasks, like house and yard chores – but even outsourcing consumes time, sometimes more time than it takes to do it yourself.

If you can't manage to clean up your list at this point, the next step, time management will help.

Time management involves defining a specific time slot for each activity. When you look at your list of non-discretionary things, things you must do, like work, family, maintenance and hygiene, you may realize that you actually have no left-over time to manage.

In most cases time management adjustments can be made in those non-discretionary activities. Do really need to put in that much time at work? Do you really need to get involved in every family activity, no mater how trivial? Maybe you can agree with your your family members that you'll attend weddings and funerals, and visit on specific holidays, but that you just don't have time to attend every randomly called family get together.

Some people consider friends more important than anything else in life, including their own family. Spending time with a reliable life-long friend is a good thing, but the quality of life is not measured by the number of fair-weather friends you have. If you've ever fallen on hard times you'll know how fast "fiends" can make themselves scarce when they think you'll need something from them. Are too many friends eating up time that you could be putting towards the important things you really want or need to do in your life?

Maintenance is things like home repair, car repair, food preparation, laundry, organizing, cleaning, personal heath and hygiene. Some of these activities can be farmed out. Most people hire professional tradesmen to maintain their house. They hire professional mechanics to maintain their car. Nowadays you can find people to do your organizing, cleaning, and even running errands for you. But there are trade-offs. First you may not be able to afford these services, and secondly, if you never do chores like home and car maintenance, you won't learn how to be self sufficient. You'll become dependent on others. You'll be helpless.

Sometimes a task needs to be delayed until a time when it can be done more efficiently. For example, lets say you ordered a new tool that will arrive in a couple of days. You have a task that involves heavy use of that tool. Should you do it now using your old inefficient tool, or wait the couple of days for your new tool to arrive?

Lets say you have a huge pile of yard debris to take to the local dump. Should you haul it in many small trips using your car, or wait for your pickup truck which in the shop for a few days? Sometimes delaying a task involves waiting for people who can help you with the task to become available.

At this point I want to inject my thoughts about one important activity; time spent receiving education or training. This activity should be given a high priority, higher than hanging out with friends, hobbies, even rest and relaxation. That's because education or training can provide returns throughout your lifetime, and its only a temporary disruption of your time, even if for a few years. A temporary disruption of your time that provides lifetime returns.

Although receiving education is more important than rest and relaxation, no other discretionary activity is more important than rest and relaxation. Rest and relaxation time should be given a high priority because without rest and relaxation, the rest of your life will suffer, including your heath. Burn-out will cause your life to crash.

When I say rest and relaxation time, I often refer to it as 3Rs time. The third R standing for reading. I'm assuming you are one of those people who can relax by snuggling up with a good book. A good book can be on any subject; fiction or nonfiction. Maybe you would enjoy a book about history or philosophy. Give it a try.

Time management involves assigning a time slot for each activity. Don't expect your initial time allocations to work perfectly. Sometimes a time slot just won't work for a certain activity and you have to rearrange things.

Sometimes a certain activity won't work in any time slot. No matter when you schedule it, you always end up too busy with something else during its time slot. Maybe that's because that activity is not as important to you as you thought.

If you have too much to do, and you're not getting to some things that you really want to do, you may need to use the power of time management. Decide what things you really want to do and what things you can drop. Then prioritize your activities and apply good time management.

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• 40 Time Mastery Tips to Be in Control of Your Life
• Dealing With Stress at Work
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• Techniques - Computer Literacy
• Conflict and Politics at Work
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• Working on a Team
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