By: Ken Austin
One of the most important, yet also one of the most overlooked, skills that every human being should have is time management. One's inability to manage their time properly has serious negative consequences in the areas of careers and relationships.
Due to the fact that you only have approximately sixteen hours each day to function as a productive human being, it is important that you focus on your tasks during those hours. Procrastination is the thief of time and procrastination with regard to your tasks can only make things worse. Managing your time properly, though, can help you keep focus and take control over your disorganized life.
Before you can even begin to manage your time appropriately, you must examine how you are currently using your time. Examine your memories and last week's calendar. Try to categorize how you spend each day.
You can probably put most of your activities into five categories.
Category one is the time you spend in negative productivity. This means the things you do that you should have done before. This is, by far, the worst category for most people. It is the sheer number of activities people place in this category that sets them off track and screws up the rest of their schedule.
Category two is running interference. How often are your planned activities interrupted? This is not a very positive category for most people because they have no control over the events that happen in this category.
Category three is accomplished tasks. These are the things you planned to do and actually finished. Upon examination, this category makes most people feel good about their level of productivity. You may actually be completing more than you realize.
Category four is the time you spend working in solitude. While you may not be working on what you are supposed to be completing or what you had planned to complete, you are still working, so it can be a fairly positive experience.
The final category is leisure time that is actually leisurely. If you get interrupted during your coffee break or you workout, it does not count. This category is essential to good productivity. Now it is important to fully analyze your schedule.
This analyzing session should allow you to cut down on the categories that are interfering with your productivity rates. There are a few tips, though, to guide you as you go through your time management strategy session.
One way to manage your time better and stay focused on your work is to do as much planning as possible. Consider making a list of everything you need to do. Divide your list into two columns. List the things you must do with the required completion date in one column and the things you would like to do with the date you would like to complete the task in the second column.
Be sure to prioritize these items as well as possible. You may have thirty tasks that you need to accomplish that day, but you should decide on the five that you must accomplish to feel successful throughout the day. You should try setting aside a bit of time each morning to engage in this planning session. Moreover, be sure it doesn't get interrupted. Find a place where you can be alone with your thoughts to complete your planning. Interruptions will only make your day more difficult to prioritize and plan.
Another way to focus on your work through time management is use tools that might help you manage your time better. A simple desk calendar can do it for many people. Other people use software programs on their desktop or laptop computer. Some programs like Microsoft Outlook can even be set to remind you of events with auditory signals. Programs like these are increasingly spreading to environments like cell phones, so they are far more accessible to people who are on the go on a regular basis.
One final way to focus your work through time management is to learn to say no. Saying no doesn't mean the task will not get accomplished. It just means the task may have to be delegated to someone else. This is not only true in the workplace; it can also be true of the home environment as well. For example, if you have a deadline for work to meet the next morning, have your teenager clean up the kitchen after dinner. At work, perhaps you should consider having someone else take the sales phone calls while you work on your presentation.
Time management can be very tricky business. However, finding the right balance can help set you on a strong path toward a productive life.