Keeping track of your time management performance can help you constantly improve your efficiency, eliminate (or minimize) waste, and boost productivity easily. Just as the performance of a car engine depends upon several factors, your own time management performance will be based on how well you do many different things.
Among the most important of them is learning how to prioritize correctly, which in turn is dependent upon knowing exactly what you want.
This is so vital, the entire content of most time management courses could be summarized in just these 2 words – Prioritize Correctly.
Expert time management coach and teacher Stephen Covey uses the analogy of struggling hard to climb up a ladder – only to discover when you arrive at the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong tree (or wall)!
Most successful achievers know exactly what they want. They know, in specific terms, where they want to be at the end of a particular time period, what they want to be doing at any point in time, how they intend living their dreams. That helps measure and monitor their time management.
Once you know exactly what you want to do, and have broken down the process of getting it done into smaller steps, it becomes easy – and effective – to put a priority on the individual steps, and take them up for execution one after another.
The actual methods you use to set priorities and execute them may vary. But as long as you can set priorities correctly, you will most effectively manage your time – and get more of the important tasks done every day, every month, every year.
What else impacts your time management performance? One element that has an effect on it is understanding the distinction between ‘creativity’ and ‘clarity’.
Our stereotype of a creative type of person (like an artist or author) is one who lives in a state of controlled chaos, where the individual thrives in an environment of perpetual mess and disorganization.
While it is true that an overly orderly environment is often a hindrance to creativity, a mess is by no means necessary, or even desirable. And remember – to function best, you need a combination of creativity and clarity. The clarity will enhance your time management performance.
You need clarity in your purpose, and in your goals. Clarity in your process of achieving both is also desirable. And the two forces are always in conflict with each other. A compromise is often the best solution. Keeping a tidy work environment, or at least cleaning up the mess on your desk from time to time, will help enhance your productivity and let you manage your time more effectively.
In addition to monitoring your time management performance, you should also focus on learning more strategies, techniques and systems to help better manage your time. Other sections of this site have information about specific elements of time management that you can explore through the links on the sidebar. And you can also sign up to receive our free email newsletter, the “Time Taozine“.
As I cruise into ripe ol’ middle age, I’m growing wiser. Every day. And wonder… what took me so long?
I mean, so many of these powerful lessons learned in life are blindingly obvious – once they are learned. I’ll talk about just three of them today.
1. Security is a Myth
I have a diary from the 1980s. On one page of it, I see notations, in rows and columns, of figures, estimates and calculations. They are the fruit of an exercise which took a few weeks, trying to estimate how much money I’d need to save up to live a retired, comfortable life.
When you set out to strengthen skills in time management, often you begin by changing your mindset and views about what it really means to manage time. Once the paradigm shifts, you’ll unlock greater efficiency in multiple forms and totally revolutionize the way you go about managing your schedule.
One of the hardest mindsets to shift when you’re trying to strengthen skills in time management is to realize that you don’t have to do it all yourself. It’s an easy lesson to learn. It’s also the hardest to learn.
It may well take many long months (even years) of working on various elements of your work and career, trying to juggle it all by yourself, before you came to terms with this reality and accept it. But once you do, it will save you a LOT of time when you modify your time management techniques.
No matter what task you want help with, there’s someone to do it for you. The only considerations are whether you can find someone, decide if that person can be trusted with the task, and if you can compensate them adequately for the work they are doing for you. That’s the surest way to strengthen skills in time management. It doesn’t matter how skilled or experienced you are at something, there is no way on earth that you can do as much as a team working together.
If you are able to identify and train the right kind of qualified person to take over parts of the tasks that you were handling earlier, and the task will cost you less than the value of your time, then it becomes a no-brainer to outsource it to the expert team you’ve built.
Take the example of a sales process.
Suppose you are a sales-person, and find that in one day you can meet 10 people and sell 4 people out of 10 your product. Then, if you hire 2 sales people who each are only half as effective as you are… they will still sell AS MANY COPIES of your product as you can in a day! Plus, you get the time to spare, and can get other things done.
Everyone should have a time management goal, as well as a plan to accomplish it. That’s the way to effectively manage your time and maximize your productivity.
Have big goals – but also small goals to reach daily. This should be obvious – yet too many people set tiny goals, then fail to reach them. Why does this happen? Why are you not setting bigger goals – and then reaching them?
Often, it’s because you’re afraid of failing. You fear not being able to reach your most ambitious goals, to live your dreams. And that’s usually because you have unreal expectations.
If you plan to build a house, you surely don’t expect to move in to your new home tomorrow! No, it takes many steps in between the time you desire it and when you can experience it in reality. You need to plan your home, find a location, acquire the land or property, construct the building, furnish it and then move in.
Any worthy goal takes time to achieve – and unless you manage your time carefully, that duration can stretch out too long. Having a time management goal helps prevent such delays.
That’s where the vital role of ‘slicing and dicing’ your goals comes in. An effective time management goal has built in milestones, each with its specific deadline to reach it in.
The next step is to break it down into a schedule. You can make a list of the things that you need to do the next day and prioritize them.
A. Absolutely must be done.
B. Needs to be done today
C. Would be nice to get done
D. Needs to be done at some point.
You can then do the things in the A column first. From time to time, rework the list and do the things that have moved into the A column. Since things change as time progresses, your to do list will evolve as well, which is the reason you will need to constantly re-prioritize it to ensure that you stay on track.
To take the house building example again, you may set a target to finish construction in 3 months – and then set a smaller goal to buy the bricks or wood today, find a carpenter and allocate tasks tomorrow, have the doors made on day #3 and so on.
As long as your mini-goals are consistent with your bigger, long-term time management goal, every day’s tasks will take you closer to the ultimate target – and giving you positive reinforcement along the way as you reach your smaller milestones!
This makes the journey towards your destination more enjoyable and fun. And following the Time Management Tao approach is a tested and proven way to make this happen. The method is grounded in 3 principles of learning how to:
For more tips on managing time more effectively, you can also sign up to our free weekly “Time Taozine” newsletter by filling in the form below. Each issue will include a tip or nugget to help you become more efficient and set goals intelligently.
I'm Dr.Mani, a pediatric heart surgeon and author. I raise funds to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. On this blog, I'll share my thoughts, travel photos, fitness tips and book reviews.