Time—there never seems to be enough of it.
In spite of your best efforts, that to-do list just seems to keep growing. Experts in time management can offer some perspective as well as a few tips to help you organize and bring your busy life under control.
Executive coach Anita Marchesani, PhD, points out that planning your day is the most important habit to develop. “Do this first thing in the morning or the evening before. Spend about ten minutes determining what you will focus on, the specific tasks you will do, when you will do them, estimate how long those tasks will take and also list any resources you might need in order to finish them,” she says. “Spending time on the front end of the day getting your time in order will help you figure out what not to get distracted by and how not to use your time.”
Once you have your day planned, be sure to record the tasks and events in a paper or electronic calendar. This practice will ensure you don’t miss a client meeting, project deadline, or appointment.
Chris Huntley, owner of Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services, suggests taking a realistic view of the tasks you want to accomplish. “So many people bite off more than they can chew and then feel a sense of failure when things don’t work out as planned,” he says. An organized day builds in realistic time allotments for every project. “Let’s face it, it’s not physically possible to work eight consecutive hours without a break.”
Also, Huntley encourages you to use the services of others, whenever possible. “Delegating projects could save tons of time in the long run. If you have access to assistance, take advantage of it,” he says.
When doing your reality check, Huntley advises letting go of the concept of perfectionism, which he claims is simply an excuse to procrastinate. “Perfection does not exist, so decide what is important and then deliver on those aspects,” he says.
Multitasking is another misconception that many people embrace, thinking that this strategy will help erase that to-do list. But consultant Gregory Serrien, author of Engineer Your Success In Life; How To Go From Ordinary To Extraordinary, emphasizes that to manage your time better, you should stop trying to juggle more than one chore simultaneously. “I know many will argue this point, but in reality you can only produce high quality and timely results when you are focused on one task at a time. It always takes more time to fix something that was done incorrectly in a hurry than it does to do it correctly the first time,” he says.
Although technology plays an important role in daily life, it can also eat into your time and cause frustration. Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime, and author of Personal Productivity Secrets and Work Without Walls: An Executive’s Guide to Attention Management in the Age of Distraction, asserts that email interruptions zap your productivity. “Shut off automatic download of messages and start fetching emails only when you’re ready to deal with them. Also, set up a secondary email account for things like newsletters and promotional mail,” she says. “Use a Gmail account and set up an automatic forward of anything you actually want, like travel confirmations, while still protecting your ‘real’ email account. It’s like having a personal assistant for your email.”
Taking control of your time doesn’t have to induce panic, fear or frustration. With a little bit of planning, perspective and discipline, you can manage your day effectively without getting frazzled.