Self-development expert Brian Tracy suggests, “Your greatest resource is your time.” This same concept was articulated by another respected expert, Jim Rohn, who wrote, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Reality is, we all get exactly 168 hours per week – nobody gets more than that (although sometimes we wish we did!). So let's discuss time management, which can be defined as “the ability to use time to get things done when they should be done.” Managing our time well has many benefits, including:
• We complete our important tasks on time
• We provide better quality work
• We are more productive and efficient
• We experience less stress and anxiety
• Frees up time for leisure and recreation, relationship building, and personal development
Bottom line: when we manage our time well, we benefit, as do the people we serve and impact – including our team members who get our best effort.
Principles to Manage Our Time Well
What can we do to manage our time well? Here are principles to consider:
1) Plan and be intentional. Henry David Thoreau said (and I agree), “It is not enough to be busy ... The question is: what are we busy about?” We make the most of our time when we intentionally plan on how we use it. Tracy counsels, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy.” Setting goals and specific targets can help guide us and maximize our accomplishments and success. One approach that I and others have used is to start each year with annual goals for us and our teams. We can then follow-up throughout the year with updated monthly goals. Then we can set weekly goals (task lists), ideally the Friday night before the week ahead. Final step is to have daily task lists, which we can develop at the end of the prior day.
2) Treat our time like money. Benjamin Franklin cut to the chase when he said, “Time is money.” A tool to manage our money is to have a budget, and we can budget our time, too, starting with our most important tasks first, and then filling in with other tasks that we desire to complete. Also, just like we don't want to waste our money, we should avoid wasting time. Bruce Lee once said, "If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made of."
3) Prioritize the important over the urgent. As we get busier and our task lists grow, we can agonize or organize by prioritizing (I suggest the latter!). Stephen Covey popularized his four-quadrant time management and prioritization model. His model reflects items that come our way that are urgent (calling our attention to do now) versus important (valuable in the big picture and long-term). To be most effective, we need to prioritize as follows:
o High Importance, High Urgency (Quadrant 1) – Examples of quadrant 1 items are important deadlines and crisis events. Prioritize and do these tasks first.
o High Importance, Low Urgency (Quadrant 2) – Examples include planning, relationship building, exercise (physical, mental, spiritual). Build time in our schedules to get these done.
o Low Importance, High Urgency (Quadrant 3) – Examples include some texts, emails, phone calls, and postal mail. Find quick, efficient ways to address with minimal personal time and involvement. If possible, delegate them.
o Low Importance, Low Urgency (Quadrant 4) – Examples may include some social media, TV, emails, texts, and phone calls. We can eliminate some of these, delegate others, and use our non-prime time to deal with the rest.
4) Accept our limitations – we can’t have it all. Leadership expert John Maxwell recently offered this advice in Success magazine, “If you want to be successful as a person and a leader, you must make choices. You must narrow your list. You cannot have it all. No one can.” Having a thoughtful personal value system can help us determine between two good choices when we only have time to do one (e.g., choose to excel as a spouse over excelling with our golf game).
5) Be proactive, not reactive. The best planners and time managers are proactive, not reactive. Being proactive involves intentionally planning and using our time to accomplish our top goals and priorities. The alternative is to be in a reactive mode where circumstances and others drive what we do, and how we spend our time.
6) Fight procrastination. Procrastination is perhaps the major culprit for why people do not complete their work on time (I think we all battle this at times!). Benjamin Franklin advised, "Never leave until tomorrow that which you can do today." One technique to combat procrastination is to tackle the unpleasant parts of our daily task list first – then reward ourselves in some manner (e.g., take a break and walk around; do something enjoyable like having a quick snack or peeking at our favorite social media site).
7) Working smarter has a higher return than working harder. We all know people that really should be working harder to get more done and add more value. My guess is that you are not one of those – you already work hard! Finding ways to work smarter is what you and I need. Ideas include reducing our time doing Quadrant 3 and 4 activities, delegating when we can, getting better organized, and following the advice of marketing expert Dan Kennedy. He counsels, “Disciplined use of the time everybody else wastes can give you the edge.” For example, I just spent 90 minutes waiting to get some work done on my car – instead of wasting time watching TV in the waiting area, I spent the time reading and preparing for future columns and university class lessons.
A big part of working smarter is to be well organized. Tips include keeping a neat work area, use daily planners and calendars, have a system to organize and handle paper and emails, develop a workable filing system (and only file papers and emails that we need for future reference), and whatever else works for us.
8) Reduce time wasters and distractions. Whether working in an office or working at home, the potential distractions and time wasters are many – including phones, emails, social media, personal mail, and chatty co-workers. Part of the solution is to practice self-discipline, and take to heart the wisdom shared by Alan Lakein, who said, “Time = Life; therefore waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.” It is also helpful to have designated times to attend to phone messages, emails, personal mail, and the like.
9) Don’t multi-task. Some people encourage multitasking, but reality is that it is counterproductive. The Latin writer Publius Syrus wrote, “To do two things at once is to do neither.” Instead of getting many things done, we often end up getting nothing done. The best way to use our time is to tackle and complete one thing at a time, then jump to the next thing. Mozart reinforces this principle when he said, "The shorter way to do many things is to only do one thing at a time."
10) Find our peak performance time. The most skilled time managers tackle their most difficult projects at the time of day when they are at their best. Some of us are at our peak performance early in the morning, others mid-morning, some later in the day. Another tip is to have short bursts (e.g. 20-40 minutes) of intense, focused effort to get a jump start on important tasks.
Motivational speaker Michael Altshuler said, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot!” By applying proven time management principles, we can help ensure that our time doesn't just fly away, but is used to intentionally accomplish what we need to be successful!
Wes Friesen (MBA, EMCM, CMDSM, MCOM, MDC, OSPC, CCE, CBF, CBA, ICP, CMA, CFM, CM, APP, PHR, CTP) is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams and has extensive experience in both the corporate and non-profit worlds. He is also an award winning university instructor and speaker, and is the President of Solomon Training and Development, which provides leadership, management and team building training. He serves as the Industry Co-Chair of the Greater Portland PCC.
His book, Your Team Can Soar! has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you—and your team—soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com (under Book) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 971-806-0812.
This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2021 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.