Managing Your Time When You Don't Have the Time

by Barry J. Izsak

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Have you ever wondered how other people seem to get so much more done in a day than you do? Do you feel like you are working longer hours, yet never seem to complete a fraction of the items on your "To Do" list? When was the last time you were so ahead of schedule that you weren't quite sure what to do next? Or do you feel like you will never get caught up no matter how hard you try?

You are not alone. The good news is that time management is not rocket science. By practicing a few basic time management principles, you can control your time instead of letting it control you. Time management is basically self management. It's easier than you think.

Did you know that 80% of the things you get done are accomplished in 20% of the time you spend working? So what are you doing the other 80% of the time? I don't know, but here is what you should be doing:

  • Focus on your priorities and let the little things slide. Every time you do something unimportant, you are trading something important for it.
  • Stop being reactive with your time. Instead, be proactive. You have enough time to accomplish what you want to if you set goals and manage your time instead of letting it manage you. We have more respect for other people's time than we do our own. Be careful about how much of your time you give to others, because you are saying no to something you could be doing.
  • Plan your day. If you have no objectives for your day, you will have a matching set of results and you will accomplish very little. Plans are the handrails that guide you through the day's distractions and keep you on course.
  • Schedule your tasks. If you are making a "To Do" list, then you are ahead of the game, but that isn't enough. A "To Do" list is not a commitment to do anything, but just a list of tasks that you need to complete. A task will not become a priority and you will not be committed to completing it until you schedule time in your planner to do it.

    Let me illustrate. Would you miss a doctor's appointment, an important client or a social engagement? Of course not, because you blocked out the time in your schedule. The same thing should be true for important work activities as well! This is one of the most overlooked principles of time management and the key to your success.
  • Schedule appropriate tasks to the time you have allotted. Use smaller chunks of time to take care of short, easily completed tasks like returning telephone calls, opening the mail, filing, e-mail, etc. Use larger chunks of time for important action projects so that you can make significant progress. If you experience more interruptions in the morning, then use this time for more routine tasks and the scheduling of meetings. Save the more important projects for other times of the day when you experience fewer interruptions.
  • Don't procrastinate. The major reasons that we procrastinate are either we really don't want to do something or we don't know where to start. If you break a large project into small, manageable pieces, it will become much less formidable and easier to accomplish. Identify why you are procrastinating and eliminate the cause.
  • Don't be a perfectionist. Be careful not to spend inordinate amounts of time on tasks that do not require it. Understand why you are doing something and do what is required to do a good job, but be realistic about it.

Where you will be in three to five years from now depends on what you are doing today, tomorrow and next week. We make conscious and unconscious decisions about how we spend our time every hour of the day. I challenge you to make the right ones and make each minute count!

Barry J. Izsak is the President of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and has been helping residential and corporate clients nationwide get organized since 1996. He is the author of Organize Your Garage in No Time (Que Publishing), founder of in Austin, Texas and an authorized consultant for the revolutionary software, Liplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger(r). Reprinted with permission of the copyright 2004 Barry J. Izsak All rights reserved.

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