The Art of Effective Time Management

So many things to do, so many books to read, so much to study, so much you want to accomplish-and so little time!

You’ve heard the joke. “I try to take one day at a time, but lately several days have attacked at once.”

Sometimes, that’s how it feels if you don’t practice proper time management. There’s so much to do and you’re already burning the candle at both ends, yet you never seem to finish everything you set out to do, everything you need to do. Even worse, you might feel so discouraged that you decide to just “take it easy.” In time, this might develop into a bad habit that will be difficult to eliminate.

The Spanish have a proverb that says, “Time is short, but wide.” That means we all have the same twenty-four hours each day; it’s what we do with it that matters. So what do you do when there’s so much demanding your attention and seemingly not enough time to get it all done?

First, in order to use your time wisely, it’s essential to find out where you waste time. Maybe it’s watching television or playing computer games, or even talking on the phone. If you work at home, you may find that well-meaning family and friends can waste a great deal of your working time. It’s hard to make them understand that just because you work from home; it doesn’t mean you are always available to them.

You need to prioritize those many tasks. Start by making a to-do list of the tasks that need to be done each day. Only include the essential, must be done by day’s end, jobs. Don’t waste time on the trivial tasks. Estimate how much time each job will require. Try not to under estimate, or you’ll feel like you’re running behind all day. However, be realistic about what you can achieve in the time given. Don’t forget to allow for the unexpected; have a contingency plan. It’s important to be flexible; don’t get stressed out over interruptions in your schedule.

Focusing on your priorities is extremely important. It’s easy to get sidetracked with other less important tasks. Try to tackle the most important or most difficult task early in the day, when your mind is at its energetic peak. You’re rested and raring to go. Jump right in and get going. It’s too easy to put off that uncomfortably difficult job, day after day. Procrastination then sets in and you’re in trouble. Be honest and ask yourself this question. Is this something I absolutely have to do or need to do right now? If not, push it to one side for later or if it’s important, but not urgent, delegate it to someone else.

For many tasks, small blocks of time will do. Fifteen minutes here, thirty minutes there, and you’d be surprised how much you can finish by day’s end. Check off each task as you complete it. This will give you a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

Get yourself a Day Planner or pocket calendar, and start keeping track of your obligations, tasks, commitments and goals. Update it regularly. Each night, make your to-do list for the next day, so you know precisely what you’ll be working on.

And remember what H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said. “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo DaVinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”