I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just four short subway stops on the LL Train and you were in the “Big City.” I spent lots of time on that train since my family went into the city to shop, enjoy seasonal traditions, and later on for me to go to work as a young high school student at Barnes and Noble. One of the things I did on the train platform to kill time while waiting for the right train to arrive was to follow the train leaving the station through the dark tunnel. I would focus on the light on the back of the train, watching as the light would get smaller and smaller and smaller until it disappeared. I have always been fascinated by time.
It’s why that great line from “Dead Poets Society” rings forever true – Carpe Diem. Seize the day! As clichéd as it is, we must always remind ourselves that time is our most precious resource and it doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. Like the train, it’s here one minute and in the blink of an eye it’s gone.
In many ways life is like a jigsaw puzzle. While the final outcome is important, you need to work piece by piece. One critical piece that often derails the path to success is that dreaded four-letter word, time, and how we all too often mismanage it. Know this to be true; manage your time effectively and you will increase your chances of success, squander it and abuse it and failure both personally and professionally is inevitable.
Perhaps one of the most important questions you should ask yourself throughout the day is, “Is what I’m doing right now the most effective use of my time?” However, first things first, a crucial first step to managing your time is simply knowing how you spend it. Most people have no idea where they spend their time. They have no idea how much time they waste. And, they underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task.
So what’s the answer?
Experts recommend a daily activity log for several days, taking note of your activities and how long it takes to do them. An activity log is a great tool for keeping track of how you use your time, what time of the day you’re most effective, and to identify and eliminate low payoff activities. So why take time to fill out a daily log and why is time management so important? Let me give you four really good reasons.
1. Directing your activities in an organized manner gives you a measure of control and order. When you’re in control you have peace of mind, you have less stress, and you are more motivated.
2. The next benefit is productivity. When you don’t manage your time effectively you have too many activities and not enough time. Time gets away from you, shortcuts occur, and tasks are left undone. When you write down what you need to do, or in other words a To Do list, you’re organized, prioritize, and you allocate the proper amount of time for all your tasks. The result is that your productivity soars.
3. Confidence is the next benefit of time management. Checking off your To Do list results in building confidence. As you realize that you can start and finish a task you gain momentum and move forward. As your accomplishments grow your confidence grows.
4. Finally, time management allows you to achieve your goals. It’s nearly impossible to meet your goals when you fail to manage your time. You never get around to doing what’s important, spending much too much time on less important things and taking the path of least resistance.
Here are some quick time management tips you could use at work or at home.
1. Close your door, turn off your phone, and shut off the TV.
2. For the next seven days construct an activity log.
3. Prioritize. Stephen Covey said, “There is a big difference between what is important and what is urgent.”
4. Use the three Ds: Do it, Delegate it, or Dump it.
5. Avoid perfectionism. Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.
6. Less planning, more activity. Enough said. Stop thinking, start doing.
7. Avoid procrastination. There is an old saying that, “If the first thing you do when you wake up each morning is eat a live frog, nothing worse can happen the rest of the day.” Your frog should be the most daunting and most difficult thing on your To Do list – the one that you’re most likely to procrastinate on. Eating the frog first will give you energy and motivation.
Remember, there is nothing more fatiguing than an uncompleted task. So tomorrow and for the next 30 days look at your To Do list, circle that frog, and eat it first.