Managing your time is all about managing yourself.
Often we think it’s about managing segments, little chunks of time measured in hours, half hours, quarter hours or less. Then our attempt at managing our time happens like this:
- We have a volume of things that need doing.
- We divide the day up into more and more little segments.
- We search for better positioned segments so we can shove more of the 'to-do' into them.
- Meanwhile, we divide all the things to do into priorities.
- Then we put 70% of the priorities in the top priority list and try shoving those in the new little segments we just made.
What we’re really doing is going faster and faster and shoving more and more in. After all, almost everything in our life is a priority, isn’t it? Then for all our efforts we slide down the slippery slope of stress, overload and burnout.
We really ought to manage ourselves and ask, “What are the vital few things that are the truly important?” Those are the things I will get done. It’s not seven out of my list of ten important things to get done. It’s only two. Maybe it’s only one. Start and do those. The others will disappear, fade in significance or step in line to take their turn as one of the vital few later on.
Until we start acting on this for ourselves, we’ll be caught in this race. Somewhere we have to break the cycle and say, “This is where it stops.” Practicing that Law of the Vital Few will make us much more satisfied, thorough and successful.
Often we want to squeeze more and more productivity out of a given period of time, so we shove other things aside, things like renewal and relationships, fostered primarily through pausing. We continue to accumulate a greater volume of things, and our body is saying, “No, I can’t handle this.“ Stress, tiredness, muscle pain, dissatisfaction and a sense of a lack of well-being become our lot in life.
Adopt the practice of timely management from the Law of the Vital Few. Take your personal best 20% as your springboard for building the future. Where in the past did I have my most success? Identify that small amount of time and duplicate it for today as much as you can. Say, “These are the vital few things that I must do now, and while I am taking care of these vital few, I will delegate, hold till a more appropriate time or give away to others, the things that I am not able to do.”
If you are dealing with a volume of time commitments placed on you from the outside, then you have to work with the issues of boundaries as well .You may have to set boundaries around people imposing on your time. Let the voice mail get the telephone after certain hours and raise a personal standard that says, “I am not going to work after this hour.” If it’s sheer volume you may need to look at ways to do it more efficiently. On the other hand you may need to talk frankly to others about helping you. They may be in positions of authority or control to make some changes for you.
It’s not just about time management but timely management of you.
This may be one of the most common areas that executives and leaders wish to work on during our coaching engagements. We live in a world that pushes almost every leader and professional into a crunch for time. There are solutions. They don’t always come easy. People often fear doing what is required, thinking they will lose ground and fall behind. But once solutions are put in place and traction is being experienced, leaders find that in fact they can achieve more, do better and actually begin to thrive.
Really, you can read all you want about time management and you can think about alleviating the stress until the cows come home. But until you make a major decision to do something about it, you will only amass literature and dissatisfaction. Take action today.