Use time wisely: Today's minutes won't keep until tomorrow

by DAVE BENAK
Contributing Writer

So, how will you spend the 86,400 seconds you received today? No one can take them away from you. They're yours. You have the power to do anything you want with them. If you use less than your allotted 86,4000 you can't carry them into tomorrow. And there's no way you can borrow from tomorrow to use more than 86,400.While 86,400 sure sounds like a lot, why does it never seem to be enough?

Well, we can't change the amount of time we have each day but we can change the way we look at it to be more efficient. Using some basic time management tips, we can start to control our time and not allow it to control us:

1) Plan. Use some of that 86,400 to devise a way that works best for you. Dump the "shoulds" and use whatever tools you need - however unorthodox or cumbersome they may seem to others. Your success is grounded in the quality of your plan and how well it organizes and distributes your workload.

2) Set Goals. How you spend your time is dictated by the direction that you give it through carefully worded objectives. Decide your outcome first and then set the specific, measurable, realistic and achievable goals to get there. Set optimum goals that make you stretch but not break.

3) Prioritize. Remember the 80-20 Rule? (That 80 percent of the reward comes from 20 percent of the effort?) Isolate the 20 percent that gives you the greatest reward and concentrate your time on those efforts.

4) List. With the acceleration of multi-tasking, it's important to always know what you're supposed to be doing next. A "to-do" list automatically tells you what's most important because you've incorporated your priorities and deadlines into it. Find a "To-Do" list that works best for you: a running list that's constantly being updated; a daily list made up at the start of the day; or a combination of both.

5) Flex. To create time for interruptions and distractions, plan half of your time. You'll have 50 percent that gives you the flexibility to respond to unplanned needs and emergencies while completing necessary routine tasks. The other 50 percent (and more if you have it) can be devoted to the higher priorities from your "to-do" list.

6) Shine in prime time. When are you at your best? Late night? Early in the morning? Mid-day? Make your biological clock work for you - dedicate your best time of day to your priority projects.

7) Do the right thing. Management guru Peter Drucker says "doing the right thing is more important than doing things right." Focus first on effectiveness (identifying the right thing to do), then concentrate on efficiency (doing it right).

8) Reduce urgency. Identify those items on your "to do" list that could turn into emergencies by highlighting them or attaching a deadline. When you diminish the urgency, you increase time for more important long-term, goal-related priorities.

9) Terminate the trivial. Work on tasks that you alone can do. Delegate or eliminate those that are trivial and/or have no long-term consequences.

10) Shun perfectionism. Some things need to be closer to perfection than others, but don't procrastinate by paying unnecessary attention to detail. When something is made in the Malaysian culture, a flaw is purposely left in so the gods won't be offended.

11) Conquer procrastination. Getting started can feel daunting with a realization that it all can't be done at once. (If it could all be done at once, you'd have a lot less trouble getting started, right?) Try breaking a big task into smaller ones or working on the big task for just 15 minutes. By doing a little at a time, you'll eventually reach a point where you'll want to finish.

12) Say "no." Two letters. Only one syllable. And it's so hard to say. First, re-convince yourself that you and your priorities are important. Then it's easier to say "no" to the unimportant things. Focus on your goals. Block time for important unscheduled priorities such as family and friends.

13) Pare down paperwork. Be proactive, not reactive. Don't let it pile up. Stay current. Once you get behind, it's very hard to catch up.

14) Reward yourself. Celebrate the achievement of any goal. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task or finishing a total job. Then indulge. Doing so helps to maintain the necessary balance between work and play, making your work more enjoyable and efficient.

15) Save your sanity. You cannot please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. Including you.

16) Destroy time wasters. I've found the biggest offenders to be clutter and disorganization, under-estimating the time required to complete a job, pointless meetings, vague lines of responsibility and authority, fatigue, unclear communication or instruction and indecision.

86,400 seconds. That's a lot. The clock is ticking. Time is money. Wasting one is wasting the other.

Dave Benak is a retired training director who lives in Vancouver. He teaches leadership, management and supervision at Clark College and owns and operates "TrainingPays." He can be reached at (360) 944-7571 or TrainingPays@aol.com.

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