Most of our daily schedule gets determined by our employers, clients, school administrators, and other authority figures we encounter. We have to work nine to five or eight to four, go to the dentist at 12:30 because that’s the only open appointment, or visit our friend Thursday because she’s busy the rest of the week.
Although people plan our time for us, we can still choose how we spend our free time and run errands. We can determine when and how we should clean the house, go to the supermarket, take a vacation, or exercise. Even though the time frame we spend at work or school is determined by others, we can still choose how to spend that time.
You can’t get back wasted time. Some people live their lives as though they have unlimited time. The truth is that all of us are living on borrowed time. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to even young, healthy people, as accidents and twists of fate are sometimes around the corner. Therefore, it’s important to know what you want out of life and work towards it everyday
Importance of Time: Seize the Day
We never really think about how we spend our time and if we are doing it in the most efficient way possible.
Seize each moment and make the most of your time. You don’t need to spend every moment of your life working and being productive to have a happy, successful life. Learn how to use your time more smartly. Identify time-wasting distractions that add nothing to your life, and replace them with constructive activities.
Be careful about putting projects and activities on the back burner. Some people have a tendency to delay activities until it’s too late. On a personal level, this may mean putting off a visit to your aunt for years and years, for example. When you finally get around to it, she may be very sick, or you may find she has passed away.
What is Time Management?
Time management helps you find the best use for every moment of your day. Planning your work life, family life, and even aspects of your social life cut down on the stress that comes with uncertainty and last-minute decisions.
Even if your life has been a mess due to poor time management skills, you can always learn how to organize your appointments, prioritize your tasks, and set deadlines.
Set Goals the Smart Way
Time management is a form of goal-setting. You have goals for every day, every week, every month and every year. Choosing the right targets is essential for success in any area of your life. Use the SMART goal setting method to determine your overall goals, and then set small daily and weekly goals so you can achieve your ultimate goal.
A SMART goal is a carefully thought out goal that involves four objectives – the specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.
A specific objective might be “I want to be president of an IT security company.” A generic objective like “I want to be successful in business” will not be as effective as a more specific goal.
Measuring your goal involves tracking the number of jobs you apply for, your grades for every course you take or paper you write, or the number of sales calls you make. Tracking your activities towards your goal gives you a sense of accomplishment. You can also re-evaluate how you are working towards your goal and change your method, if necessary.
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big, but you should set goals you can reasonably achieve within a year, a month, or a few months. If you set goals that are hard to achieve within your given time frame, it may ruin your motivation and self-esteem. You may need to learn more or add additional steps to your plan to make your goals more achievable.
Your interim goals should be consistent with your value and overall goal. Rethink any objectives that don’t fit in with your broader goal. Replace or reduce any activities that waste time and don’t align with your final objective.
Set the best time frame you can for achieving your goal. If you have an end-time, it will help you prioritize and avoid wasting time. Analyze your progress at the end of your chosen timeframe. Consider changing your approach if you haven’t achieved your goal at that time.
Why You Should Use Time Management at Home and at the Office
Time management isn’t just for executives and businesses. You can incorporate it into all aspects of your daily life, from shopping to house cleaning and errands to child care. Effective time management allows you to plan your days, so you don’t waste time on trivialities. It allows you to “put first things first” and focus on the tasks that will benefit your life the most.
You’ll achieve what you want and do it faster when you plan your projects in advance. If you wake up every morning and debate what you should do, you’ll waste time, and you may forget an important task or project.
When you reserve a certain amount of time every week (or every night) to concentrate solely on what you need to do for the next day, or seven days, you’ll have less stress, fewer missed appointments. And get all our work done on time without making mistakes or forgetting important items.
Benefits of Time Management
You’ll complete tasks sooner and get more done in less time. The more you accomplish, the more self-confidence you’ll have. When you plan your day, you’ll have fewer problems and save so much time you’ll have more free time for fun and hobbies.
Prioritizing your time may require an hour or so at the beginning of the week, but your life will improve immeasurably just from that small change to your routine. If you are constantly stressed, you’ll miss deadlines and make mistakes. You’ll be scatterbrained and unable to concentrate on tasks.
Planning your day keeps you calmer and reduces anxiety.
Use Time Management Reminders
Some work and personal tasks are unpleasant, but we need to do them. Doing your taxes, paying bills, scheduling a check-up, or doing yard work isn’t high on anyone’s list of fun activities, but delaying them can cause major headaches.
Use Post-Its or Smartphone apps as reminders to perform vital but unpleasant tasks. You can set aside a weekend or entire day to perform these tasks, or do them in small chunks of time every day for a week. If you don’t plan to do these tasks ahead of time, you may end up rushing through them at the last minute, which can lead to mistakes
Planning Your Day
Give yourself a specific length of time to finish (or work on) a task every day. You’ll find it easier to stay with that predetermined time slot than work on something with no “official” end time. Without a specific time allotment in mind, some people may become more easily distracted and do less work.
Planning your time helps you understand that you need to make the most of all your time each day. You’ll be less apt to waste time if you have an hour-by-hour schedule each day. Make a to-do list the night before, and then schedule your projects and errands on your phone, tablet, or paper calendar.
List your most important goal for every day, and for every week. Write down a few minor goals that aren’t as time-sensitive. Review weekly and monthly goals occasionally, and alter them if your life circumstances have changed. Sit in a quiet room and think about what you want to accomplish and why.
Write Down Your Goals
Writing goals longhand on a piece of paper will make you remember them and take them more seriously than typing them, according to some studies.
Having a plan will prevent you from wasting time deciding what you should do next. You won’t throw yourself into unimportant tasks and forget to work on a vital project.
By planning your work and household tasks, you’ll complete all the necessary projects on time. You’ll have more free time to travel, relax, read, or spend time with family/friends.
History of Time Management
Time management theory has been around for centuries. From Benjamin Franklin’s pamphlets to 21st Century productivity apps, Americans have always worked on ways to streamline their time and accomplish more. Here are some examples of time-saving techniques and planning.
Early American Time Management
Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography revealed his system for keeping daily order in his life. He would describe his five to eight a.m schedule as “rise, wash…Contrive days business…and breakfast.” For evening, he listed supper, music or conversation and examination of the day.
In 1841 Katherine Beecher, an advocate for women’s education, published a treatise for women. The guide was called “A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School.” The guide promoted the idea that women could be as hard-working and effective as men.
The book promoted the importance of female labor and emphasized education for young women instead of the pursuit of more trivial activities.
The 20th Century and Time Management
Time management became a common term among executives and other business movers and shakers in the 1960s, but the concept first entered the public consciousness because of an American president.
Eisenhower’s Four Task Categories
President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s (1953-1961) time management system placed tasks in four categories:
- Urgent-important items were handled immediately.
- Urgent-unimportant items were delegated to others.
- Not urgent-important items were placed in a calendar.
- Not urgent-unimportant were eliminated or put on the bottom of the calendar.
This productivity regimen has been imitated and adapted in many self-help books and programs.
The Executive Effect
In 1966, the book “The Executive Effect,” author Peter Drucker told business executives that they should consider what not to spend their time on with the same thought as to where to spend it.
Delegating minor tasks, action plans, and efficient meetings were the precepts of Drucker’s book. The phrase “What can I do that no one else can do?” is adapted from Drucker’s recommendation that you choose the best thing that you can contribute.
Day-Timers were originally made as a planner for lawyers in the 1950s. By the 1960s, the Dorsey Printing Company manufactured Day-Timers for office workers, students, and anyone who wanted to be more organized.
The company added new sizes and formats to these paper planners throughout the 1960s-1990s. Consumers could choose from page a day planners, wall calendars, desk calendars, and page a week planners.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” first published in 1990, has sold more than 10 million copies. It is one of the most revered time management books of all time. The book contains advice on how to improve your business and personal life and make better choices by managing your time.
Covey’s book expands on Eisenhower’s four task type theory. Covey uses the same quadrants in his example but expands on them.The urgent and important quadrant focuses on emergencies, crises, deadline-driven projects, and last-minute preparations. The not urgent but important quadrant involves planning, preparation, training, exercise/health, and recreation.
The 3rd quadrant, urgent, but not important, consists of meetings, interruptions, and small talk. The fourth quadrant, not urgent and not important, contains time-wasting activities that don’t benefit you professionally, personally, or socially. This includes surfing the internet, spending hours watching TV, or scrolling through social media and other trivial activities.
Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
In 1993, the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show. PDAs helped people keep track of their time and schedules, and bridged the gap between Day-Timers and Smartphones.
The 21st Century
In the 21st Century, productivity apps for your Smartphone and tablet replaced paper planners for most folks. There are many productivity and time management apps you can use to make the most of each day.
David Allen’s 2002 book, “Getting Things Done,” distills the productivity process to five steps – Collect, Process, Organize information, Review, and Take Action.
The Tim Ferris best-seller, “The Four Hour Workweek,” originally published in 2007, suggested that people manage their time more effectively by reducing your time checking emails or texting/talking on your phone. He also recommended outsourcing some of your work to virtual assistants to save time, including writing term papers.
You Can’t Get Back Wasted Time
You can earn back the money you wasted on trivialities. If you break up with a Significant Other, you can find someone better. Wasted time, though, is gone forever. There’s nothing you can do to get it back or relive it.
Spend a week tracking how you spend your time. This exercise may seem difficult at first, but it will ultimately help you be more productive and alleviate the stress caused by procrastination and time wasters. You may be shocked to find out how many hours you waste on social media, or that a half-hour break to watch your favorite TV series turns into three hours without you realizing it.
Handling Time-Wasting Distractions
Before you can handle time-wasting activities, you should think about why you procrastinate. Do you resort to searching the internet or other time-wasters when you’re overwhelmed or upset? Do you feel you need to be in the right frame of mind to complete certain projects?
There’s no perfect time to work on a project or task. Even if you’re upset or tired, start your task. Beginning a project is like exercising. Once you take action, you’ll feel better and develop more energy as you continue to work. Letting your procrastination take over will put you behind on work or personal projects and may cause problems with friends, family, or work associates.
Work on Procrastination Triggers
Write a list of procrastination triggers. Once you’re aware of what makes you put off important tasks, you can take steps to get to them on time.
If you normally like cooking, but always procrastinate when your parents come to dinner. Figure out what causes your apprehension. Are they too critical of the types of food you serve? Do they prefer more formal meals or meat instead of vegetarian meals?
Ask them what they would like to eat and how you should prepare it, and you may find you no longer procrastinate when they come to dinner.
Control Technology, Don’t Let it Control You
There are more distractions in modern society than ever that waste our time. Smartphones, social media, streaming videos, music, and movies demand our attention 24/7. The average person in the U.S. spends two hours and three minutes on social media daily. In the Philippines, people spend three hours and 53 minutes each day on social media.
Technology may solve a lot of problems, but it has sucked up lots of time from people from all walks of life. You may take a short break from work to browse the internet and find an hour has passed before you realize you’ve scrolled through a dozen cat videos.
How to Reduce Time Spent on Social Media
You can cut down on social media time and needless internet browsing by setting a certain time each day, specifically for reading and posting on your accounts. If you compulsively check your Facebook notifications, shut off this feature in your account. You can also download apps like Freedom, to curb your social media addiction, or Checky, which lets you know how many times you check your Smartphone each day.
Here’s a list of some top websites and app blockers. Reading news websites and checking social media is way ahead of the other work time-wasters on the list. Use the website/social media blockers at home, too – you may forget to run errands or do household tasks if you spend too much time scrolling through Instagram or Facebook posts.
Take some time to assess how you spend your time each day – at work, at school, at home, even when you’re running errands. For a few days, keep an hour by hour tab on how you spend your time.
Tips for Effectively Managing Your Time
Avoid multitasking and concentrate on one task at a time. When you try to do several things at once, you may not finish any of the projects. Scattering your energy over several tasks won’t help you complete projects faster; it will prevent you from finishing anything on time.
You will be more likely to make mistakes on the projects since your thoughts will be scattered over several subjects. It’s better to focus on one task and complete it before moving on to the next project.
Spend More Time in Nature and Away from Technology
Getaway from your computer and out in nature to get motivated and waste less time. Research has shown that taking daily walks outdoors, or spending anytime in nature every day, can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and even make you happier. A breath of fresh air and some greenery is good for your eyesight (no staring at a phone screen), your attitude, and your physical health.
Recharge yourself by biking, walking, or jogging on breaks. Looking at nature, even for a few minutes, will renew your creativity and energy.
Stress wastes your time. When you worry about whether you’re doing the right thing, the outcome of your work project, or your personal relationships, it won’t make things better, but it may make them worse. You may bring about unwanted situations with your overthinking and worrying. Anxiety also causes medical problems like headaches and stomach pains.
Manage stress with meditation, exercise, and having fun with friends and family. When you manage time effectively, you’ll experience less stress, even if you’re a naturally anxious person.
Just Say No
Avoid saying yes to every request you get from friends, co-workers, and relatives. Helping others is fine if you have the resources and time, take on as many favors as you can without compromising your projects. Don’t feel that you have to do everything your family or friends ask of you. If you tell them you don’t have the time or energy, most people will understand.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
You need to be healthy and clear-headed to make good decisions about how to manage your time. If you’re weak and sluggish, it will affect you mentally as well as physically. Eat a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and nuts. If you do eat mears, choose only lean cuts. Snack on raisins, fresh fruit, and whole-grain crackers. Avoid sugary soda and desserts.
A good diet keeps your body healthy, but it also keeps your mind clear and focused. Stop smoking (if you haven’t already), and reduce alcohol consumption. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and get seven or eight hours of sleep a night.
Maintain a Work/Life Balance
When making your work plans, always remember to maintain a sense of balance. You need to build in time for rest, relaxation, and socializing so you don’t burn out and become frazzled. You’ll end up stressed and angry if you don’t leave time each day to exercise, listen to music, or have a coffee break with a friend.
Relaxing, being creative, or hanging out with friends and family will lift your spirits and energize you. Taking breaks to enjoy life and build personal relationships is one of the smartest things you can do for your mental health – and for your business success.
Tackle Unpleasant Tasks First
You may procrastinate if you have a dreaded task or work project to do. You’ll find time-wasters like playing video games or binging on Netflix as an excuse to avoid doing the task for as long as possible. A task will become more daunting the longer you procrastinate, so learn how to improve your resolve and tackle unpleasant necessary tasks.
Determine what your toughest project is for the day or the week and tackle that one first. Working on your biggest task will prevent you from worrying about it and give you the confidence to get through the rest of the day or week.
Choosing the hardest task and completing it first is one way to better prioritize your week. Check your daily plan and choose one MIT, or most important task, to complete in the morning. Working on a difficult task when you’re refreshed after a full night’s sleep helps you finish the project faster and without mistakes.
Clean Up Your House and Workspace
A messy home or office looks bad, but it also causes you to waste time looking for papers and other items. Organize your desk, and the files on your computer to save time and prevent frustration. You may need to hire an organizing service to get your home or office in shape, but it will be well worth the cost.
Set aside a certain time every week to clean and organize your home and your workspace.
Take Care of Problems as They Occur
When sudden problems arise, attend to them immediately. Small financial problems that aren’t dealt with right away can result in fees and penalties if you let them fester. Ignoring a household issue, like a loose piece of flooring, may result in an accident that may cause injuries.
Fix small problems as soon as you’re aware of them before they turn into big problems.