You can either learn to master time or have time master you. The choice is yours.
Time doesn’t stop. It just keeps going no matter how much you try to slow it down or halt its ceaseless progression. So rather than trying to conquer time, you need to learn how to make it work for you, rather than against you.
Time management is the skill of making time your tool. By learning how to optimize your own time, you can become more productive and successful.
Here, then, are five simple ways you can become a master of time management:
1. Conduct an Examination of Your Everyday Life Patterns
The ancient philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” While he may have not been talking about productivity, this lesson can help you become a master of time management.
If you want to learn where you can save time throughout your day, you have to spend at least some time looking at how you spend your time on a regular basis.Spend a few days or a week observing what you do each day and how long it takes. How much time does it take for you to prepare for work? How long is your commute? What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at the office and how long does it take? How long does each specific task throughout your day take?
Carry a notebook with you and use the timer on your smart phone or watch to measure how long each specific task takes you as you progress through your typical day. This is sure to expose a lot of inefficiencies that you can address later as you strive to improve your time management.
2. Set Specific Time Limits for Major Tasks
Any activity or conversation you have that is important to your work should have a time assigned to it. Assign a time that you think is reasonable for each task, and then stick to it. When the time for that task expires, move on to something else.
This is a particularly useful technique for dealing with other people who are “time bandits”. You probably already know who they are in your office. These are the folks who stop by your office, sit down and proceed to waste half of your day with mindless talking.
Give these and other people a reasonable amount of time for what they have to say then send them on their way. It will free you for more important tasks without squandering unproductive time on useless chatter. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to be a serious person.
3. Build-In “Thinking” Time
During your work day, you probably will spend about half of your time just thinking: Coming up with solutions to problems, developing new ideas that can be applied to current or future situations, weighing the most effective strategies for achieving successful outcomes, and so on.
This time is among your most productive. The time you spend thinking, doing things, and holding genuinely productive conversations with other people that yield actual results is what being a master of time management is all about.
Your objective should be to maximize these times and minimize all the others that are less productive.
4. Don’t Freak Out When You Go Off Schedule
Whether you like it or not, you can’t control everything else that is happening in the world. You can only respond to it.
Despite your best intentions, you inevitably are going to be thrown off track by distractions, emergencies, and unexpected events that are a natural part of every work day. Don’t let these derail your productivity. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, deal with it.
Then get back on with your schedule so that you can minimize its effect on your day’s productivity.
5. Make Both Big and Small Plans
The best way to control your time is to have a plan.
You should have both long-term plans and short-term plans. Long-term plans might include such things as sales targets you want to achieve, revenue growth, increasing the value of your company or your personal wealth, and so on.
Short-term goals are everything else, from how you are going to complete that report that’s due by the end of the week to getting dressed for work in the morning.
To be a master of time management, it’s helpful to set aside time each day for planning. Spend 20 or 30 minutes before your workday begins to map out what you expect to accomplish.
You can include meetings you need to attend, phone calls you need to make, site visits you may have to perform, and so on. You can even do this planning in the shower, if you prefer.
This type of planning lets you organize your day according to your needs and expectations, rather than simply being blown sideways through your day by whatever events happen to you.
These five easy steps can help you take control of your time so that time doesn’t take control of you.