Written by: Rafa Contreras of TheProfessionalist.com Time management is impossible. How can someone manage something that they have no control over? Whether we like it or not, time is something we will never be able to manage perfectly. It’s not only us who have trouble with time management, but also people before us. In fact, Benjamin Franklin’s most difficult task to perfect (he was convinced that he could reach perfect performance) was time management. In his autobiography, he mentions that sudden activities would rob him of his time. We feel the same whenever we are suddenly asked to do a presentation in two days. Or when we have to do laundry because you have no clean shirts for tomorrow. These little surprises rob us from our time that was supposed to be spent doing something else. Because time is impossible to control, don’t strain your head in figuring out how to control it. Instead, invest your efforts in controlling your habits. Through disciplined habits, you can reach peak productivity. Case Scenario Erick wakes up at 5:15 AM Monday through Friday. As soon as he wakes up, he washes his face, puts on his eye contacts, and drinks a glass of water. Then, he puts on his gym clothes he set out the night before and takes out his breakfast smoothie from the refrigerator. By 5:50, he walks out the door with his work attire in a gym bag and ready to get a workout. It’s 7:10 AM and Erick exercised, showered, and dressed for work. However, he doesn’t begin his work day until 9:00 AM. Nonetheless, he takes this time to read a chapter of the new book he bought and types in his iPad a couple of things he needs to accomplish for the day. He evens has extra time to run through his email and sort out his inbox. As his workday begins, he works on his ‘To-Do’ list. By noon, he completes his ‘To-Do’ list and doesn’t feel guilty when his colleague takes 30 minutes talking about the new company policy and how it’s ruining his work efforts. After their conversation, Erick’s supervisor asks him to work on a special report due before the end of the day. Fortunately, Erick completed his tasks to give him sufficient time to work on his boss’ request. After work, Erick’s phone rings and it’s a calendar reminder about his date with his girlfriend. After his night out, he heads back home and irons his clothes, makes his breakfast smoothie, and types up reminders on his iPhone for the next day. Lessons
- Disciplined habits and instilled routines help you take better control of your efforts throughout the day, because they set structure between what you want to do and what you need to do. Erick was able to do both, because he set specific time for himself in the morning so the rest of his day could be free for ‘sudden surprises’ or other activities.
- Preparation today means action tomorrow. To have a productive day, you have to prepare the day before. Erick prepared certain things (simple things) like making a breakfast meal and ironing his clothes the night before to ensure he woke up ready to take action. He did not wake up to prepare, because he had already prepared the night before. This allows you to be more productive as soon as your day starts.
- Use technology to write your thoughts, goals, and reminders. A simple notes app on your smartphone can help you jot down things you need to accomplish for the day. If your activities are time sensitive, set up a calendar reminder and have it set to ring before you actually have to attend to the activity. There are several productivity apps, but the goal is to write down what you need to remember so you can actually do it. Your smartphone’s calendar app usually does the trick.
- Every day we are confronted with many activities. As a result, we want to do everything at once by putting our time and efforts into every single activity. A lot of ‘time management’ has to do with what we say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to. Remember that your time is YOUR time. For example, if you are invited to coordinate a special event that is scheduled to happen in two weeks, yet you will be busy the next two weeks – what response will you reply with? It’s easy to say ‘Yes’ and not commit to a certain project completely.
- Be honest with yourself. For example, if you know that your daily commute to work is 30 minutes, don’t schedule to leave your house 20 minutes before because you ‘think’ there will be less traffic that morning. Many of us, calculate time to the T. Be real and allow for unpredicted events to occur. In other words, if it takes you 30 minutes to arrive to your work place, leave 50 minutes (or more) from your house. This allows a 20 minute marginal gap that will serve as a safety net in case something suddenly happens.
- Make time for yourself. In fact, make it a priority. A lot of times we are upset with our packed calendars and frustrated that we have several things to do. It’s not that we are frustrated with the actual activities, rather we are upset because we know that these activities prevent us from doing what we want to do. For this reason, it is crucial for you to reserve time for yourself. Whether you reserve 30 minutes or three hours, you have to make time to do that things you want to do. And take this allotted time to actually do what you want to do: leisure reading, personal study, internet browsing, exercising, shopping, or spending time with family. The idea is to ‘do you’ so you can endure the rest of the day’s activities that might not necessarily be things that you want to do.
By implementing these practices and keeping in mind these ideas, you can assure that your day will feel less stressful and more controllable – and more productive. Time management is not about managing time, it’s about managing yourself.