I know a lot of people who would give anything to get more done and in less time. They typically respond by freaking out, being rushed, and living a high stress life.
This stressful existence isn't the answer.
Instead, here's a chance to have both productivity and freedom from stress. Now I can't promise this will be easy, fun, or something to brag to friends about. But, I can tell you this is very possible and that the answer lies in the 5 Commandments of Time Management.
- Commandment #1: Organize your time
This first rule of thumb will make a dramatic difference in your effectiveness: keep one calendar and devote yourself to keeping it current. Stop spreading yourself thin between calendars on Outlook, on your smartphone, in your planner, and even on your kitchen refrigerator.
Life is busy, and there are far too many chances for an important event to fall through the cracks. Commit yourself to one trusted location for your appointments, meetings and events.
Yes, there will be other calendars you're issued at work, school or home, but those should be considered secondary. Spend a few minutes each morning transferring upcoming events from those calendars to your primary schedule. You'll save tons of time later by not scrambling to remember dates and times.
Equally important, be sure to always keep your calendar on-hand. Being able to pull-up your schedule in a split-second empowers you to make better choices when setting upcoming appointments and it takes pressure off you having to remember your schedule. Stick with this rule, and you'll take a better command of your time.
- Commandment #2: Prioritize your time
You may be busy today, but are you the right kind of busy? It's all a matter of priorities. Far too often people spend their days doing busywork instead of focusing on the important tasks.
Here's how you prioritize what's important:
- Think about the top 5-10 items you want to accomplish today and make a to-do list in your daily planner. Keep it realistic to the time you have available.
- Prioritize your to-do list by ranking the activities by importance. Assign them a letter A, B, or C using this criteria:
- A tasks must be done today, and carry undesirable consequences if not completed
- B tasks need to get done, but you won’t be penalized if not
- C tasks are things you want to do, can wait another day
- Number your tasks in the order you want to complete them with the most important tasks going first
- Commandment #3: Protect your time
Time is your most valuable currency, so don't allow yourself to waste it.
To do this you must avoid the common distractions that knock your productivity off-course. Try scheduling a daily "Distraction Free Hour" in your planner. Then, shut your door, unplug from the internet, turn off your phone, and blot out any other external noise that steals your time.
Another good way to defeat your worst procrastination habits is to keep a work log where you track what you've accomplished each hour. That way you can learn your weaknesses and self-correct. For example, if you often get sucked into Facebook and other entertainment websites then unplug and go offline for one hour, twice per day.
- Commandment #4: Balance your time
You've long been told that success comes from working longer and harder, and by "burning the midnight oil." But it comes at a cost – your other commitments will suffer from neglect.
The key is to find balance between work and life. Here are some more suggestions:
1. Choose a personal goal to work on each week and schedule tasks.
2. Include activities from all categories of life in your daily to-do list.
3. Schedule a repeating family event such as Thursday game night.
4. Use the downtime in your day to accomplish personal tasks, such as reading, exercise, calling a friend, or meditation. Schedule these activities in your day planner calendar to ensure you don't skip it.
5. Designate a daily exercise time, such as an early morning run or a lunchtime walk.
6. Unplug at home. Turn off the television, internet and smartphone and enjoy the lost art of conversation with friends and family.
In order to be truly productive, you need to include tasks from all facets of life, like grocery shopping, fitness, yard work, personal finances, and of course quality family time.
Try one of the above ideas each week and you'll soon develop habits that create a more balanced life.
- Commandment #5: Enjoy your time!
Don't wait to get organized tomorrow. Instead of struggling through your days and weeks waiting for the weekend to come, enjoy your time in the here and now.
Here's the secret: it's all about putting yourself in the driver's seat when it comes to your time. Gain control of your time by using the daily habits above that will make you more proactive about setting your schedule, your to-do list and your priorities.
When you're making the right choices with your time each day, you'll enjoy more productivity, will get more work done in less time, and enjoy more time to do things for yourself and your family.