If you want to be learning time management skills for yourself, you have to know what it's all about. Is time management the same as managing time? I don't think it is. Time is static, it doesn't change. Realize that you have the same amount of time as the president of America, the same amount of time as the pizza deliviry boy, as Einstein, as me... Therefore, time management is about managing yourself. That's right, it has very little to do with time.
The meaning of time management
Time management is a set of principles and skills to assist you in getting more value out of your life. It tries to do this by maximizing your productivity and efficiency in order to improve the quality of your life.
The main enemy of a quality life is procrastinating and sabotaging your own success. In order to overcome procrastination you have to understand why you procrastinate and you have to find out how you procrastinate. In order to cure it, you'll have to change a lot of habits, which is no easy task.
Why Do People Procrastinate?
People, even I, procrastinate because of a number of things. Firstly because it works rewarding. This is something we learned ourself from when we where little. We learned to associate 'not doing something' with 'pleasure'. For instance, when you delay something, often someone else will do it for you.
Secondly, because of fears. Fears of success and fears of failure. Perfectionism is a fear of failure. You're afraid of not delivering a perfect job, therefore, you procrastinate to provide an excuse for when you do fail.
Third, a wrong sense of time
Most people have the feeling that there is more time available than there actually is. Instead of working on an import project with a deadline far away, most people choose to do unimportant stuff because they think they have plenty of time. This leads to doing things last minute and delivering crappy work.
A first solution that procrastinators should try is to focus on beginning to work instead of focusing on the end result. This is because most procrastinators fear the critique that come with the end result. When you focus on beginning, you have no intension on finishing, thus eliminating the fear that comes from the thinking about delivering your work. It doesn't matter what you do, just do something to progress.
You can be very busy and still get nothing done. Goal setting and planning your life will serve you well at improving the quality of your life. Goals serve as a map to see where you need to go, without the map you will run around in circles and never get where you need to be.
Think before you act
The purpose of goals is to prepare yourself for the tasks/projects at hand. Each minute spent preparing saves you 10 minutes. Therefore, set goals and think about what you are about to do. Don't rush in!
There are many kind of goals, long term, yearly, monthly, weekly and daily. I will briefly discuss the two opposite ends of the scale.
Long Term Goals
These are your end life goals. Imagine, you're dying. What would you have wanted to have done in your life? What would you have wanted to do less off in your life? Think big on this one. People often underestimate their capabilities. Certainly when you have to think 20 or more years into the future.
When you have your long term goal. (ex. I want to have travelled to all continents in the world.) You can then break it down into smaller subgoals. (ex. This summer I will visit America, next summer I will visite China...) Why? Because big goals often look impossible and is a major cause for procrastinating on the goal. If you break it down, you'll often see that it isn't as difficult as you first thought it was.
They work the same as long term goals, except, they are much more present. In order to feel you've had a good day. A day full of accomplishments, you have to know what you're going to do. The ideal moment to plan your day is in the evening of the previous day or the first thing in the morning.
To-do lists is where you manage your daily planning. You write down everything that you have to do on a list. When you do something that is on the list, you check it off, you look at the next thing on the list, and you start doing it.
There are two species of to-do lists. You have the mostly used prioritized to-do list. Which lets you prioritize your items and forces you to only do the most important items.
My favorite is the closed list. Once you're done making it. You can't add new items. You can finish them in any order. Prioritization is useless with closed lists because you have to do everything on it.
The Pareto principle states that 20% of what you do, will produce 80% of the results. Therefore it matters what you do. This is a practical application of thinking before doing. The principle is widely applicable and can be applied to allmost everything that you do. Therefore it is important to review your long term goals from time to time. To make sure you are working on the right 20%.
Setting Goals is one thing. But scheduling your time will make your goals real. When will you do what? When are the deadlines of your goals? Put everything in your calendar. Appointments, meetings, hobbies, parties... Be carefull not to overcrowd your calendar. Leave some blank space for flexibility, emergencies can and will always happen.
If you do have to much to do, and you just don't have the time to do it then consider to reduce your commitments. If you have to much to do, you have to choose to not do some important tasks or lower the quality of everything you do. Therefore, if you reduce your commitments you can deliver more quality work and get everything done.
You can schedule all you want, but if you can't focus on your work it doesn't matter at all. This is especially important for knowledge workers as they often tend to drift off when sitting at a desk. (Myself included) Distractions and interruptions are also a major problem for your productivity.
In order to stay focused and concentrated you need to block out distractions. Close all attention demanding devices (ex. phone, email, facebook...), put a don't disturb sign on your door, get your phone off the hook... Furthermore, to decrease the drifting, try to work in timed block. This will heighten your motivation and focus and forces you to block out distractions and deal with interuptions in a different manner.
Write Things Down
When you think of something that needs to be done while working, but has nothing to do with the current task. Write it down on a special list and handle it later. Multitasking is the best way to lose your concentration.
Carry a notebook on you for writing down ideas and to-dos down when you think of them.
To rebuild your focus, you need to relax from time to time. Ideally you should relax a little after each timed work block. Make your relax period different from your work period. Ex.: If you work on a computer, do an active break, but if you do active work, relax by sitting down.
The brain also seems to work as a muscle. It becomes stronger if you train it. Therefore, if you put time management principles into practice you will get better at them. After a while it will seem as if your lazy brain isn't lazy anymore.
If you don't have a coach to motivate you, you have to do it yourself. One way is to review your long term goals daily. Remind yourself why you are doing all this hard work. Think of all the benefits you will obtain.
On occasion, review yourself and look at areas where you need to improve. Then make a commitment and plan to improve those areas. It will take some effort now, but it will pay dividents in the future. The best investments are those that improve yourself. (Ex. Sports, study, building character ...)
When you done something good, reward yourself. Reward yourself often. Reward yourself for as little as working 5 minutes, certainly in the beginning, and your brain will start to associate work with pleasure. Rewarding good behavior only leads to more good behavior. Therefore, you have now been given the key to effectively train yourself in any direction you want to go.
I hope you're still motivated in learning time management skills. It's a lot, but it's well worth the time you invest into it.
My name is Demian and I'm very passionate about time management. This website is an expression of that passion. I hope you enjoy it :)