The Secret to Improving
Time Management

Despite our best efforts, time ticks away no faster or slower, we must come to the realization that what we can manage is our use of it. 
So, We Must Create Laser Focus

And we do this by doing two things:
  1. Learning to manage ourself and 
  2. Learning to manage the way we use our time.  

It works like this
  • Know WHERE You Want To Go 
  • Determine the Steps to Get There
  • Know What You Are Doing and When
  • Stick To Your Plan
When we learn to properly plan and organize, we will improve our focus.  When we improve our focus, we will improve our time management skills.

Where Do You Want To Go?  The first step in managing our time efficiently is to determine the destination.  

Set Goals - If you need to get it done, you will write it down.  

It is not that the writing is magic - just having them on paper is not what we are going for! 

It is the process of determining where we are aiming.  If we do not know our destination, we will wander around aimlessly or end up in places we did not want to be.

Write down your goals from long term to short term.  Start with the long term.  Determine what you want to accomplish in the next year and make it measureable.  For example, saying "I want to own my own business" is not specific enough, where "I want to have my Italian Restaurant opened" is measureable.

What Are the Steps to Get Where You Want To Go?  Now we can determine what actions will get us there.  This tells us WHAT to focus on when we schedule our time.

Next, write down medium term goals.  These are things that you need to do in order to make that happen.  They also must be specific and measureable.  It is helpful to work backwards.  For example, if you want to have a restaurant opened next year, then one month before that you need to have the building finished, ingredients ordered, menus printed, advertising in place and be hiring staff.  Then the month before that you probably want to have your furniture delivered, be reviewing your advertising and schedule your inspections.  And so on.

When you have determined what you need to do this month to move you toward your long-term goal, then you need to work on short term goals.  What do you need to do each week in order to accomplish these medium term goals?  Then what do you need to do each day to move you toward completing these goals?

Have a list of things that you must accomplish each day.  These are not your normal "call and get a hair appointment", "schedule a meeting" things, these are must do items that will move you closer to your desired destination.

What Are You Doing Now and When Do You Do It?  For a couple of days, keep track of what you do.  After every thirty minutes (15 is better), write down what you have done. 

This is not the easiest thing to do, but once you have done it and SEE the results, you will be spurred into action!

After doing this for a few days, you are going to see some patterns and probably some places that you can improve your management of time.  But, resist the urge to correct these now.  First, let's work on these steps:

Prioritize - If you are going to do it, schedule it.  If not, dump it.

Take the things that you have determined you must do the next day and put them IN your schedule.  .

Schedule the most difficult first.  Then the feeling of accomplishment will motivate you to finish the rest.

It cannot be said enough that if it is worth doing - it is worth scheduling.  Put it on the calendar and then actually use that time slot to do it. 

Don't take phone calls.  Don't talk to your co-worker.  Don't check e-mail.  Don't do research for it (schedule that).  DO THE TASK. 

Remember that improving your time managment is really about improving your ability to focus.

Eliminate Time Wasters - If you scheduled it, don't do something else.

Keep the appointment with yourself and do not let the time leeches rob you of that productive time.

If you took the time to do the first task, you likely recognized some things that were time wasters.  You checked your e-mail 10 times that day, or were interrupted 17 times to answer questions.  You went into your office to file a document and found yourself looking through the folders for a letter that you had been meaning to respond to... etc.

While some of these things are necessary, it is likely that you can eliminate most altogether or have them done by someone else through delegating them.  Or, if they are things you must do, schedule them after the other tasks that are related to your goals. 

But the important thing to remember is, if they are important, schedule them.

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