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 Get the Key to Time Management in 5 Clear Steps | PM Tools - PM Tools

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Get the Key to Time Management in 5 Clear Steps

#1 Time management “systems” often fail because they are born of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations.

For instance, some people don’t initiate a time management approach until they’re already falling behind in their work; they undertake time management as a means of catching up.

Their initial plans tend to cram in everything they have to do without appropriate regard for the time required. The unrealistic plans that emerge from “catch-up time management” amount to little more than an expression of renewed motivation for change but without the structure to support it.

Those who try to follow crammed schedules often fall seriously behind their intended pace and abandon the plan altogether, resulting in continued time trouble. Some conclude somehow that these strategies of planning don’t work for them.

But, what is important isn’t being perfect, it is making and using a plan that helps you accomplish your goals. One of your best options for time management systems is to begin with the process of goal setting to establish a context for managing time.

I find that I have to stay on top of lots of different types of news and content that fit with the different types of people that I meet. My company pulled together a website for me that pull’s in RSS feeds, news and articles for dozens of different topics. I go to http://info.trainingpass.com for a few minutes when ever I need to quickly study up on subjects. This saves me time, I don’t have to search. It’s in one place for me.

What’s your business plan? Even if you don’t own a business lets assume that your life needs to be run efficiently and organized and that you need a return on investment (ROI). Step one is goals, both long term (5 years) and short term (1 year). Let’s get started. Stop reading this article whenever you need too. First you need to create a sheet with 2 columns and 2 rows. Label the columns professional and the other personal, then the rows under them should be labeled long term and short term. Know what you want to achieve in life. Remember balance in life as well. Do your goals include exercise, financial, career, education, entertainment, religion, charity? List all that fit. Make sure that each goal is clear, positive and achievable. But, reach and grow, don’t set the goals to low. Remember and learn to celebrate your success too. As you achieve these goals take time to enjoy the satisfaction of your achievements.

This section of the program should take a few days. Get started on your goal list today, come back and visit it a couple of times to really make it the best that you can. After you have revisited it a few times now prioritize and number the list in the order that is most important for you to achieve over all success. Adjust how you think about time, improve your awareness of how you use time, and make change for peak performance. As you encounter time troubles, keep in mind that some are predictable, some are not; some are controllable, some are not. For those that are not controllable, keep your cool and get back on track as soon as possible. For time troubles that you can control, and particularly those that occur predictably, deal with them directly and forcefully so that they don’t prevent you from achieving your goals. Examine the following list of troubles: the tips and strategies associated with each one can help you shift your time back to your goals.

Procrastination often emerges as a means of distancing oneself from stressful activities. If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of work on your to-do list, you might benefit from making a “one-item list”: re-write the top item from your list at the top of a blank page and work the task to completion, then repeat.

It can be difficult to start working. Most of the time, however, not starting seems to be related to fear of poor results or negative evaluations than it is to the actual difficulty of the work. Aim to subdivide tasks into small steps and convince yourself that to get started all you need is 10 full minutes working on a task. Often, the 10 minutes will elapse and you’ll be right into the swing of things, prepared to continue on productively.

#2 The next phase of the system involves tracking time and developing awareness for where you spend your time.

How do you currently spend your time? You need to know. For the next week you need to keep a log of what your whole day looks like. Take a notebook and make notes all during the day. Also make a note in the logs about your moods. Don’t rely on your memory, that doesn’t work very well. After the week is over you’ll need to really dive into the log and split the entries into professional and personal. You might be surprised as to how much time is spent on reading junk mail, and chatting with the office chatterers or doing less than organized activities. It’s interesting to compare your energy levels when you review the logs. Productivity may be tied into your eating habits. Now how much is your time worth? Take your pay or if you’re at home, what your pay should be and divide it per hour, ½ hour and each 15 minute section. Examine the log and how much does it cost for you to deal with that junk mail or chatting and being social in non-productive discussions? Of course we all realize that we are human, and need social interaction. This is just a guide of what time management means in terms of costs. Here’s where your return on investment is important. You’ll return to this log to restructure your day.

#3 The third phase of the cycle is plan making, and this could include making to-do lists, weekly plans, monthly plans and longer-range plans.

Your new plan. Using the log to analyze your time you’ll now need to see where you can improve on your time management. Remembering the goals that you created in step one as a guide, we need to start using a to do list. You’ll need to revisit your master goals list several times during the year. Those goals are not carved in stone and can be changed as your life becomes more organized. Many people talk about multi-tasking, but be sure that you schedule quality time to complete your tasks completely. Your to-do list is your business plan of essential tasks for the week or for the day. Set time aside just once per day to process your postal mail, set time to read and responded to e-mail, unless you are in a service position that requires it more than once. As you look at the tasks that you need to schedule think about if this is a task that you enjoy and are you good at it? Are there some tasks that just should not be on your to do list? Would your personal ROI be better served if you showed someone else how to do this task? This is important because you will be more effective on the important tasks that fit your role in the organization and or family. It will also increase your satisfaction of a day well spent. Your new business plan should concentrate on your strengths and tasks that really matter to your job and home life and support the goals that you identified in step 1. In order for you to do this well you may need to review your job description purpose and meet with others to learn what is most important in increasing your value to them. How would you be able to exceed expectations? Consider this as you create your to do list. What are the most important deadlines? Are you part of a team and how does your time management skills relate to projects. You should know if there are resources and budgets available to you to support exceeding the expectations. If you manage people or are a family caregiver this all needs to be scheduled. This is a lot to consider and should be done over a period of time, perhaps a week. But, don’t procrastinate. Let’s get it done. Time management is important. What type of to do list will work best for you? Choose either a weekly or daily list based on the method that will be most effective for your management style. As you create your list consider that:

1. It makes sense that the person with the time, skill, talent and knowledge does each job. Bear in mind however that one person can not do everything.

2. Teach the person how to do the job, including shortcuts.

• Have the best tools, supplies, and equipment for doing the job.

• Consider what jobs people already do.

• Never re-do a job (unless health and/or safety is threatened). If you do, you’ll get the job back.

• Realize others may not meet your standards, but if you have truly given up the job, accept that your standards no longer apply.

• Praise people; let them know their work is appreciated.

3. There are plenty of people who would enjoy being paid for a job you would rather not do.

4. Apply the motto “Less is Best,” so you have fewer possessions to manage. Evaluate if the world will come to an end if the job just does not get done.

Divide your goals into time frames – and then subdivide into manageable pieces.

While it may seem challenging to take in the whole scope of that convergent goal, thinking of your goals in this way helps to reinforce the idea that there is a connected path linking what actions you take today and the successful completion of your goals.

Seeing these connections can help you monitor your own progress and detect whether you are on track or not.

The final phase of the cycle is time shifting and adjusting (i.e., changing where you spend your time to better match your intended use of time) in which you make corrections to the system before starting the cycle again at goal setting.

Taken together, these phases permit you to initialize a process of gradual, performance-based improvement in time management skill.

Everybody wants the “quick fix”, but the complexity of changes involved in really getting a grip on your time management process will take some time to move through.

Resist the urge to cast aside strategies that don’t promise instant results; like it or not, change takes time.

Now make the to – do list. Once your list is complete prioritize the list using numbers where #1 is most important. As you implement your new business plan start with most important. If at the end you don’t get to do the least important tasks examine how important they are and if you are the right person to be doing the task. Can you and should you delegate that duty?

#4 Now that you have your list created use technology and tools. How do you schedule your time? Do you use a calendar, a daily, weekly, monthly planner? Do you use computer software, pda, or smart gadget? If you have these tools but don’t know how or do not use them, make time on your list for this learning. If your life is fast paced or stressful, remember to allow time for balance. For many people, sports are a fun activity. We created a fun website that’s a sports portal for when you only have a few minutes. http://www.adventurezonesports.com

If you need a walk or workout time schedule this, don’t try to do it while you’re eating lunch! Quality time management includes:

Physical (exercise, nutrition, sleep)

Intellectual (cultural, aesthetic)

Social (intimate and social relationships)

Career (school and career goal directed work)

Emotional (expression of feelings, desires)

Spiritual (quest for meaning)

It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of scheduling is not to enslave you to your planner, but rather to record your decisions about when certain things should happen.

The weekly objective list is a to-do list with additional features to further decompose tasks into smaller units and to record time estimates for the task.

Construct your plan to follow a rhythm.

Pick a time each week to plan your schedule. Even with unexpected occurrences that can impact your schedule you assist yourself in making decisions that are governed by your desire to reach your goals.

Once your week is planned you will experience clarity of focus, your tendency to be distracted will be reduced and you will be certain of your reasons for doing the things you had planned. Committing yourself to a plan you’ve made represents a renewal of your motivation for the goals and tends to increase your time on task.

#5 The last phase of the system is self-monitoring your action. Self monitoring involves paying attention to how well you are working your plan, how accurately you have planned, how well you have forecasted for various events and so on

For many people motivation isn’t a prerequisite to action…it is a result of it!

You’ll spend a lot of your time waiting in lines. At the library check-out, waiting for the bus, waiting for the light to turn green at an intersection, buying tickets, and even waiting for the professor to arrive at class… you find yourself just waiting. If you carry around a book, some photocopied reports, spreadsheets, your pda smart gadget with this MP3 management program you could be actively using time that would otherwise escape you. Plan ahead with an activity to fill this empty time.

The key to commuting time is, simply, use it or lose it. Books on tape or MP3 training are a wonderful way to multitask if you are driving, or if you are riding, the list is endless of little chores that can be accomplished. The challenge is to use that time for something productive.

Helpful tips:


When chatterers show up unannounced in your office be firm but polite. Suggest that you wish you had time to chat right now but absolutely do not. You realize that it’s important to get together and take your calendar out and suggest a time that might work for you because with your new time management program right now you have something scheduled.

Always putting out fires? Maybe others in your office or family need to learn how to have better time management. Chaos is normally due to poor planning. Offer to schedule a team time management planning session.


Develop and use a rotating menu system which can include complete meals or just main dishes.

Photocopy a master shopping list so you just have to check off needed items.

Buy and cook in quantity.

Do only one large shopping trip each month for basics and staples?

Prepare quick and easy but nutritious breakfasts only.

Use food preparation and storage equipment to the maximum such as a slow cooker, freezer, microwave, food processor, and pressure saucepan.

Prepare as much in advance as possible such as lunches the night before and quantity cooking on the weekends.

Get everyone in the habit of rinsing dishes immediately after use.


All family members above the age of three put away their own laundry.

Multiple hampers or baskets coded for the type of washing machine settings such as “warm wash, cold rinse” or “cold wash, cold rinse” cuts sorting time.

Locate laundry near the bathroom or the kitchen.

Put away coats, boots, etc. as soon as possible when entering the house.

Make it a house rule that what goes into the laundry basket inside out, gets washed and dried inside out — socks, underwear, T-shirts, etc.


Set Friday night or Saturday morning as house cleaning time for everyone.

Develop a flexible cleaning schedule so everything eventually gets done.

All family members over the age of three are responsible for their own bedrooms.

Use shelves instead of cabinets or drawers for storage; it’s easier to put something away if you don’t have to open a drawer or door.

In each room have either all or no carpeting.

Decorate with darker colors especially in high traffic areas

Use quilts or sleeping bags for easier bed making.

Wipe the bathroom sink after each use.

Clean the tub or shower before you get out of it.

Make the bed right after you get up.

Use throw rugs with rubber backs in heavy traffic areas.

Change filters on the heating/cooling system frequently to cut down on the amount of house dust.

Keep multiple sets of cleaning supplies and equipment especially if the house has more than one level.


Simplify landscaping; consolidate several flower beds into a large one.

Use low maintenance plantings.

Keep lawn care equipment in top-notch working order.


Schedule the next routine car service appointment each time you pick up the car left for servicing.

Develop a car care calendar for routine service and seasonal maintenance.

Use a master calendar to schedule chauffeuring of family members.


Run several errands at the same time.

Have a morning “launching pad” as a place to collect backpacks, briefcases, papers, money, etc. the night before.

Carry a list of current sizes for everyone in the household when shopping. Do as much routine shopping (bedding, underwear, footwear, etc.) as possible by telephone or mail.

Buy an entire season’s clothing in one trip.

Buy duplicates of gifts, cards, etc.

Organize important papers and records in a filing system.

Use “sticky notes” on the bathroom mirror or by the door to remind someone of something they tend to forget, or use magnets to hold notes on metal surfaces.

Bob Therrien is an operations manager for a US call center and operates an outdoors recreation message board at http://www.adventurezonetours.com
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