When you ask many young and even seasoned professionals about their time management skills, they suddenly lower their head and speak into their chest just like a child who knows he’s done something wrong.
Time management is a powerful tool and I’ve met several successful business people and athletic achievers that tout it as “their” secret to success. We all know we need time management skills but either feel like we’ve never really achieved what we need to or, even worse, are completely intimidated by the subject.
Simply put, time management means creating a plan. You’ve all heard the saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I am not saying that you are going to fail without time management, but… Planning your time allows you to do two things: list your goals, targets, and objectives; and see where you are on the road to achieving them. Notice I mentioned that other big word, “goals.” I could write a whole article just on that subject, but let’s at least acknowledge that you need to have some clear goals or targets before you create a plan to achieve them—“Can’t run the race if you don’t know where the finish line is.”
You’ll find that there are many courses, tools, and methods to help you manage your time. Don’t feel that you have to follow someone else’s planning method. I have attended several seminars and spoken with many people over the years and feel the best method is the one that works for you!
Next, be flexible. I have adjusted and changed how I manage my time several times over the years. Adjust your methods to match what your needs are (they will change) and feel free to try different methods until you are comfortable with the one that works for you.
I know some of you are saying, “That’s all great advice, but I still don’t know how to do it?” As I have said, there are many methods out there including computer programs and even the tried-and-true daytimer. There are also several courses that “teach” the subject or have time management included in the curriculum. Once you’ve decided that you really want to get your “time” organized, you will have to see which system works best for you. They all have their pluses and minuses. The big message here is that you really do need a system, one that works for you and lets you achieve your personal objectives.
Before I tell you how I handle time management, let me tell you why I need it in my life. I think many of you will relate. I have a wonderful family, which includes a young daughter, and we house foreign students. I have a career that is not just “9 to 5,” belong to or am in charge of three different association boards, take as many courses or seminars as possible, and to try maintain an active “outdoor” lifestyle. Sound familiar?
So let’s look at what my priorities are:
- Spending family time and providing a good emotional connection with my wife and daughter, which includes everything from just spending time together to running around to activities (swimming lessons, dance lessons, etc.);
- Allowing time to connect with customers and prospects and attend functions that benefit my employer and career;
- Being available to work around customer/client schedules in order to provide quality service;
- Attending networking opportunities and tradeshows;
- Providing quality input and support to organizations I believe in, both professionally and personally;
- Allowing time to study or learn about subjects that will benefit my career and personal life;
- Finding time to rejuvenate body and mind (miss this and you’ll find other things will suffer).
So, the big question is how do I/you get all these things to fit into life without feeling like we are never achieving or fulfilling our needs: planning! Whether you use Outlook, a paper calendar, or CRM system, make sure everything you need or want to do makes it onto the list. Prioritize everything, business and personal. Break everything down into all the steps or items you need to do to complete your objectives or goals. Be prepared to make choices.
I have several special things I like to do with my daughter and I make sure to plan time to do them. They get placed on my calendar and nothing is allowed to change them. Since I enjoy being married, I also try to communicate with my wife and schedule time when she could use my help watching the children or to allow her some personal time. This may sound funny, but it works. By planning my personal time, I avoid conflicts when scheduling my many work-related events.
Now the other important thing to do is to really break down what’s required for your job or career. Since I work in sales, I need to plan time to prospect, follow leads, maintain contact with current clients, attend networking opportunities, and continue training. I have a system now where I have broken my job requirements down by year, by month, and by week. I also have done the same for my goals, targets, and objectives. I have scheduled time to prospect, time to contact clients, etc.
Not only does a system like this really help keep me organized, it also allows me to monitor my progress. Have I reached my weekly target? If not, why not? What did I do and how can I plan differently. It’s much easier to examine items and make changes on a smaller scale than on a large one. You’ll also find that if you continue to reach your smaller objectives, you’ll not only have a great sense of accomplishment, but eventually the larger targets and goals will be achieved as the small ones add up. This not only gets the job done, but it is also important to your emotional sense of well-being. Completing objectives is a great boost and motivates you to keep going.
Time management is all about finding YOUR way to plan just about everything in your life and keep a record of all your achievements. Do it, and you’ll reach the level of success that you have always wanted.
This article was written by John Espley for Douglas Magazine.