One of the most common problems organizational leaders tell me they run into is that aren’t enough hours in the day. No matter what industry you’re in or what level you’re at within it, this is something you likely deal with. I’m willing to bet that we’d still be saying that if there were 36 or 48 hours in a day though. The trick is not figuring out how to add more time to your day, but instead prioritizing your time and finding a system that works for you. Here are 7 ways to take on time management and make time work in your favor.
1. Log your spending
Just like making a budget, one of the first things you should do when trying to manage your time is figure out how you’re spending it. For 3-5 days (this length depends on the regularity of your day, of course) write down everything you do from the moment you wake up. It will feel tedious and possibly even exhausting, but I promise this is worth it.
2. Set your priorities
Make a list of things that are most important throughout your day and write down how much time you believe you should be spending on those tasks. It is important that you list these according to your preferences, not your current behaviors or someone else’s ideal time budget.
3. Analyze and prioritize
Once you have created your daily log, categorize it and show how much you are spending on what. Then list those things, starting with most time devoted and moving down from there. Compare that to your priority list in step 2 and notice the differences.
This is the step where most people fail. Many people record their time-spending habits, feel bad about them, and then do nothing to fix the problem. In 10-12 months they’ll read another blog or book or watch a video about time management, and they’ll go through the same cycle. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you are going to make a change, it is imperative that you follow through the next steps.
4. Stop hemorrhages
There will undoubtedly be an area where you are spending too much time on something that simply isn’t worth it. This varies by person. For some people that my be time-wasters such as Netflix, social media, etc. For others it might be traditionally productive things that are usually good, but that don’t contribute to your goal (we’re talking about your personal goal next week, so stay tuned). Whatever it is for you, take immediate steps to stop wasting time there. Ask someone to hold you accountable and call you out if they notice you spending time with those time wasters. Write notes to yourself to avoid them or delete apps or accounts for a while if you need to.
5. Be purposeful with the new time you created
If you are effective in stopping your time-hemorrhage you’ll find yourself with more time to spend-great, that’s the idea. If you’re not careful though, you’ll spend your time on new time-wasters. Instead, bring out your prioritized list from step #2. Write down specific things that you can do for those categories during this newfound time, then start doing them.
6. Reward yourself
Incentivizing is a fantastic way to sustain motivation. Create a set of attainable goals that you can reach by managing your time better and then list a few rewards for yourself. Be careful not to let those rewards be spending some time on those time-wasters, though. You wouldn’t celebrate a recovering drug addict’s rehab exit with a trip to go see their former dealer, so don’t reward yourself that way either. Find rewards that are positive and help you continue to succeed.
7. Rinse and repeat
We’re not perfect people, so we can’t expect to nail this down on our first try. Time management is a never ending process. Periodically catalog your time spending habits and work through this list again to keep yourself in check. Introspection is a powerful tool for all of life, so don’t be afraid to apply it to your time management too.