“I never have enough time”!

In today’s busy world, it seems one of the biggest problems is that there is never enough time!  Many of us are so busy moving from one calendar event to the next that we are searching for a way to slow down time, or make more time, or maximize the time they have.  At The Streamlined Office, we help clients implement time management strategies.  But what is time management?

What is time management?

Time management is all about clearly defining one’s priorities and then making very conscious decisions about what we will and will not allow to occupy our time and our focus.

Do you know where your time goes?

Practically, the first step to time management is understanding where our time goes.  We have 24 hours in a day, and if we allocate 8 hours to sleep, that leaves 16 hours during which to complete work and personal activities.  Do you really know how you spend those 16 or more waking hours?  If not, consider taking a week or two to document what you are doing and how long it takes to do each activity.  This can be done by simply writing down your activities on a sheet of paper including the time spent for each thing.  Better yet, consider using one of the many time tracking applications that are available on your computer or smart phone.  Enter all of your activities into your digital calendar or try Toggl.  Toggl has a free version of their app which allows you to start and stop a timer on your smartphone or computer to track your activities.

Do you spend time on social media or browsing the internet in ways that are not productive to your business or personal life?  Applications such as QualityTime, when given permission, will track how much time you spend using the applications on your device(s), on social media channels, listing to music, watching YouTube videos and much more.

Eliminate unproductive or unimportant activities

After tracking your activities for a week or two, you should begin to have a very clear picture of where you spend your time, and you will likely be very surprised with some of the results.  With this knowledge, you can begin to reduce the time spent on unproductive or unimportant activities.  Some of the same applications that help you track your time can also be configured to block access to websites or other platforms based on a self-defined usage allotment.  This is an excellent way to help create new habits if you are easily distracted by your technology, for example.

Allocate your time properly

After you have successfully identified any areas where you are spending unnecessary time, the next step is making sure that you are allocating your remaining time appropriately.  The Eisenhower Decision Matrix categorizes activities based on importance and urgency.  This matrix was popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Stated briefly, important activities are those things that help us achieve our long term mission, values or goals.  Urgent activities, on the other hand, may demand immediate attention but are usually reactive and often associated with someone else’s goals or objectives.

The time wasters found during your personal activity assessment fall into the category of Not Important and Not Urgent and should be prioritized as such.  The remaining activities in your day should be divided into one of the remaining three categories:  Important and Urgent such as crises, deadlines and problems; Important but not Urgent such as relationships, planning and recreation; Not Important but Urgent such as interruptions and meetings.

Did you notice that relationships and recreation were in the second category labeled Important but not Urgent?  These two areas supersede the next two which include interruptions, meetings, and time wasters (TV, video games, shopping, gambling, scrolling through social media).

Align your activities with your priorities

The bigger question is what are your priorities and are they aligned with your activities? Surely, we can take advantage of the latest technologies to streamline our processes; we can study and calculate how long particular activities really take and then plan our time accordingly; we can use time tracking apps to keep us on task; we can link our calendars to all of our electronic devices so that we can make on-the-fly schedule adjustments……

But really, are we filling our days, our weeks, and our lives with activities that don’t provide the fulfillment we are looking for?  At the end of the day, how many of us tick off completed tasks on our “To Do” lists only to feel devoid of contentment?  And worse yet, how many of us repeat this process day after day?

If you can relate to this on any level, perhaps it is time to step back and give some serious thought to “Why Am I Doing What I Do” and “How Can I Do Things Differently”?  Aligning activities with priorities is REALLY the first step to time management.  Contact us today for this and other process solutions for your small business or home office.