Time Management Activities To Find Hidden Hours In Your Over-Crowded Schedule
Mastery over just 3 time management activities – 1. how to set goals and priorities, 2. how to focus on your important work, and 3. how to get things done – will boost your efficiency and effectiveness to a higher level of performance, reduce your stress or frustration, and transform your level of success.
What’s the one thing we all have in equal measure – but always want more of?
T I M E
There are 24 hours in your day – and mine.
If you understand time management activities like how to set your priorities and goals, how to focus on your important tasks, and how to delegate, automate or ritualize, then they are more than enough.
On the other hand, if you’re constantly struggling to fit your to-do list into a hectic, over-crowded schedule and hope that you had an extra three hours in your day, then you need to master these time management activities right away.
So let’s talk about them.
How To Set Priorities
No matter how efficient you are, there is no way you’ll be able to get everything you dream about done. A favorite time management quote of mine is this –
“Ah, but man’s reach must exceed his grasp – or what’s heaven for?”
So, once you accept the reality that everything can’t get done, you need to hunker down to develop a system that ensures that the most important things don’t get missed out.
For that, you must know what things, goals and people take a higher priority than others. Thus your time managing activities begin with setting goals, and then prioritizing them.
There are dozens of ways to go about goal setting. In separate sections of this site, we will explore them in greater detail. But there are a few things in common that the most effective goal setters have:
- their goals are meaningful and purposeful
- the goals are specific and have a deadline
- they are measurable and can be tracked
All your goals must fit these 3 criteria if you are to manage your time effectively based on them.
When you know what your desired areas of impact are, you can then rate them on their level of importance.
For example, you may crave an ice cream cone today, but also have a complex accounting worksheet to finish.
If your priorities are set correctly, and getting the job done will take you closer to your bigger goals, then putting off the ice cream treat for later is an easy choice to make.
Which leads in nicely to the next time management technique…
How To Focus
We live in a world where there’s distraction all around. No matter which way you turn, something or the other clamors for your attention.
And because grabbing attention has become critically important to the survival of so many entities – businesses, charities, services, and people – their skills at attracting your interest have grown better.
- Catchy advertisements are designed to draw you to seek more information.
- Sensational headlines are structured to make you stop and read or watch.
- Dramatic deals and discounts are intended to get you to pull out your wallet.
And poor little you is caught up in the middle of all this chaos and clutter, trying to carry on with your work and get things done.
I understand and empathize with you.
But keep this in mind. Others just like you are facing these same distractions – and yet are able to concentrate long enough to get their work done. If they can do it, so can you!
Here are some simple tips and time management activities to enhance your ability to focus:
- align your work with your important goals, so they cannot be ignored
- do only important work, and know that it will take you towards your goals
- plan your work to match your longer term targets
- schedule harder tasks for when you are most energetic, alert and fresh
- take frequent breaks to relieve the tedium of work
- evaluate your progress periodically, and get back on track
There’s a lot more about being able to focus on the biggest tasks, which we’ll get into in other sections of this site (and in the Ming Vase Time Management series of books about “How To Focus“).
How To Finish Things Up
Many people find themselves bogged down and frustrated even after adopting some effective time management activities because they run into unexpected road-blocks that keep them from getting things done.
The biggest mistake they make is trying to do it all by themselves.
Accepting more than you can handle, aiming to prove that you can tackle everything on your plate, and stubbornly refusing assistance from better qualified people are errors that will keep you stuck and hold you back from efficient use of your time.
Admit that you have limits. Accept that you are good at some things, while others are better at some. Realize that inter-dependence is a necessary strategy in getting things done.
- Streamline your work flow to get the most done, quickly and efficiently
- Delegate tasks that you do not need to handle personally
- Automate repetitive chores so that they are carried out smoothly
- Organize your processes so that there is minimal waste or friction
These are general principles. You must be adapt them to fit your unique needs and circumstances. But every industry and household, every individual and group, every organization or entity will find applications of these general principles to their specific activities.
Master 3 Time Management Activities
The key to mastering these 3 techniques – goal setting and prioritization, focus and concentration, organization and delegation – is constant intentional practice.
You will not get things right the very first time. It will take repeated attempts to develop a functional system. You will make steady, incremental improvements. You’ll get better, quicker and more efficient over time.
And as you master these three powerful time management activities, you’ll find that you are no longer constantly in search of extra time.
In fact, you may discover that there were 3 extra hours lying hidden in your day – and that they are now available for you to enjoy doing something you’ve always wanted to!
Our style of management of time is rooted in balance – finding your center, understanding order, and choosing the right timing to get things done. Time Management Tao is about helping you along this journey.
On this site you’ll learn about the best time management activities, including how to:
- Find your center – know WHAT to do
- Understand your order – know HOW to do it
- Pick your timing – know WHO to use & WHEN
You can also receive more free tips about how to save time and gain higher effectiveness by joining our mailing list to get the “Time Taozine”. Just fill in the registration form below.
Time Management Exercises To Boost Your Efficiency
Time management exercises can help make you more efficient and finish many tasks.
If you find yourself rushing to meet deadlines and completing projects in the last minute, then you’re going to love learning about this exciting and simple method to stop procrastinating and becoming more efficient.
Bad time management is at the root of many problems. Time management exercises can help identify areas where you need improvement. They can help you modify habits that are wasteful of time and distract you from important work.
Keep Track of Your Time
Most time management exercises begin with the simple task of tracking your usage of time. The goal is to make you think about how and where you spend time. Just something as simple as how long you speak on the phone over a week can stun and surprise you.
Make a list of your most time consuming activities. Your list might include elements like this:
- Phone calls
- Entertainment (music, movies, reading etc.)
- Watching TV
- Web surfing
- Family time
Now, beside each item on your list, list the time estimate you come up with. Then monitor this carefully over a week and record the measured numbers.
Chart Your Time Utilization
Draw a chart on a sheet of paper to document your time usage. List the activity you are doing, the time you begin and end it, the duration (in minutes) spent on it, and any other relevant comments that will help when you analyze your usage in the next step.
Evaluate Your Time Consumption
The next step in your time management test is to review the data that you have compiled.
First, evaluate your judgment by looking at the actual recorded time for each activity, and compare it against the estimates you drew up earlier. How good are you at estimating time usage by activity?
Then study the details of how much time you spend on each category. It often comes as a shock to see how wasteful some of the items on your list are.
Are you putting off high priority work while you waste time on trivia? Are you wasting time watching TV, or surfing the Web, or listening to music?
Leisure and relaxation are important. But if you spend most of your life relaxing and too little on doing work, then you need a review and change.
If you find that your time management exercises point towards you spending time on irrelevant or unimportant tasks, then you need to work on enhancing your efficiency.
Try and find ways to utilize down time, such as when you’re traveling or waiting for an appointment. Identify areas in your list which you can delete completely, delegate to someone else, or handle more efficiently.
Just becoming aware of how to improve your efficiency will magically transform the way you think about time management.
This Time Management Exercise Will Enhance Productivity
A time management exercise that makes you more efficient and productive does not have to be elaborate or complex. It can be as simple as being sure to think out all steps in the process – and plan them out.
One of the most critical ways thinking about time management has grown over the years – and helped optimize time for millions of people – is by learning how important it is to think about tasks and projects in terms of processes.
Let me illustrate this with the example of creating and selling an ebook.
In the past I would stumble through the project in fits and starts. Try to complete components. And wait until finishing one before beginning another.
As a result, there were unavoidable periods of delay and enforced waiting in between steps, while I had someone else design a cover or format the pages correctly, or I conduct some more research, or secure necessary permissions or schedule interviews with experts.
All of these things caused a project to drag on for longer than necessary.
These days, since I practice this simple time management exercise, I break down the entire project into distinct processes.
Then, I group them in a way that I can work on (or more frequently, delegate out) each of them depending upon my resources available at the moment – knowing that in the end, they will all fit together into a completed whole.
This prevents waste of time.
Where it once took 3 to 6 months (or longer) to finish the entire project, there are times now when I can plan, create and start selling a brand new book withing 4 weeks!
You can imagine the competitive advantage this time management exercise offers, especially in a fast moving environment like the Internet. It all becomes possible because of:
- breaking down complex projects into individual processes
- planning the steps in executing each of them
- synchronizing the process with resources available
This lets you finish tasks in the shortest time span, often at the lowest cost and with limited resources. No wasted time or money on unnecessary delays.
You can maximize your efficiency by selecting the task that you are most likely to finish at the present time, in your current state of mind and depending upon your interests and resources available at the moment.
It is not only more efficient to work in this way, it is also infinitely more enjoyable. Because you are not straight-jacketed into doing a specific task at a particular time, you have more flexibility and freedom to follow your moods and fancy (of course, within the limits or constraints of the overall project).
Other than this time management exercise, there are many other tiny things that you can tweak about your work and enjoy greater productivity boosts.
To learn more of them, explore other sections of this Time Management Tao website and check out the guides on time management here.
One Last Time Management Exercise
Here’s a last tip which teaches another simple time management exercise:
Don’t waste time while waiting in line.
From banking to appointments, it’s tough to avoid waiting for someone or something. But you don’t need to just stand there and mindlessly waste your time.
You can always take something to do along with you, such as a report you need to read, cell phone voice-mails to check and delete, a check book to balance, etc.
This helps you take advantage of “down time” and can increase your efficiency.