Time Management and Planning Tips

“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” ~Golda Meir

“Time is one thing that can never be retrieved. One may lose and regain friends. One may lose and regain money. Opportunity, once spurned, may come again. But the hours that are lost in idleness can never be brought back to be used in gainful pursuits” ~Winston Churchill

We all have the same amount of time in a day, no ifs ands or buts. Some people are able to get so much done in their days while others seem to flounder and barely get meals done. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. What we do in those minutes, in those hours determines where our time goes, how our days are spent. Simple? Yes and no. What do others do with their time that allows them to get so much more done? What is the secret? I believe it involves planning.

Planning is the best time saver there is. Take time one day a week and look at what is coming up for you. Are there appointments that must be kept? Are there any birthdays, holidays, special activities, games and/or practices this week? Take notes, either mental or written of the things that you have to keep during the next week. Also, look ahead at things that are coming. You don’t want to wait until the week before something to take action for special events that are coming. If you have a birthday that is coming up for someone that is three weeks away, you can add some prep for the birthday this week. Now you can look ahead and schedule those things into your week this week. Even if you just bought some plates and streamers and candles for the birthday that is coming up, you are a little more prepared. It also doesn’t take such a big bite out of the money at once. By looking ahead and doing some simple planning, you aren’t leaving things for the last minute. This is something that those people who seem to be on top of things all the time do; they don’t leave things until the last minute and make sure they know what is coming up. They stay ahead of the game.

You can use an elaborate day planner system, printable calendar pages, a wall calendar, desk calendar, pocket calendar, etc., to do your planning. To be honest, I just use a very simple system right now. All appointments that we need to keep get wrote on one wall calendar. As soon as they are made or as soon as I know, I write them on that calendar. I also have a household notebook (also known as a household management notebook, family notebook and I am sure other names) where I do my planning. With 5 children, my dh’s birthday and our anniversary plus all of the holidays that come up, I need a place to keep ideas, suggestions, and plans for what is coming up.

Since I homeschool and stay home, my days aren’t full of outside activities or lots of meetings. I use a basic daily schedule and try to follow that as closely as I can. I have devotions, exercise, grooming, cleaning, cooking, meal prep, and of course schooling on my schedule. We don’t follow this exactly, on the dot, everyday. It is a guide to our day. You might need something different. What works for me might not work exactly for you and vice versa. A plan is a good idea for everyone no matter how busy or not busy we are. If you are a busy person with lots of meetings, a daily schedule probably isn’t going to work for you. A day planner of some sort would be a good idea where you can pencil in your meetings and various appointments. Your weekly planning session would be longer than mine but still very important for both of us. But, be flexible with your plan. Remember you are not a slave to your planner. It is there to serve you. If your time management system isn’t working, tweak it. I know I said a lot in these few paragraphs, but I feel that they are important if we want to get a hold on our time and make the most of it.

25 Time Management Tips:

1. Keep a time log. Take a piece of paper and fold in half. Write the hours you are awake on the paper. Now, write what you do during those hours. You are able to see where your time is going and what you are spending it on. This really helps you keep track of where your time is going. Do this whenever you feel like you can’t keep up with everything.

2. Know what your values are and live them. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go in life? Your life can feel miserable and empty if we aren’t living a life that flows with our values and priorities.

3. Learn to say no to what is not in your mission or your values. Many of us have yes syndrome. That is where we say yes to too many people when we know we should politely say no.

4. Do the best you can now. Focus on the moment, or focus on the task at hand (as a former Pastor I was under used to say). If you are working, focus on the work, get it done. Same as when you are relaxing. Focusing on the moment is a good habit to learn. Enjoy yourself now, no matter what it is that you are doing.

5. Forgive yourself for the past, don’t hold onto past mistakes. How often do we waste time for mistakes that we made in the past? If you can learn from it, then learn and let go. Not only is it freeing, now you aren’t wasting time by holding onto something you can’t change, you aren’t spending time worrying about it.

6. Listen to audio books while in the car. One thing that I would like to do is have a cd player in the van (yeah, it is a little behind the times) and put in audio books for all us to listen to. Those of you who can, use that time in the car to listen to books that you would like to read or when the kids are in the car, put in a family favorite audio book and enjoy a family read-aloud time while going down the road.

7. Use a planner. It can be a cheap homemade one, one purchased at Wal*Mart to an expensive one you ordered online. I use one that I made myself. It used a 3-ring binder and print paper. I have made this work for me

8. Get ready earlier than you think you need to. Leave earlier than you think you need to leave. How many of us put those things off until the last possible minute and then are rushing and stressed because we are going to be late? The concept is simple and should be relatively easy to implement. It will require you to make yourself conscious of what you are doing and why. This will result in less rushing around the house and yelling and a less stressful drive.

9. Us the time while you are on the phone to do something. You can clean out your purse, organize a drawer, straighten your desk, etc.

10. Make up a meal plan and follow it. Also, doing things ahead of time will cut down on frantic dinners and eating out. You can do something as simple as browning extra ground beef and freezing it to actually doing OAMC.

11. Create a before bed routine and actually follow it. This is a big morning rush saver. If you follow this one thing, you will see a big change in your morning. I have been doing this for years and love it.

12. Stop putting things off. Procrastination is a bad habit to get into and hard to get out of. People who are on top of things, aren’t late to appointments, have time to make meals for other families, reach out to neighbors, etc, are people who don’t procrastinate. Procrastination is a time stealer, joy robber and doesn’t let you have peace of mind. Do whatever it is that you have been putting off and you will feel better when it is done.

13. Reduce the amount of time you spend watching TV. The television set is a big time zapper. We use a device like a Tivo and also closely monitor what we allow into the house. With the Tivo, we are able to watch a show that we like whenever we have time and skip all of the commercials.

14. If you need to call someone who really talks, call when you know you might be able to get off the phone quickly. An example would be, around meal time and late in the day. Also, if you don’t need to speak to them directly, you can always call when they aren’t home and leave a message on their answering machine.

15. Use your body clock. When are you most productive? When are you the least productive? Plan the items that require the most energy from you when you have the most energy. And the same with your least energetic time of day. I am least energetic at night so I try to not do much then. That means that I need to get as much done before then.

16. With your priorities in mind, make a checklist of things you want to accomplish each day. Glance over your goals each day and then prioritize your list.

17. Clean your desk off at the end of the day. Put everything away, and when you go to it the next day, everything is properly organized and straightened. Who likes to start a day amidst a mess?

18. Keep a calendar at your desk. I have one hanging above my desk but have also used a desk calendar. Right important dates on there and appointments. Now you can see what is coming up at a quick glance.

19. Don’t put it down, put it away. One of the reason we have so many paper piles is because, well, we pile it. All junk should go immediately in the trash. Mail should have a place to go, and only keep what is needed. Have a designated area for paper and make sure it gets there.

20. Continually reevaluate your system. If something is working, toss it. If you see that someone does something differently, give it a try. Read books on the subject and change what you think will work. Nothing is written in concrete, it can be changed, adapted whenever needed.

21. Once a week clean out your purse and organizer.

22. Always put away whatever you are using when you are done with it. We waste so much time looking for things because we didn’t put them away when were finished with them. Have a place for your keys, purse, cell phone, etc.

23. Delegate! This is something that we should be doing. When a mother does all of the household duties, she isn’t delegating enough. This isn’t meant to say that we shouldn’t do work, but when we are picking up after everyone, doing everything for every meal, all parts of laundry chores, etc. then we are doing too much by ourselves. Two or more people can accomplish more than one can.

24. Believe in yourself. We are more times than not, our own worst enemy. I know you have heard this before, if you don’t believe in you, who will?

25. Let go of perfectionism. Not everything has to be done perfectly and some things are out of your control.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” ~Charles Burton

“Everything becomes different when we choose to take control rather than be controlled. We experience a new sense of freedom, growth and energy.” Dr. Eric Allenbaugh

Better Customer Service Through Effective Time Management

Being able to manage and prioritize is an important skill when servicing customers. Planning events, activities, and tasks on a yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily basis-that is, prioritizing time-can be rewarding from the standpoint of allowing you to be more proactive in preparing to deal with situations. Such planning can reduce your need to be a crisis manager. It is important on and off the job because, if you do not manage your personal life well, you may carry over personal stress into the workplace. This is not only inefficient; it is also unfair to your employer, peers, coworkers, and external customers.

After you have scheduled key events and tasks using some type of scheduling system (e.g., time management software, written planning system or calendar, or electronic scheduling device that can download information into your computer), review the information regularly to avoid forgetting something.

One way to manage events, rather than having them manage you, is to create a list of activities each day and assign a value to each based on importance. The key is to be consistent and prioritize each day. Some people make planning the last activity of their workday. When they arrive to work the next morning, they are ready to begin rather than spending time preparing.

Guidelines for Setting Priorities

Three guidelines can help you in determining what tasks to do first. These can help you create a realistic and achievable list of daily tasks. As you learned when you read about goal setting in other chapters, goals must be attainable. Use the following standards as a guide when setting priorities.

Judgment. You are the best judge of what you can accomplish in any given day. You know your strengths and what has to be done. When selecting priorities, remember that the ones having the most impact on customers and others should be placed high on your list. On the other hand, do not put so many priorities on a daily list that you will not get them done. If this happens, you might become discouraged and give up.

When you find that you have more high priorities than you have time, you may need to ask for help or guidance from your boss. Many times, simply asking for assistance helps develop your relationship with others. They feel respected and trusted by your gesture, as long as you do not abuse their help or appear to be unloading your tasks onto them. Also, consider other resources that you might use to accomplish tasks (e.g., technology, outside vendors, or customers).

Relativity. Assigning priorities is a matter of relativity. Some tasks and projects are readily rated higher than others. You should be guided by the question “What is the best use of my time?” Many people fill their daily schedule with frivolous or easy tasks and with tasks that they like to do. This produces a hollow feeling of accomplishment. They may get a lot done throughout the day and enjoy doing it, but they have not added a lot of value to customer service or aided in accomplishing organizational goals. Keep in mind when setting priorities in the workplace that your primary focus should be your customers and activities that support them.

Timing. Reality and deadlines have a way of dictating priorities. The starting time of a project or task also may establish priorities. Once you begin a task, there must be enough time to finish it. If this is not possible, you may have to re prioritize or seek assistance.

Be realistic about the time it will take to complete a task. Make sure that you schedule that much time, plus a little extra, on your daily planning sheet. Also, consider your peak time period for performance. Each person typically has a period of the day in which he or she has more energy and can get more done. Capitalize on your peak period and schedule high-priority tasks during that time, if possible.

Prioritizing System

To set up your own priority system, list all of your pending activities and then group them according to their level of importance. How you assign value to a task is not as important as long as you use the same format each day. Many people use an A, B, C system, and others use a 1, 2, 3 format. Here are suggested criteria for assignment:

Priority A-Must do or critical items. Some things must be done because of management directives, local, state, or federal regulations, importance to customers or clients, deadlines, or opportunities they provide for your success or advancement (e.g., state tax reports, actions requested by a customer, or application for a position in the organization with a specific cutoff date for submission).

Priority B-Should do. Items in this category are of medium value. Although they may contribute to customer satisfaction and improved performance, they are not essential or do not have critical deadlines (e.g., mailing an unsolicited information kit to a customer about a new product or developing a proposal for changing an existing system or process).

Priority C-Nice to do. This is the lowest category and includes tasks that are not a direct link to customer satisfaction. They may even be fun or interesting, but could be omitted or left undone. Postponing or scheduling such priorities until a slower time period will likely have little or no impact on customer service (e.g., meeting with team members to brainstorm ideas for a more efficient layout of cubicles, cleaning old e-mail files, or neatly lining up the products on a shelf).

Note: As you go through your e-mail and voice mail messages at the times you have scheduled throughout the day, prioritize them, and add them to your list of things to do.

The key to effective time management is to have a plan and work that plan. If you control your time, you and your customers both stand to gain from your efforts.

Moving From Time Management to Self-Management Is Crucial to Becoming More Productive

Moving from time management to self-management is crucial to becoming more productive, especially since time is our most precious resource. It’s fixed, doesn’t discriminate–available equally to all–isn’t influenced by anyone, yet most people complain about it. Either they “don’t have enough,” so they “run out,” or they are “too busy” to do what they need to do in the available time.

Why do people complain about time? Author Dan Ariely (Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Loc 2079) tells us people lie to themselves. We have a “… deeply ingrained propensity to lie to ourselves and to others.” Besides, “… We are pretty skilled at pulling the wool over our eyes.” Instead of accepting that time is not an issue, but our lack of planning and prioritization is, we blame time. And according to Ariely, we feel good about ourselves, and we tell ourselves why “our actions are acceptable, and sometimes even admirable.”

Time Management to Self-Management

What can we do to overcome deceiving ourselves? First, we must accept that life is full of exciting and enticing distractions. Store owners in malls know how easy it is to distract us. They use “sales,” “free” items’ indirect costs, and other gimmicks to get our attention. Meanwhile, mobile devices meant to help us manage our lives more effectively, control many folks, as social media’s addiction rises. To be sure, these distractions contribute to spending time on unimportant matters.

Second, we must reject the notion of “time management.” The idea of “time management” has been around for many years. Sadly, that term creates a false impression that helps us deflect our ineffectiveness. We must accept that nobody can manage time because time is fixed and uncontrollable. We can control only ourselves and what we do in the available time. And we must own our actions and inactions.

Reference to “time management” is more appropriately self-management. Thus, we must apply the same skills to manage us as we use to manage others: goal setting, planning, delegating, organizing, directing, and controlling. When we accept that we will never have more than 24 hours daily, we will not have an issue with time.

Let’s look at some practical things we can do to work effectively in the available time.

Ten Self Management Ideas

  1. Develop a plan-do-control cycle approach to doing tasks. Start with a goal, work out the steps to do the goal, identify control points to check how you are doing, and adjust as needed.
  2. Learn to work for either time or task. Sometimes, you want to work on a project until you finish; for instance, tomorrow’s homework. That’s working for “task.” However, when you go on Facebook, Twitter, other social media, and emails, set a time, and stop when the time expires. That’s working for time.
  3. Work with priorities.
  4. Know when you are most productive and do your top priorities then. Most people’s peak productivity is about two hours after they awake.
  5. Don’t multitask. Consistently, research shows multitasking is a sub-optimal approach.
  6. Get enough sleep and exercise. The amounts each of us need is highly subjective, so find what works for you. Reality is you need to rest and recharge daily. In addition to seven to eight hours sleep every day, for years, I take a 15-minutes nap about noon daily. I don’t sleep; I merely close my eyes and focus on breathing deeply.
  7. Unbalance your life. Set boundaries for your private life and enforce them. Give 100% to each area of life at appropriate times. Your family is more important than your work, but when at work, give 100%. At home, turn off your emails and focus on your family. Don’t seek balance, seek to compartmentalize your life and focus 100% on each compartment as needed. Sometimes, you must make choices to do essential projects at work that require a significant time investment. Give 100% to those projects.
  8. Do a time inventory for a typical day and a typical weekend, showing exactly how you spend available time. Note your time wasters, plug them, set goals for time usage, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
  9. Avoid unnecessary meetings; that’s most meetings. Meet only with an agenda, start and end times, and in cell phone free zones.
  10. Daily, do a brain dump-write everything down that you plan to do sometime; this is your project list from which you transfer items to work on to your day timer.

Self-Management Means Taking Responsibility for Behavior Change

We won’t get more time, so, let’s stop convincing ourselves that the issue with “time management” is we are too busy and need more time. Change your vocabulary from time management to self-management and understand, although we lie to ourselves and blame time, the reality is we must change our behavior and become more useful in available time.