Manage Your Time – Don’t Let Your Time Manage You

time management skillsManage your time; don’t let your time manage you.

Sounds pretty straightforward, but not so much.

If you’re like me, I start the day with an updated “to do” list that was begun the evening before. Everything I want to accomplish, along with a bit of idealism built in, is on the list. So far, so good.

Then the phone rings and I stop to take the call. Off I go to take care of the caller’s request. Back to my desk. Colleague comes by for advice. Advice dispensed, but first need to look up some information so that the advice is given in an informed manner. The colleague and I chat a bit about our weekend and other mundane issues. Back to the list. Gosh, I need a cup of coffee! Staff meeting at noon, but will try to check off a few items on my list before and after the meeting. After all, the meeting is scheduled for an hour, no problem. Major issue comes up for discussion, so nearly 2 hours later, the meeting is over. Oh my goodness, it’s 2:00 pm and haven’t had lunch yet. Run out for a bite to eat and take most of it back to eat at my desk. Now, back to the list….

The above scenario though fictitious, is not entirely out of the realm of what actually occurs in offices everywhere, everyday. It takes an incredible amount of self-discipline to attend to the items on that “to do” list. Time management experts advise to tackle the most difficult and tedious tasks first, early in the day when our concentration is keenest and our motivation highest. Both tend to ebb as the day progresses. The more hectic the day, the higher the rate of “evaporation”. I tend to order my tasks according to priority, regardless of whether or not I’m enthusiastic about handling each one. When things are going well (i.e., my way), I can go through a typical list fairly quickly and efficiently. When I reach an item I’d rather not do, I put my headphones on, dial up my favorite music on my iPhone and dig in – and keep at it until I can put a check next to the item. That is the true meaning of success in time management.

It’s said that it takes two weeks to form a habit. Successful habits are established a bit at a time. The all or nothing approach may work in the short term, but will fall apart when the going gets rough. Tackle your “to do” list in small bites in the beginning. This axiom is the one applied in many weight loss programs. Instead of looking at the looming 100 pounds one needs to lose, focus instead on the first 10 pounds. Set realistic goals – accomplish three things on the list instead of the ambitious 20 that looked so promising the day before. Success breeds success, so take it easy, keep your eye on the prize and get to the finish line with more in the tank.