Dr. Lisabeth Medlock
Stop Time Wasters: Tools to Take Charge of Your Time
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
Time is valuable. Many people think of #timemanagement strategies when it comes to using their hours at work more efficiently. Actually, the essential principles go well beyond career. They can be applied in every aspect of life. It all begins with being willing to take charge of your time.
It’s often said that time is money. This statement overlooks a crucial difference. Money that’s lost can often be returned or re-earned. In contrast, time is a nonrenewable resource. Each hour that ticks away is lost, never to be regained. This means that time is valuable. Many people think of time management strategies when it comes to using their hours at work more efficiently. Actually, the essential principles go well beyond career. They can be applied in every aspect of life. It all begins with being willing to take charge of your time.
Taking charge of your time involves many strategies, but two fundamentals are minimizing distractions and setting boundaries to manage interruptions. Minimizing distractionsinvolves: 1) decreasing personal smartphone use while working and time spent browsing on sites or on social media. 2) scheduling specific times for checking e-mail and IM's and 3) creating a quite space to think-closing the door, playing ambient music, turning off all phones-whatever it takes. Managing interruptions involves learning to set boundaries and say no. More specifically you can 1) limit the times you are available by closing your door and having small invitation only meetings to have the dialogue you need with others, 2) screen calls and texts by only checking them at specific intervals during the day or having someone else screen them, and 3) noting who is interrupting and why so you can figure out if there are issues with how you are communicating or if you need to change the expectations of that person on your level of accessibility.
You can learn to free up extra minutes and hours each day. You can distinguish between what merits your time and attention, and what’s not worth doing at all. Learning these things involves using the tools below. These powerful exercises to help you begin to value and actively manage your time are adapted from Dave Ellis’ book, Human Being.
Step One: Keep Track of Your Time: For one week, take a detailed look at how you spend yourself—that is, how you spend your time. To get the most value from this exercise, be precise and aim to account for your time in 30-minute intervals. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but is not something to be done every week of your life. There are lots of benefits of tracking your time. Most people spend a lifetime with no clear picture of where their time goes. With an accurate account of how you spend your time, you can diagnose with accuracy any recurring problems you have with managing time. Armed with that baseline data, you can make changes in your schedule that open up space for high-priority activities.
Step Two: Assess How You Manage Your Time: After monitoring your time as described in the previous exercise, reflect on what you’ve learned and complete the following sentences.
After monitoring my time, I was surprised to discover that I spent so much time on
After monitoring my time, I was surprised to discover that I spent so little time on
In the future, I intend to spend more time on
In the future, I intend to spend less time on
Step Three: Plan your Time: The third step is to create a plan for your time for one week in hourly segments. Here are some tips.
1) Schedule predictable events first-Sleep, work, cooking, church, cleaning-activities that tend to concentrate themselves in regular, predictable blocks of time. They can become so familiar that you take them for granted and fail to account for them in your plans. When planning, allow adequate time for these parts of your life. Then schedule other tasks around them.
2) Expect the unexpected—Include time for errands, travel, and surprises. It’s also easy to forget about low-visibility activities- last-minute excursions to the grocery store, commuting time between two appointments, etc.
3) Make dates with yourself—Schedule definite times and places for recreation, reading, exercising, time with friends and other important but non-urgent activities. These activities are as important as anything else you put on your calendars.
4) Revise your plan—When midweek rolls around, you might find that your plan needs some changes. Perhaps some activities are taking twice as long as you expected. Or maybe a scheduled event was cancelled. When these things happen, you might be tempted to abandon your entire plan. Learning to adapt to changes is a useful time management skill. Rather than giving up, you can revise your plan in a way that takes advantage of the change. What’s involved is updating your plan based on the latest feedback. Plans that are regularly fine-tuned can be the most useful.
5) Get it done, one task at a time—The loftiest and most remote goals are accomplished in the same way as your goals for next week: one simple activity after another. As you plan, convert any goal into a list of small steps— simple activities that you can add to a daily to-do list.
6) Put activities into fixed “containers”—Set clear starting and stopping times for each task. Sometimes a task that typically takes three hours can be completed in two. Declaring your intention to do so is the place to begin. Activities tend to fill up whatever space is allotted to them. By allowing less space for them on your calendar, you can often increase our efficiency.
Step Four: Compare your Weekly Plan with your Weekly Time Monitor. Ask and answer these questions:
After comparing my weekly plan with my weekly time monitor, I discovered that I
Next week, I intend to make more time for
Next week, I intend to spend less time on