My new Time Tips Facebook group has been live for only a few days and already I’m seeing a pattern: Many people want to better manage their time — but they have no idea why, no idea what the end goal is. Some people aren’t even sure what better time management looks like.
If you want to improve your time management skills, you have to get specific on several fronts, and the first is “why.”
Time management is simply a tool to help you get to where you want to go, not an end-all, be-all in and of itself.
The big question that needs to be answered — and one that many people seem to miss — is “why.” Why do you want to manage your time better? Keep asking yourself that question until you get to bedrock, which is: How you will feel when you achieve your goal.
Why time management?
Let’s do a for-instance:
- I want to manage my time better. Why: Because it makes me more efficient.
- Why is it important to be more efficient? Because I will get more done.
- Why do you want to get more done? Because I will prove my worth to my boss.
- Why is it important to prove your worth? Because then I can be in a better position to ask for a raise.
- Why do you want a raise? Because I’ll be able to do more fun stuff with my family.
- Why do you want to do more fun stuff? Because I love having fun with my family and I don’t do it as much as I want.
Aha! There it is! How it makes you feel. Having quality time with the family, enjoying each other’s company, doing new and different things…isn’t that a great ultimate goal? And more importantly, something to provide impetus to stay on track?
Once you have a clear idea of why you want to be more effective in managing your time, let’s talk about what’s preventing you from getting there.
What’s stopping you?
Most people in the time management group are suffering from distractions and resultant lack of focus. This is so easy to do if you spend a lot of time on the Internet, especially if you’re online strictly for business.
Or you get up for that cup of coffee, or a potty break, and pretty soon you’re dusting tables, picking up stray papers, watering plants, schmoozing with the guy in the next cubby and so on.
Social media and email…well, the list goes on and on.
If you want to be more efficient, you have to set time management goals. The best ones are SMART goals — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Or, you can improve productivity with a time management course.
How can you get a grip on your time in a SMART way?
- Specific: What exactly is it you want to accomplish with time management? Let’s use “reduce distractions.” The next step is to make it…
- Measurable: How will you quantify this goal? “I will limit my web surfing to three times a day” is one possibility. What are others?
- Attainable: This is your first gut check. Can you shut down the browser for most of the day? The answer to this is probably yes, but is it…
- Realistic: The answer to this also is probably yes, even if your job is to be online 100% of the day. Focusing on work projects is one thing; checking your Twitter feed 20 times a day or cruising through funny memes on Facebook every half hour is something else entirely. Time to go back to Measurable and add in some quantifiers, perhaps, “I will limit my web surfing to 10 minutes, three times a day.”
- Time-bound: This is your end date or your start time, whichever fits best with your goal. It could be “starting right this minute” or “by this date.” When it comes to time management, the earlier you start, the more quickly you’ll see results.
After tweaking, this time management goal might read something like this: “Starting today, I will reduce my distractions by limiting myself to personal web surfing to three times a day, 10 minutes each. To keep me on track, I will set a timer and stop when 10 minutes is up.”
So: What’s your why? And how will you use that to use time management to get there?