Make the Most of Your Time
By Joelle Jay
With all the recent layoffs and the unemployment rate
hovering around the double-digit mark, those who are still employed
face a tough dilemma. On the one hand, they’re grateful for their
job, but on the other hand, their workload may have become too much
for one person to bear. In fact, many people are now doing the work
of two or even three people. They have more responsibility than ever
before, and they feel that there’s no way they can keep up. Their
mantra has become, “There’s simply never enough time.”
Whether the issue is that you have too much to do, too little
help, too daunting a task, or all of the above, you can feel like
there’s no way to keep up. Without some kind of a plan for your
time, you can feel stretched to the point of insanity. Fortunately,
you can start to take control by learning to maximize your time.
In order to thrive
in today’s work environment, you need to change the way you look at
time. The key is to learn to not just manage your time, but
to maximize it.
Traditionally, time management is about getting more done in
the time blocks within your calendar. In fact, if you look up the
word “managing,” you’ll see terms such as “to deal with,” “to cope,”
and “to wield.” These words suggest a limited way of looking at time
– that it’s something to be dealt with, that it’s against you, and
that you have to contain it.
The problem is that even if you master the art of time
management, you can still find yourself overworked. Your calendar
may be a masterpiece of organization, and you may excel at getting
things done, yet you may feel as if you’re not making any real
achievements. Your life seems to be one (sometimes meaningless) task
after another. You spend your days sacrificing your sanity for a
neatly crossed off to-do list.
You have a more powerful option. Instead of just managing
your time as if it’s working against you, you can maximize it and
have time work for you.
Maximizing your time is about getting the most out of your
time so you can do more with less. Literally, the term “maximizing”
means “to make as big as possible,” “to make the most of,” and “to
find maximum value in something.” When you maximize your time, in
addition to accomplishing daily tasks, you’re making space for the
things that matter most – your goals, priorities, and the bigger
vision of success for you and your organization.
To keep up in today’s world and still have a meaningful
professional and personal life, you need to maximize your time.
Following are three time maximizing techniques that can help.
Strategy #1: Go to
“Going to the
calendar” is a great strategy for making the most of your time. You
stop taking every e-mail, phone call, meeting, and problem as it
comes up, and instead you start scheduling things in a way that
makes sense. Going to the calendar means literally opening up your
calendar, turning on the PDA, getting out your schedule, and
physically putting into place a written, concrete plan to use every
hour in the most productive way.
The key to making this work is to start with a blank calendar
and address the tasks, projects, or activities that matter most to
you first, before you take those calls and e-mails. Ask yourself,
“What’s the best use of my time?” and “Where am I going to get
maximum value?” Schedule those things first. Then you can see where
the other tasks can go in your calendar. You may find that not
everything can fit…and that’s okay. If you’re focusing on what
matters most, the secondary items can usually slide. Either you’ll
realize they are just “busy work” that doesn’t really need to be
done, or you’ll suddenly see shortcuts to the tasks that you did not
Remember, just as you can control your time, you can also
control your calendar. Don’t let it control you.
Strategy #2: The 5
Whenever your time is being eaten up by a stack of e-mails, a stack
of paper, a stack of voice mail messages, or just stacks and stacks
of work, The 5 Ds work especially well. You will drastically cut the
time you need to get through the stack, and you can then get to the
other high-impact activities that make the best use of your time.
The 5 Ds stand for:
Stop pushing around a task and
do it now.
Use this for any task that takes fifteen minutes or less.
There are some things that do not require your response. Just
because someone sent you the message/document/suggestion doesn’t
mean you have to reply. If an item doesn’t advance a
relationship or achieve an important goal, get rid of it.
As often as
pass a task on
to someone else who can handle the job. They don’t have to do it
better than you; they don’t even have to do it as fast. They
probably won’t. But unless it’s a top priority or specific
result that you and only you can deliver, you’re not the right
person to do it. Pass it on.
Decide On It.
more moving items from one stack to another, telling
yourself, “I’ll get back to that.” Will you attend the meeting
or won’t you? Will you agree to that request or won’t you? Make
a decision. Move on.
Date It. Choose when you will give big-ticket items your undivided time and
attention. Figure out how much time you need and block it out in
your schedule. You can forget about it until then.
The 5 Ds will save you time, and potentially a lot of it.
Before you fill up that time with more meaningless tasks, give some
thought to the most powerful way you can use the time you save.
When you feel like
many big activities are crowding you out, you can become overwhelmed
and not know where to start. After all, it’s so much easier to
tinker in the minutiae than to tackle the most important tasks. The
danger is that most of the important things never get done.
Unfortunately, too many people today don’t take the time to choose
what to spend their time on. They’re simply answering fire alarms
all day or taking things on a “first come, first served” basis.
To help you manage your sanity and maximize your time, you
need to figure out what the priority is. So sit back and identify
Project One, Two, and Three. Choose one project or one
action item to tackle that will allow you to make the biggest impact
with your time. Keep sight of which project you’ll grant top
priority, and give it the best of your time. Then you can turn to
Time is on
The fact is you will never have control of your time unless you take
control of your time. That means stopping long enough to get a
handle on what’s happening, reflecting on whether it’s working, and
learning new ways to maximize the time you have. Rethinking your
relationship to time takes an open mind, it takes commitment, and
(ironically) it takes time. But the investment you make in
maximizing your time will pay you back hour after precious hour.
When you learn how to maximize your time, not only will you stay
sane in the midst of today’s business environment, but you’ll also
become more valuable, more productive, and ultimately more at peace
in all areas of your life.
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