Do you ever feel like there just isn't enough time in the day? I sure do. In fact, I've come to the conclusion that there are enough things to to do to fill multiple lifetimes! Yet, after only 3 1/2 years of ministry, Jesus said, "It is finished!" How could he say that? Because he knew what he was called to do and he focused solely on that. What a lesson for us today.
Below is a summary of some of the things I've learned about time management over the years. Actually, 'time management' is a misconception because time really cannot be managed, at least not the way other resources can. We cannot manage time. We can only manage ourselves in relation to time. We cannot control how much time we have; we can only control how we use it. We cannot choose whether to spend it, but only how. Once we’ve wasted time, it’s gone - and it cannot be replaced. Better management of ourselves in relation to time has many positive benefits - less stress, greater balance in life, increased productivity and the achievement of our goals.
Here are 6 tips that have helped me, with a few thoughts on each:
Tip #1 - Know Your Priorities
- Know everything you're supposed to do and in order of importance.
- Determine your priorities - what must you do? What is required of you? Priorities tend to slip or drift if we don’t regularly focus on them.
- Prioritise your projects: (a) do it now - move it to the front of the line, (b) do it later - move it to the appropriate place, (c) don’t do it - move it to the waste paper basket, (d) delegate it - move it to the proper person.
Thoughts on Priorities:
- “Doing the right things is just as important as doing things right.”
- “Some tasks are never going to be urgent, even though they may be extremely important. Other tasks may never be important, but they will be urgent. The key is to identify your vital activities and infuse them with a sense of urgency, so that they can compete with the activities that have a natural sense of urgency built into them. Until we apply urgency to important events, nothing happens.”
- “Insignificant events often hinder us from doing really important matters. We don't always do those things that are most important to us. Until you say ‘No’ to the unimportant you will never say ‘Yes’ to the important. Important things are seldom urgent, unless we make them so. Place an urgency factor on them. Why do we eat every day - hunger provides the urgency factor. Put first things first and keep them there.”
- “Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do. The question is not, ‘Will my day be full?’ but ‘What will fill my day?’ Fill your calendar with priorities - the things which are important.”
- “The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”
Tip #2 - Get Organised
- Know where everything is. Have a place for everything (a good filing system) and keep everything in its place. Have everything filed and able to be found when you need it.
- Keep your desk tidy. Take all your papers, sift through them, sort them and put them somewhere.
- Keep clutter (mental and emotional) out of your life.
Tip #3 - Plan Ahead
- Set aside regular time to think and plan.
- Keep a “Master List” of tasks to be done (organised by date and priority).
- Put your priorities on your calendar. Determine the time you have available to do your important tasks. What are the top projects you are doing this month and how long will they take? Identify, organise and schedule your work.
- Plan tomorrow’s work today. Organise the next day at the end of the current day. When you arrive, you will already know what to do. Have a plan for each day and write it down.
- Use the last day of each month to plan and lay out the priorities for the next month.
- Keep a yearly calendar with important events, appointments and deadlines. Have a weekly schedule and a daily agenda (task list).
Thoughts on Planning:
- “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
- “Planning is not only a type of work, it is the most efficient type of work. Better planning means better execution of the work.”
- “Today’s actions determine tomorrow’s achievements.”
- “Plan on the front end - it’ll pay on the back end.”
- “Planning your day, rather than allowing it to unfold at the whim of others, is the single most important piece of the time management puzzle.”
- “A daily plan, in writing, is the single most effective time management strategy, yet not one person in ten does it.”
Tip #4 - Work Smart!
- Work on your important tasks first.
- Schedule important work in your most productive hours. Maximise the first 2 hours of the day.
- Follow your plan for the day.
- Learn to combine similar activities.
- Always allow extra time. Things take longer than you think - add at least 50%.
- Expect problems - motion causes friction.
- Expect interruptions. Be flexible.
- Get ahead when the pressure is off.
- Avoid time wasters. Personal time wasters (caused by me) include: lack of self-discipline, procrastination or indecisiveness, disorganisation (looking for lost things), daydreaming, inability to say “No”, failure to delegate, inadequate planning, attempting too much and distractions (unimportant things). Professional time wasters (caused by others at the workplace) include: telephone interruptions, drop in visitors, some meetings, poor communication, crises, poor planning, and too much socialising.
Thoughts on Working Smart:
- “Busyness isn’t necessarily effectiveness. Work smart, not just hard.”
- “Intersperse pleasant tasks with hard ones. Some tasks are boring, others are exciting. Some tasks are demanding, others are easy. Some tasks are draining, others are replenishing. Some tasks are old, others are new.”
- “On average, people can save up to two hours a day through better time habits.”
Tip #5 - Be Disciplined
- Do it now! Focus on your important work and just do it.
- Start that project now. Many people never start a project because they don’t have time to finish it. Don’t worry about finishing. Just get started. Work on projects ahead of time.
- Break large tasks into small ones. We cannot do everything at once but we can do something at once. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
- Stop stewing and start doing. Defeat procrastination.
- Get unpleasant duties out of the way as soon as possible.
- Value progress more than perfection - very little will be accomplished unless you go ahead and do it before you’re ready. There are two kinds of people - “I won’t do it until it’s right” and “I’ll do it until it’s right”.
Thoughts on Discipline:
- “The day before a long holiday, everyone gets twice as much done. We stop stewing and start doing.”
- “If it were not for the last minute, a lot of things would never get done. Deadlines make us work harder!”
- “God put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things ... Right now I’m so behind that I will never die!”
- “We tend to evaluate all decisions based on whether we believe they will bring us pain or pleasure. Procrastination is caused by our perception that doing a certain tasks will cause us pain. We tend to avoid events which are unpleasant, complex, lengthy, or uninteresting, regardless of their priority.”
Tip #6 - Evaluate Yourself Regularly
- Have a weekly time of evaluation. Look back over the last week and assess your productivity. Did you get your priorities done? Where did you waste time?
- Be aware of what you’re doing with your time - what are you doing and how long does it take? Do a periodic personal time analysis.
Thoughts on Evaluation:
- “Keeping score is the only way to know if you’re winning or losing.”
- “Most people are busy looking for the next quick fix idea without taking the time to follow up on the things they already know.”
- “Spend ten times as much time following up what you just learned as you did on the initial training. Otherwise you will revert to your initial behaviour within a short period.”
Here is an important principle from the apostle Paul's regarding life management: “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise, but as wise, sensible and intelligent people. Making the very most of the time - buying up each opportunity - because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is (Eph.5:15-17. Amp NT).”
From today until the end of your life, you’ll spend your time doing something. Invest it in things that matter for eternity.
Source: These ideas, concepts and quotes have been collected and gleaned from a variety of sources over the years including these recommended books: