Ten Top Tips to Save you Time and Stress
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr., writer
The Anti Time Management Approach to Time Management is not about neat tricks for organising your filing. It’s much bigger than that – if you want to be more effective in the way you use your time, then you’re probably going to have to shift some attitude. And that’s what this tip sheet is about.
1. The first thing you need to do is recognise and accept that there’s no such thing as time management. You can’t manage time – it just is. Since you began reading this tip sheet time has moved on and there has been nothing you can do about it. You have exactly as much time as everyone else. If the people mentioned in the quotation at the start don’t inspire you, think of your own names – maybe Beckham, maybe Ellen Macarthur. Their days are no longer or shorter than yours. Stop blaming time, stop wishing for more time – while you’re doing that all you’re doing is wasting time.
2. Next you need to identify the real source of the problem. And if it isn’t time, it can’t be time management. So it must be self-management. That’s right, the real source of your time management problem is not time, but you – or to be more specific, the way you manage your major resource in life: yourself. If you aren’t getting enough done or if you keep having to miss out on enjoyable things because you ‘don’t have time’ you need to recognise that nothing will change until you take responsibility for the way you organise yourself. Are you taking on too much, are you failing to plan or to prioritise? Check yourself out.
3. So you need to do an audit. Imagine you had a bank account that was credited with 0 at midnight every night. Twenty-four hours later any money left was removed from the account before it was re-loaded with another 0. Well that’s what you’ve got every day – 1440 minutes. Are you investing them well? Do an audit. Some of these minutes you’ll spend asleep; if the quality of your sleep is poor it will affect your concentration, energy and self-management through the day. Some of these minutes you’ll spend eating; if the quality of your nutrition is poor you’ll have energy highs and lows. How are you investing the rest of the day and what’s your return on investment?
4. Do you know what matters? That’s not a rhetorical question because I don’t know what matters to you. The important thing is that you know what matters to you. I once met someone who told me he was going to be a millionaire by the time he was 40; he was working all hours, but he was going to get there. Then he said, “I’ll miss the best years of my daughter growing up, but I’m sure she’ll be happy to have a millionaire daddy.” I wonder if he knew what really mattered to him? What matters to you, in life and at work? Do you know, are you really clear about it, at a level that gives you meaning? Once you know, use your time accordingly.
5. Some people say that to be good at time management you need to be assertive, you need to be able to say ‘no’. Well there’s a self-management step you need to take before you know what to be assertive about. You need to set your boundaries. I work with clients Monday to Friday, 9am to 9pm – but never at weekends. Weekends are just one of my personal boundaries. Do you know what your boundaries are?
6. Stop giving excuses. Start looking for solutions. Employers say things like “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”. Be your own ‘life employer’ and take this attitude with yourself. So your work means you have to be on duty at weekends, so the things that matter to you are different from what matters to other people – so work it out. Listen, if you are working what feels like 24/7 and you are not enjoying it and your health, relationships and life generally are suffering, what is that telling you? Oh, you get a big fat pay cheque – oh well, it’s your time, it’s your choice.
7. Multi-tasking is a sin. Sorry ladies, you may be better than us men at multi-tasking, but really, it’s not the best way to self-manage. It’s okay doing the ironing while watching TV and with routine tasks in the work environment that don’t demand much concentration. I know you won’t believe me, but research has been done showing that multi-tasking at work can cause stress, memory interference and … and you’ll take one and half times as long to do anything when you multi-task as when you just get on and do one thing. Ever noticed how it takes you longer to eat your breakfast when you’re watching TV or reading the paper, than if you just get on and eat?
8. Have you got a system? If not, get one. Look, I know some people think it’s anal to make lists, but if that’s a system that works for you just do it. If you don’t have a system you have confusion, the firing of darts in random directions. What’s that? You tried a system, but it didn’t work? So try another one. Remember we’re not talking about the impossible (time management), we’re talking about self-management and everyone’s different.
9. Are you putting number one first? No, not the first task on your list or your first priority. What we’re talking about here is you. Are you putting you first? If you think that’s selfish, get over it – because if you don’t look after yourself the time will come when you won’t be able to do your work or look after your family. Most people put work and family before themselves – but without self there is no work and family, or, at best, work and family suffer. Put your own needs first and work and family will benefit much more.
10. Go easy on yourself. So you’re not getting things done? So you’d like to spend more time on this or that, but you can’t afford to? Go easy on yourself. Just because things haven’t happened, has the world stopped? Can things be different tomorrow? Real time management is a frame of mind, not a time-frame.
11. “I thought you said ten top tips?” I know, but I managed myself so well that I had time to throw in another one. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these ideas and that you like the ‘no messing’ style. I know some of you will still be yearning for some good old fashioned time management tips, so here’s one: of all the things you have to do today, decide on which is the most important, which one will make the most difference or bring you the most personal reward. And if you do nothing else today, do that one thing.