Mick Jagger famously declared his mastery over time. "Time," he has sung for more than half a century, "is on my side, yes it is!"
Maybe so for a Rolling Stone, but most of us regular folks feel about time the same way as author William Penn, who once lamented, "Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst."
Awkward English aside, wasted time is also fixable. Time management is a skill that can be learned. Everyone has tools at her disposal to regain mastery over time--at work and in life. It just takes a little effort.
In my previous column, Put Time Back on Your Side: Part I, I offered tips on how to evaluate your relationship with time and determine whether you're a minor or egregious misspender of time, or somewhere in between.
Here are the promised tips to help you be more like Jagger and get time back on your side:
Tip No. 1: If you're attached to your paper calendar, go electronic. Your reliance on paper is doing you (not to mention your environment) more harm than good. You won't have a backup if your trusty paper planner is misplaced, and it's hard to use as a long-term planning platform.
Electronic calendars allow you to map out your entire year strategically, scheduling recurring commitments and activities months ahead of time, all with a few simple keystrokes. Strategic scheduling is critical to implementing long-term plans and accomplishing larger projects by breaking them up into smaller, scheduled activities. It's also easier to implement and tweak when it's in electronic format.
Tip No. 2: If activities often take longer than the time you allotted, build a schedule around your life priorities before scheduling work priorities. Once sleep, vacations, personal and family commitments and self-care are scheduled, there's limited time left for work. This should lead to ruthless prioritization of the activities necessary to accomplish work goals. Also, be realistic--build transition, travel and break time into all of your activities.
Tip No. 3: If you seem to spend a great deal of time in meetings, ask others to agree on at least one outcome--in advance. Before your next meeting, request that attendees agree on at least one significant result from getting together (e.g., "create a framework for at least one new revenue-generating vehicle that will serve our clients' recessionary sensitive needs" or "select the candidate we will make the final offer to"). If your group can't commit in advance to creating at least one result, the meeting is likely to be a waste of time. Designing an outcome before a meeting focuses attendees' efforts and cooperation, ensuring that time spent together is a wise investment.
Tip No. 4: If you spend a lot of time waiting for other people, plan ahead for downtime. No excuses here. Be prepared for inevitable delays in your day; have what you need at your fingertips to turn what could be wasted time into time well-spent. Whether it's a book you enjoy reading or a meditation tape on your iPod, having a plan for downtime will increase your productivity and prevent frustration. The average person spends 45 to 62 minutes a day waiting--so use this time wisely.
Tip No. 5: If you worry a lot about things that will happen or could happen, stop it. Confront your concern(s) head-on. Most mental "movies" are negative, formed out of fear. They waste time and tend to be woefully inaccurate. If you can't turn it off, check it out. Get on the phone, send an e-mail--share your concerns and determine whether your worries are valid. If not, relax. If they're valid, seize the opportunity to re-engage and get it right before you waste any more time worrying.
Tip No. 6: If you spend a lot of time pursuing outstanding receivables, set up automatic billing and bill-payment systems. Chasing after receivables can be a costly use of your time. Opt for credit card pre-authorization. Set up automatic billing agreements. By utilizing credit cards to bill and receive payment for services and products, you can process payments instead of chase after them.
Tip No. 7: If you have a difficult time saying no, know what a yes is worth to you.
You may need to determine what commitment is worthy of a yes before responding to your next request. Knowing what a yes is worth will help you have the discipline and courage to say no to anything that doesn't fit into that commitment.
Tip No. 8: If you pride yourself on being a perfectionist, set a time goal to complete a project, and stick to it. Much time is wasted polishing something that reached the "good enough" stage long ago. Instead, give yourself a specified time frame to complete a task, rather than pursue an unreachable standard of perfection. Then watch how much more time you'll have for other things in your day.
Tip No. 9: If you have a lengthy to-do list, tackle those projects in an allotted time frame. Allotting time to complete your to "dos" instead of having them exist as a separate "hope I get to them" list forces you to prioritize and resolve them instead of having them compete with your scheduled activities for your time and attention.
Final word: By applying these time management tips and skills, you'll be able to concentrate as much of your time and energy as possible on the high-payoff tasks. That way you can achieve more with the limited amount of time you have.
Just like Mick...
Ready to achieve mastery over your time? Columnist, business and life-coach Suzy Girard-Ruttenberg is now offering "90 days to Complete Time Mastery," an exclusive phone-coaching workshop guaranteed to change your life and grow your business by redesigning your usage of time. For details, email Suzy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 561-883-6006.