Time and again, you've made all the right moves to master time--to put a firm harness around what's surely the most elusive but powerful asset in your life and business.
You bought the latest and greatest BlackBerry, iPhone or PDA. You attended time-management seminars. You juggle, multitask and mind map. You delegate, prioritize and project.
At the end of the day, you confront a frustrating reality--you've still been robbed. Robbed of time and, in turn, opportunities.
The hours flew by, thwarting intentions to advance your most important plans. Your greatest goals sit on paper--instead of in motion--deferred for yet another day, week, month or year.
You wonder why there's never enough time, and you daydream about having more hours in a day.
"I am organized and a great planner," one business owner told me. "But everything changes when my plans intersect with what comes up in a given day. . . . I can never seem to run my day. Instead it's always running me."
Another business owner and friend of mine once complained, "It seems I spend my days in a frenzy of activity but achieve very little; so much time is wasted with insignificant tasks, rather than concentrating on the things that matter most. If I step back and look at my day, I'm very busy--but I feel like I don't get anything done."
Both are bright, successful businesswomen, but they sense they're squandering valuable time, rather than working smarter and taking control of their time. If time doesn't feel like it's on your side, you need to uncover your time bandits, those productivity-robbing patterns that deny your life and your business of realizing their full potential.
Take the following self-evaluation to discover whether your relationship with time is powerful or dysfunctional. The results may surprise you:
- I'm more comfortable using paper than an electronic calendar.
- Tasks or activities often take longer than the time I allot for them.
- I spend a great deal of time in meetings.
- I spend a lot of time waiting for other people.
- My calendar usually fills up with things I need to respond to, instead of reflecting my priorities.
- I worry a lot about things that will or could happen.
- I spend a lot of time pursuing outstanding receivables.
- I have a difficult time saying "no."
- I pride myself on being a perfectionist.
- I have a lengthy to-do list.
How did you do? If you sailed through the checklist and answered yes to only one or two items, you're a pretty effective time manager. Still, there are things you can do to tweak your relationship with time to make things even better.
If you answered yes to more than three questions, you're good at many things but still have some challenges when it comes to managing your time. With a little guidance, you can take powerful steps to move to a higher level of productivity and goal attainment, in business and life.
Of course, if you answered yes to five or more questions, it's time you took steps to regain mastery over your precious time.
So where do you start? How do you go about regaining control over time so that you're not busily working here, there and everywhere (and not getting much done anywhere)?
Next month, in "Put Time Back on Your Side: Part 2," I'll identify aspects of time management that will help you work more efficiently and become the master of your time.