Where Does Your Time Go? (Part III)

“If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.” – Lee Iacocca

Where Does Your Time Go? (Part III)

By Andrea Novakowski

If you’ve been following along with my three-step process for managing your time, you’ve tracked how you spend your time (Step One) and assessed what you’re doing during that time (Step Two). Now it’s time for Step Three: Strategize — create a plan so that you use your energy to do what’s most important.

Begin by taking a look at what you learned in your assessment step.

Which of your activities produced the best results? Start here! Build your schedule around those activities that are instrumental in helping you reach your goals.

Which activities don’t support your goals, or even undermine them? What can you do to remove them from your schedule? Consider delegation, changing where they fit in your schedule, or even removing them altogether.

Then, consider how you can rearrange your time to maximize your results.

Use your calendar to establish a daily schedule. Identify exactly how you are going to spend each segment of your day. Whether it’s working on a project or returning phone calls, make these tasks visible to remind you of what’s next and remove the option of procrastination. This works better than just making a to-do list plus it has the added benefit of helping you see how long a task will actually take.

Set up your day to leverage your energy. Not everyone is a morning person. If you know it takes a couple of cups of coffee to get going in the morning, take that into account when you create your schedule. Work on your most important task when you have the most energy. If your energy lags at the middle or the end of the day, schedule these times for activities that take less out of you.

Here are some additional strategies that can help you maximize your effectiveness:

  • Focus on the most important projects first. Darren Hardy, the former publisher of Success magazine and author of The Compound Effect, recommends identifying three actions each day that will be most effective in moving you closer to your number-one goal. Then spend the first 60 minutes of your day working on them.
  • Review your to-do list every day. Be realistic about what you can get done with the time and energy that you have available. Make sure you have your most important tasks listed first. If any items on your list seem especially large or complex, consider separating them into smaller steps. Remember to focus your efforts on activities that move you towards your goals!
  • Schedule regular goal-setting — quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily. Take this time to look back and forward, so that you’re continually updating what’s working for you and what’s not. Revise your plan based on these ongoing assessments.
  • Stop procrastinating! In his book Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy quotes Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” By doing the task that you’ve been avoiding first, you’ll gain energy and momentum to keep going. (But only if it moves you closer to your most important goals.)
  • Establish a daily no-interruption time. Close your door, turn off your phone, and dig in. The more you make this a regular habit, the better.
  • Take breaks. Consider actually adding them to your schedule! Studies show that working for 90 minutes and then taking a break is the most effective way to get things done. Think of it as coming up for air or taking a breather. Set a timer to pause and take a break, so you don’t get lost in the project and forget to breathe.
  • Battle feeling overwhelmed by building energy boosts into your day. Whether you take a walk, have a conversation with a colleague, or network over lunch, these activities can keep your thinking fresh and serve as a bolt of inspiration. Refer to your assessment to figure out when these energy lulls tend to occur for you and use that time for rest and rejuvenation.
  • Learn when to say no. Your new plan will show you what you have time for and what will take you off course. Removing the things that don’t help you reach your goal will open up the time you need for the things that will lead you to success.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

Select the tools in this list that seem like they’d help you the most and put them into action. If you aren’t gaining the ground you want, or if you’re ready for more, come back and find some additional ideas to help you continually strategize.

The more consistently you use these tools, the more organized you’ll be. You’ll build some useful habits that will serve you over the long term, and you’ll establish some new skills for identifying which activities serve your goals and are therefore worth your time and energy.