We all want to make the most of the time we have, but too often a day seems to slip away before we accomplish everything we wanted. I write elaborate to do lists only to have most (and sometimes all) of the items left at the end of the day. Even when I do manage to make a dent in everything I need to do, the achievement is soon crowded out by everything that still needs doing. Time management seems to be an elusive dream I always strive for but never achieve.
The secret is in the fluidity of time. No sooner has a moment come into being than it has passed on to the next moment, and the next. Like a flowing stream, time keeps moving while we try to catch up and capture a few minutes to get something done. However, we can get the most out of a day when we learn to work with the movement of time instead of against it. Here are four secrets for making the most of our time.
1. Rely on Routine
Creating a routine for daily tasks helps them become second nature. This way we can repeat the same basic tasks, in order, with little thought and planning. The routine works for us to help get the basics done and in less time. Once a solid routine has been established, it is much easier to attach a new task to an established one to add to the routine. For instance, if brushing your teeth is part of your morning routine, you can attach the task of cleaning the sink to it, accomplishing one more task without adding to your to do list.
2. Keep Your To Do List Short and Simple
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your to do list of tasks and projects won’t be finished in a day either. In order to stay focused and on track, it is best to keep your to do list short and simple. This provides a realistic view of what you can accomplish in the day and allows you to celebrate your finished work. Make sure projects are broken down into manageable steps so you can measure your progress. Each day identify 3-5 items you can tackle and write them on a post-it note or planner page as a reminder.
3. Manage Priorities Not Minutes
While schedules have their place, it is our priorities that deserve our attention most. We all deal with interruptions and competing responsibilities. If we try to handle these challenges by tightening our schedules, we may find ourselves anxious about lost time or missed appointments. By changing the focus to managing our priorities instead of our minutes, we can recognize opportunities to build relationships, find new resources, or create innovative solutions.
4. Stay Focused – by Eating Dessert First
Sometimes we find ourselves distracted or uninspired by our work. Like an artist in need of a muse, we must break through the block to regain our focus and motivation. When this happens, it is helpful to engage in something creative and pleasant. Finding an activity or task that we enjoy to get us back in the groove is like eating dessert first to whet the appetite. Some people clean house, others write in a journal, and still others tackle a few easy tasks like checking email or filing papers to help them focus before digging into the tough stuff.
Share your time management tips in the comments. How do you make the most of your time each day?