Make a list: How to use my time better
It may be hard to accept, but all the people in the world have the same 24 hours each day. Some of them just use it better. People who manage their time well have better control over their life. It is safe to say that people who use their time better are more successful at what they do or at least they feel that way.
If you ever tell yourself "I do not have time" or "When I will have the time, I will…" or "I wish I had more hours in my day", this post is for you. Unfortunately, people are not born with time management skills, but fortunately, they can develop them.
I learned many of my time management skills in college when I was studying Special Education and had many things to do. At one point in my first year of studies, I worked with over 200 kids, had to remember their names, year levels and what academic level each of them was at in order to be able to create an individual program for them. I had to fit in all my study assignments (for a number of subjects I studied every week), homework, quizzes and exams, my work at the Special Education Library, my work and meetings at the Creative Thinking project, library books that were due back at the library within a day, a week, two weeks…
I was so overwhelmed it was not funny. For a while, I doubted I could do it all, but then I remembered it was not the time we have that counts but how efficient we are with it and I decided to conquer time management. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you know that making a choice gets you half-way to success and I conquered it - big time.
Even now, 20 years later, I am doing lots of things and in a very efficient way. Because I love variety, time management is essential for me. Since that overwhelm during my first year of studies, I have collected tips and ideas to save time and to use time more effectively. I do not think you need 100 tips to develop good time management skills, but aim for 100 anyway, because some of the ideas may not be 100% useful today, but perhaps they will be useful tomorrow.
How do I use my time today?
Make a list of all the things you do in one week. Use an average and do not ignore short 10-minute things, because they add up. People who say, "Oh, well, it only took 2 minutes" usually do not control their time well, because do not realize that 2 minutes + 2 minutes + 2 minutes + … = a lot of time.
When making this list, take into consideration that weekends are not normal days and take into account more sleep and other things you do on the weekend that you do not do during weekdays.
Here are the areas you may consider when making your list:
- Sleeping and resting
- Commuting to work
- Grooming (shower, shave, make up, getting dressed…)
- Preparing food (cooking, baking, packing, setting the table)
- Eating (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Cleaning after food (washing dishes, clearing the table, cleaning the kitchen)
- Cleaning the house
- Laundry (washing, folding, ironing…)
- Watching TV
- Personal email, chat and other personal computer time
- Taking the kids to and from school/activities/friends
When you complete this list, add up all the hours and find out how many hours you spend every week. In each week, there are only 168 hours. Take your sum and deduct from 168. The result will show you how many spare hours you have every week.
When I give this list to my clients, many of them discover that the accumulation of their activities is more than 168 hours. You are probably wondering how that is possible. Well, it is not! It only means they are chasing their tails and stealing time from themselves.
If you are one of those who need more than 168 hours, I bet you would like to find ways to manage your time better.
If you have spare time, you will probably notice how little time you have for fun. After all, fun is what life is all about.
The second step after discovering where your time flies is to find your time wasters. Being skilled in time management means you do not waste time and have habits that make you more focused and effective. If you find your time wasters, you know what areas to focus on.
Read the list and spot your challenges. Try to come up with a solution for each of them. At the end, I will write some of my time management tips, but remember, you need to come up with 100 for yourself and try them.
Top 10 time wasters
- Shifting priorities - this happens when you are not sure what is more important and react to crises. For people with shifting priorities, pain is the thing that causes the shift and the focus for them is to stop this pain at all costs. Usually, it makes them feel overwhelmed and stressed.
- Interruptions - television, mobile ringing, telephones and people at the door. People often allow external things to mess with their use of time. This usually makes them feel like they are not in control of their time.
- No clear goals. Not having goals is a habit of reacting to life rather than being able to control some of it. If you do not know what you want, it will take you a lifetime to travel, but you will never get anywhere.
- Messy desk - on average, it takes people 45 minutes to find a piece paper. I have many clients who say, "I can find anything in my mess", but in truth, they still have to look for that piece of paper. Ask yourself, "If something happens to me now and I need my insurance policy, how long will it take me to find it? If I need to track a payment from last year, how long it will take me to find it?"
- Procrastination - emotional blocks like boredom, daydreaming, stress, guilt, anger and frustration reduce concentration and cause putting off important jobs. This time waster is very challenging because they drain much energy from people. Note that doing something efficiently does not make you effective if what you are doing is not the most important thing to do, so look at things you do well too.
- Ineffective delegation - "Watch out, it comes back". If you want someone to do something for you and you delegate in a way that makes you do it in the end, you have only wasted time.
- Inability to say "No". I think this is self-explanatory. Assertiveness is a skill that makes us very effective and focused. If there is something we cannot or do not want to do, it is essential for us to be able to say "No".
- Poor planning - not leaving time for routine matters, transit, unforeseen issues (triggers reactive mode) and "downtime" to rejuvenate (which results in "downtime" due to sickness). Planning takes time, but as we work on our time management skills, we get better at it. Many of my clients think people are either born with it or not, but it takes practice to be effective.
- Poor use of technology and systems. There are many system and gadgets that can save you time. Some people are afraid of systems because they are afraid to lose freedom or that the system will not be 100% bullet proof. The advantage of a system is that after a short time, it becomes a habit and requires less effort than without it.
- Meetings - 30% of every meeting is a waste of time (do I hear more?). If you do not have any need for meetings, lucky you! I learned this many years ago when I worked in at a school Forth worth and realized that after two full hours, we came out of meetings without making any progress. At the end of every meeting, I asked myself, "What did we talk about?" and had no good answer. I asked myself, "What are we going to do now?" and had no answer. This is when I learned that when they are not run effectively, meetings are a waste of time. After 2-3 meetings, if I did not have to be there, I did not go.
How to list your own time management tips
- Write what you already do that saves you time.
- Ask other people for ideas - I am in constant search for ideas and I try many of them. Most of my tips come from other people.
- Set goals! Every person must have something he or she wants to do. If you do not know what you want, it will be hard to achieve it…
- Find something you do that takes too much of your time and find ways to do it more quickly. Focus on one thing at a time.
- Think about your day and find a very efficient way to give yourself another 10 minutes every morning.
- Find a diary system that helps you record your to-do list and monitor it.
- Find a filing system that helps you keep your paperwork in an easy-to-find way.
- Find a place where you can write all the important numbers you may need (use a secret code if you are worried they might fall into the wrong hands).
- When you need to focus, turn off your mobile phone or put it on Silent. If it is hard for you, imagine yourself sitting on the toilet or taking a shower. You can always return the call later at a more convenient.
- Keep an up-to-date to-do list.
- Priorities your to-do list.
- Have a time estimate on each item of your to-do list. Over time, your time estimates will become more and more accurate.
- Write a due date on each of the items on your to-do list.
- Write your own due date on your to-do list. This item alone makes me much more effective. My magazine editor loves me, because she gives me the deadline, but I always have an earlier one of my own, taking into consideration other things I have to do. Many times, I give myself an extra month and I always send my articles in ahead of time. While she is running after other writers, I am always in her "good book".
- Think of things you could do while you drive. I plan many things, practice for my presentations, do math with my daughter, plan our vacations, go over the family schedule and talk on the mobile with my clients (on speaker, of course). I have a friend who spends a whole hour driving home from a client, so she records her findings on a digital recorder and gives it the next morning to her secretary to type into a report. She works all the way home.
- Find ways to shop as fast as possible - go to the supermarket when it is empty, on the way home, only shop with a list or order online. Since my sister had a baby, she started ordering online. For less than $3, she gets her groceries delivered and does not have to take her baby out and spend 2-3 hours shopping. She said it had been difficult for her to buy boxes of diapers, because her stroller is too small and the supermarket is too far away from where she parks her car.
- Write 2-3 ideas to have an efficient meeting. Even meetings at home with your partner and kids can benefit from these ideas.
- Schedule time out in your weekly plan.
- Think of things you can do while you wait for your kids to finish their activities, at the dentist, in the bank, etc.
- If you have difficulties making a decision, make a list of options and look at it when you are not sure. For example, if it is too hard for you to decide what to buy someone, make a list of ideas during the year. If deciding what to make for dinner is hard, have a list of ideas on the fridge and just look at that list when you need to.
It takes 21 days to make a habit. If you find a tip that works, use it for 21 days until it is part of life (a habit) and then move on to the next item. That should give you more and more free time and set you free.
I hope at the end of it, you will have extra time to have fun and enjoy yourself. After all, this is the most important thing.
Until next time, have a happy and wonderful life, full of free time to do all the things you have ever wanted to do.
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- Make a list: My Lifetime
- Make a list: Things I am Happy about
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- Make a list: Ways to say “I love you!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Things to ask for my birthday
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- Make a list: Feelings I Want to Feel
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that have shaped my life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- Make a list: If I were Santa Claus
- Make a list: If I had one year to live
- Make a list: Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies