Time is nature’s greatest “force.” Nothing can stop it, nothing can alter it. Unlike the wind, it cannot be felt. Unlike the sun, it cannot be seen. Yet, of all nature’s forces, time has the most profound effect on us.
Time remains constant, but our perception of it changes. When we focus on it, it slows down. When we turn our backs on it, it speeds up. Our illusion makes us think it is something tangible. We arrange it, divide it up, and give some to our friends. Sometimes we feel it is precious, at other times we waste it. We give it the power to heal when we say, “Time heals all wounds.” It can also kill, as when we live stressful lives because we “never have enough time.” On a day‑to‑day basis, nothing is defined and redefined in our minds as much as time. It’s a wonder, we can still recognize it!
Herein lies our power. Because things are as we perceive them, we can choose to see time as a manageable commodity and live our lives according to that assumption. This is one of the secrets of successful people ‑ they work at shaping those things which others think are uncontrollable.
EFFICIENT vs. EFFECTIVE
Efficiency means doing things right. Effectiveness means doing the right things. Working efficiently is doing things with the least amount of wasted effort. Efficiency gets you from point A to point B via a straight line. Inefficiency goes in circles. Effectiveness means doing the things that yield results.
Many people, when learning about time management, ask the question, “Which should I work on first, efficiency or effectiveness?” In theory and practice, the best answer is to improve your effectiveness first. It’s much better to aim your sights at the result than to worry about the process. Too often we get bogged down in the means and lose sight of the end.
USING A “TO DO” LIST
A list of “things to do” for each day and week is a valuable aid to managing your time. A “To Do” list organizes your thinking and planning onto one form in the least amount of time with the maximum amount of efficiency. Such a list is especially helpful if it coincides with the record keeping you already do for your company. After a short time you will find yourself handling a greater volume of work without increasing your stress. You’ll simply become more efficient.
Your “To Do” list should define a specific amount of time (if possible) for each activity. Your activities should be listed in order of priority. Work on high priorities first. In listing the activities, it is helpful to spell out the result as well as the process. Stating when, where, and what you’re going to do increases your chances of doing it successfully.
As the day goes by, check off completed activities and make any notes that seem relevant. In the evening, make out a new “to do” list for the next day and include any activities you couldn’t complete the day before. Always save your “to do” lists for future reference and evaluation.
Procrastination is like a virus. It creeps up on you slowly, drains you of energy, and is difficult to get rid of if your resistance is low. Procrastination is a close relative of incompetence and a first cousin to inefficiency, which is why their marriage is taboo. These suggestions will help you conquer the virus:
- Give yourself deadlines. In moderation, pressure motivates. Extreme pressure debilitates. Set appointments, make commitments, write out your goals, and otherwise develop the determination to succeed.
- Don’t duck the difficult problems. Every day we are faced with both difficult and easy tasks. Tackle the difficult ones first so that you can look forward to the easy ones. If you work on the easy ones first, you might expand the time that they take in order to avoid the difficult ones waiting for you.
Many people put off difficult or large tasks because they appear too huge to tackle in a reasonable time frame. They feel that if they start and complete the “large” task at one sitting, it will prevent them from accomplishing any of the other tasks they have to do on that day. The answer to this problem is to break all large or difficult tasks into their smaller subparts. Then, you can do each of the subparts of the larger project over a series of days, if appropriate.
- Don’t let perfectionism paralyze you. This is a problem which many salespeople have when writing proposals. They sit with pad and pen in hand waiting for the “right” words to come out. What they are doing is avoiding the process of writing. Be prolific in your activities. You can always go back later and polish those things you’re unhappy with. Better yet, you can delegate the polishing to someone else.
Because humans are so susceptible to procrastination, you must work at building up your immunity to it. Effective action is the best medicine.
CHANGE YOUR BAD HABITS
“Habit, my friend, is practice long pursued, that at the last becomes the man himself” (Evenus, 5th century B.C.)
Managing your time efficiently and effectively will require some changes in your behavior and thinking. Those changes require practice.
Giant strides, when looked at closely, are made up of many small steps. In “overhauling” your management of time, you, too, need to take small steps. Start today doing those things that will make you a better manager of your time. After you’ve improved in one area, choose another and so on.
How about taking a moment, right now, to list the ideas you’d like to implement? Review this article and circle or highlight the items of most immediate value to you. Then put them on tomorrow’s “to do” list for action. Remember this: If it is not affecting your actions, it is doubtful you believe it.