Time is your most valuable resource. Assuming you make it through the next 24 hours, you have exactly the same amount of time as the richest person in the world. Subsequently, the difference between them and the rest of us is how they manage that incredibly valuable asset.
Time is so valuable because it’s perishable — it has an expiration date. What you don’t invest, you spend, you burn up, or you waste. That’s why finding ways to make each minute count is so critical to your success.
How often do you find yourself running out of time — weekly, daily, hourly? For many contractors, it seems like there’s never enough time in the day to get it all done. “I just let the time get away from me,” is a common statement voiced by people frustrated with a “to-do list” that seems to keep growing.
When you know how to manage your time, you gain control. Rather than busily working here, there, and everywhere (and not getting much done anywhere), effective time managers choose what to work on and when. This is critical if you’re to achieve many worthwhile goals –- personally and in business.
You can get the most out of your time and achieve greater results, with time to spare, if you follow a simple plan. Here are five proven methods to get more of the right things done in your busy day:
- Goal Setting
- Managing Interruptions
- Avoiding Procrastination
When you know where you’re going, you can figure out exactly what needs to be done in the proper sequence to get there on time. Without proper goal setting, you’ll waste your time on a confusion of conflicting priorities. When you live a life without defined goals, chaos rules the day. Here are four thoughts to consider about setting goals:
- Use goal setting to decide what tasks and activities to work on
- Set deadlines and work to keep those commitments
- Regularly confirm priorities with your boss
- Tackle the most important tasks that lead to your future success
Prioritizing what needs to be done is especially important. Without it, you may work very hard, but you won’t be achieving the results you desire because what you’re working on may not be of real importance.
Most people have a “to-do list” of some sort. The problem with many of these lists is they are just a collection of things that to do. There is no rhyme or reason to the list and, because of this, the work they do is just as unstructured.
So how do you work on your to-do list? Top down? Bottom up? Easiest to hardest?
To work efficiently, you need to work on the most important, highest-value tasks first. This way, you won’t get caught up scrambling to get something critical done as the deadline approaches. Here are seven questions to consider about task prioritization:
- Do the tasks you perform deliver the highest return on your time invested?
- Do you know how much time you spend on the various jobs you do?
- Do you know if the current task you’re working on is of high, medium or low value?
- Do you analyze new assignments and assign a priority to it?
- Do you re-prioritize your to-do list often?
- Do you regularly check to see that your priorities are in line with achieving your goals?
- Before you take on a task, do you consider if the results are worth your valuable time?
Having a plan and knowing how to prioritize it is one thing. The next issue is minimizing the interruptions you face during your day.
It’s no secret that owners/managers get very little uninterrupted time to work on their top-priority projects. Interruptions that come disguised as phone calls, text messages, instant messages, emails, and “walk ups” keep most people from achieving great results.
Certainly, some of these issues need to be dealt with right away, but the majority of them can and should be managed so you can stay focused on the important things while still handling the urgent ones. Interruptions are a very natural and necessary part of life and you must maximize your results by striking a balance between urgent and important tasks.
Here are four questions to consider concerning interruptions:
- How often do you find yourself dealing with interruptions?
- Do you regularly ask “is this urgent or can it wait until I finish what I’m working on”?
- Do distractions often keep you from working on critical tasks?
- Do you have to take work home to get it done on time?
“I’ll get to it later…” has led to the downfall of many a good person. After too many visits to “someday I’ll…” the work piles up so high that any task seems insurmountable. Procrastination is as tempting as it is deadly.
The best way to beat it is to recognize that you do, indeed, procrastinate. You need to figure out why. Perhaps you’re afraid of failing or maybe you actually fear success. Once you know why you tend to put things off, you can plan to get rid of that nasty habit.
Reward yourself for getting jobs done and remind yourself regularly of the horrible consequences of not completing those “boring” tasks. Here are three questions to ask as it relates to procrastination:
- Do you find yourself completing tasks at the last minute or asking for extensions?
- Do you live in constant stress over pending deadlines?
- Do you rely too much on “after hours” time to actually complete important projects?
Much of time management comes down to effectively managing your calendar. When you know what your goals and priorities are, you can develop a schedule that will keep you on track to successful completion. Having a well laid out calendar can actually reduce your stress, too!
You need to understand the factors that affect your available work time and plan accordingly. You must schedule your priority tasks, but you must also leave room to handle the interruptions and unexpected new priorities that will certainly enter the picture. Failure to allow for the unknown will blow up your best-laid plans!
Consider these three questions when developing your schedule:
- Do you set aside time for planning and scheduling?
- Do you leave contingency time in your calendar to deal with the unexpected?
- Do you factor “after hours” time into your schedule?
Proper Time Management is a Great Investment
Wouldn’t you love to have a couple of extra “productive hours” daily without having to add those hours to your normal work day? You can do that by working smarter on things with the highest priority on a regular basis. Time management is an essential skill that helps you keep your work under control while keeping stress to a minimum.
Time is your most valuable asset. Get the greatest return on this precious resource by investing well.