On the Road to Better Time Management

You can’t create time, however, you may be able to better manage the time you have. Here’s how:

Choose a Destination
Increasing time spent on one task or project requires you spending less time on another. Take a moment to re-examine your long-term goals. What are your work and personal goals for the year? List five things you would like to accomplish, such as: cultivate clients in a different sector, boost sales of an existing product, or spend more time with family.

Prioritize them, giving as much thought to your “wants” as to your “needs.” Focus first on the goals that are most important or urgent—the ones you value most and are willing to commit to.

Make Each Mile Count
Choose one or two goals to accomplish over the next few months, moving on to other goals on your list as the year proceeds. The majority of your time should be spent in completing goal-directed tasks. Create a list of objectives, or “steps” towards each goal. If your goal is to expand your business in a new sector, schedule time to research potential areas of profitability or identify and meet new clients. Schedule tasks such as soliciting a number of clients each month or attending a networking event to help you keep moving forward. You’ll stay on target if you ask yourself daily, “Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing in order to reach my goals?”

Take What You Need
Consider the equipment or services you need in order to reach your goals. Use of accounting software, such as QuickBooks or Peachtree, could allow you to spend more time soliciting clients and less time going over the books. Minding the store could be delegated to a capable employee. Hiring an expert to update your Web site or help with other areas could free up more time to concentrate on goal-oriented items.

Pack Well
Everybody has their own organizational style; some offices are cluttered and others pristine. As a general rule of thumb, organize the tools of your trade in such a way that they are always at hand when you need them. Don’t lose a half-hour searching for the “one thing” you need in order to complete a simple five-minute task. If clutter burns up excess time, bring in a file clerk or professional organizer for a “tune-up.”

Always Look Ahead
Keep your calendar handy and with you at all times. If you make an appointment, get some news, or have an idea, jot it down immediately. Set aside some time at the end of each day and week to assess your progress and to strategize for the following day and week. Schedule tasks, meetings, and most importantly, blocks of uninterrupted time to work on your short- and long-term goals. If you have work due for a client, allot enough time for completion. Don’t forget to factor in important personal and social obligations!

Fuel Up
You can’t run on fumes forever, and you can’t run on empty at all. Be sure not to drain yourself by overbooking, over-committing, skipping breakfast, or sacrificing exercise or family time on a regular basis. Plan quality time with family and friends. If exercise is important to you, schedule it. Allow yourself substantial time to complete tasks. After work on a big project, take a break. Meet a friend for lunch, take a walk, or shift to work that requires less thought or energy. Put yourself and your needs “on the agenda.”

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” - Carl Sandbergsu