Health & Medical Self-Improvement

Time Management - Balancing Your Responsibilities, Priorities, and Energy - Part I

Let's talk about this project we know as "time management.
" The problem here is that "time" isn't really something that can be managed.
We are all allotted the exact same 24 hours in a day.
You can't save some for later if you have leftovers, you can't make it move faster or slower, and you can't make it go any direction but forward.
So why is it that some people seem to be able to routinely accomplish monumental tasks in their day, and great things in the course of a lifetime, while others might be struggling just to get up, get to work, finish their job during office hours, and race home in the hopes that they will have some "time" with their family? Well clearly, since time is the same for all of us, it's not about "time management," but SELF-management, which is one of the most worthwhile endeavors any of us can devote ourselves to! I will continue to use the phrase "time-management" for simplicity's sake, but it is important that in your mind, you start to hear it as "self-management.
" Let's start with a concept called the Pareto principle.
This principle says that typically, 80% of your effort produces only 20% of your results! OUCH! I call that, "hamster on the wheel syndrome.
" But take heart, and let's look at the flip side.
That means that 20% of your effort is producing 80% of your results, which is much more desirable for most people! Now just imagine if you could leverage that other 80% of your effort to be more like the super-powered 20%...
how much more effective could you be? Imagine what things you could accomplish! Here are your first three methods toward that end: 1.
Conquer procrastination.
The first step in conquering procrastination is to recognize that you are doing it.
Some symptoms include checking your email, texting your spouse, making coffee, opening the refrigerator (again), or striking up a conversation with a coworker just as you sit down to work.
When you see these symptoms (or whatever they might include for you), STOP! Refocus and try to eliminate the distraction.
It is also important to understand WHY you are procrastinating.
Most people procrastinate because they find the task at hand either uncomfortable, or unpleasant in some way - it may be that it seems too challenging, or just plain boring.
Here are some ways to combat those feelings:
  • Break the task down into more manageable bites, with breaks in between.
    Writing that report won't look so bad if you don't see yourself having to sit there until it's finished.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone else.
    Ask someone to check up on you in a given time frame - it doesn't even have to be your boss, we all know how effective peer pressure can be!
  • Promise yourself a reward when the task is done.
  • Get your energy up.
    Get up from your desk and stretch, or do some jumping jacks.
    When your blood is circulating, you'll think more clearly and have better focus.
  • I don't like to advocate negative thinking, but when all else fails, sometimes recognizing the consequences of not completing your job can be enough to get you moving again.
2.
The activity log.
Sometimes called an activity log, time log, time map, or day plan, this tactic is a vital tool to keep track of how you are spending your time.
For a period of time, at least two to three days, although most coaches recommend a week, you are going to track all of your activities for the day.
The principle should be obvious: if you don't where your time is currently disappearing to, how can you make changes to remedy the situation? You can't! The good news is that this doesn't have to be difficult.
There are two ways you can go about this:
  • The first is to keep just a running log, on a regular lined piece of paper is fine, and every time you change activities, you make a note of what you are doing, and the time.
    My problem with this technique is that there are so many activities we perform on autopilot, we may not take enough notice of them to get them written down.
    For instance, if you've been staring into space for the last 10 minutes, would you notice when your attention returned to the spreadsheet you were working on so that you could make a note?
  • The second uses just a regular appointment book, the kind where the hours are broken into 15 minute segments.
    You'll need this and a little digital timer (something like a kitchen timer would be perfectly fine).
    Set the timer for 15 minutes.
    Every time it goes off, jot down what you've been doing for the last 15 minutes.
    If you have a longer appointment, just note what time the appointment started, and when you finished, then go back to timing out 15 minutes.
    This is a short enough time frame that most people can accurately remember what they were doing during that period, even if it was just spacing out! This is the method I recommend.
Once you have been doing this for a few days, you'll really be able to evaluate where your time is going...
although you may be shocked to discover how much has been spent doing unproductive tasks! There are many ways you can make use of this log, but just for starters, how about eliminating unnecessary tasks, spending less time on low priority tasks, and grouping like tasks together, cutting the time loss spent switching your focus from one activity to another.
To make this tracking even more effective, as you jot down your activities, also make a note of how you feel - whether your energy level is high, medium, or low.
When you write down the times you eat, also jot down WHAT you ate.
This will assist you with management tactic number three.
3.
Identify your "power hours.
" Everyone has certain times of day in which they are more creative, focused, and productive than others.
These are the times you should be tackling your most challenging tasks! If you were faithfully jotting down your energy levels in your activity log, you should be able to clearly see where your focus spikes and ebbs.
Here's a clue, even if you haven't done your activity log yet.
If you find yourself getting really fidgety while attempting to complete some mundane task, that may be a good sign that your energy is being wasted.
Because your energy will vary based on your eating habits, sleeping patterns, and what tasks you've already tackled, but this is another place your activity log can help.
If in reviewing your log you find your energy always lulls after lunch, your food may be to blame! Try switching up your diet and see if there are any changes in your energy.
You can also try getting up or going to bed at different times.

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