Make the best use of your time.

By Harold Taylor

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions for managing time.

  1. Put your goals in writing. Determine where you would like to be in 10 years and 5 years and one year and put those goals in writing. Then each week schedule time to work on those tasks and activities that will lead to those annual and long-term goals. Where you will be in 10 years or 5 years or one year is determined by what you do today, tomorrow and next week.       
  2. Organize your work area.  An organized desk is not the sign of a sick mind; it is the sign of an organized mind.  People do better on exams when neatly dressed, excel in sales when well prepared, and are more productive at work when their materials are arranged in an orderly way. Have frequently used materials within reach, an orderly system of filing, and a work environment that discourages distractions.
  3. Plan your day.  If you have no objectives for the day you will likely have a matching set of results.  Plans are the handrails that guide you through the day’s distractions and keep you on course.  Plan what you will do at the start, evaluate progress during the day, and measure results at the finish.
  4. Schedule your tasks.  Listing jobs on a “to do” list shows your intention to work on them; but scheduling important tasks in your planner reveals a commitment to get them done.  Make appointments with yourself at specific times to work on your priority tasks, complete with start and finish times.  And keep those appointments.
  5. Handle paper only once.  When possible, that is.  Don’t even look at your mail until you have 30 to 60 minutes available to review and dispense with it.  As you pick up each piece of paper, scrap it, delegate it, do it, file it, or schedule a time to do it later. The same thing applies to e-mail.
  6. Don’t procrastinate.  Procrastination is putting off until later what is best done now. If it’s too large a task to complete at one sitting, break it into chunks and do a little at a time.  If it’s distasteful, do it now and get it over with.  Putting things off wastes time, causes stress and frustration, and make life more difficult for others as well as you.
  7. Write it down.  Writing things down does not mean you are circumventing your memory; you are simply helping it to do its job.  We all need reminders to prevent a myriad of essential tasks from dying of neglect.  The pen is mightier than the sword, and it writes better. Never rely on memory alone.
  8. Say “No’ more often.  Some people say, “Yes” to others simply because they’re available or don’t want to offend.  Make sure the request is compatible with your goals before you agree.  Have as much respect for your time as you have for other peoples’ time. Remember, every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something a lot more important that could be done instead.
  9. Delegate more. This is one of the greatest time-savers of all because it frees up time for more important tasks. If you have no one to delegate to, ask your suppliers to help or outsource if possible. Be on the lookout for timesaving technology that will help free up your time. And don’t delegate or outsource anything that can be eliminated.
  10. Practice the Pareto Principle. This 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of your results are achieved by 20% of the things you do. Focus on the priorities, and if some tasks don’t get done, let it be those of less importance.