If I could save time in a bottle….” ~Jim Croce
A chart-topping oldie, the sentiment remains the same today as when the song was a huge hit in the seventies. It fires the imagination of many who deeply desire to hang onto things they feel are slipping through their fingers, and makes them yearn for the ability to capture life’s moments of value.
The Problem With Time
As great as the idea of “time management” seems as a concept, there is a really big problem with it.
You can’t really manage time.
In a single day, time is finite. Beyond our life and scope, time is infinite. So rather than managing time, we should consider how we can manage ourselves better.
Thanks to the constant barrage of interruptions and urgent issues in today’s information age, it has become increasingly difficult to focus on a single task for a prolonged period of time. As a result, the work day often becomes a whirlwind of action and putting out fires. We can often spend time on high activity and low achievement.
Understand Your Relationship To Time
- Understand and break through the over-commitment and chaos that has taken over your daily life.
- Benefit by actually doing the work, rather than dealing with obstacles to getting the work done.
These two tips have worked as starting points for my clients who have time management concerns. They have used them successfully, whether they are self-employed entrepreneurs or just have a desire to increase their personal effectiveness. Often, they end up with “free” time to enjoy some fun or relaxation…Imagine that!
Most people think they know more about how they spend their time than they actually do. We tend to believe our memories are good enough for an accurate account of the hours and minutes we spend on a given task.
Here’s the truth: No one can really master their time until they know how they spend their time.
When working with clients, I use the DiSC program’s Time Mastery Profile to help them understand how they are using their time. The insights provided by this profile help identify where their time goes. Then, with my coaching, they adjust their behaviors to get more of what they want and need.
You can also spend a few days using an Activity Log to track what you are doing. Create your own in Excel using the following category headers:
- Date & Time
- Description (of the activity)
- Duration (how long you do this activity)
- Importance (the value of the activity – high, low, medium, etc.)
- (Optional) Energy Level (how you feel during this activity – energetic, lethargic, alert, sleepy, etc.)
Leave the spreadsheet open during your work day and note down the work you do, as you do it. Don’t change your behavior, and don’t be judgmental. Using the Energy Level category will give you insight into what times of the day you tend to perform better.
Use the information you log to identify the behaviors you want to change.
Make Sense of Your Time By Capturing It Automatically
One common problem that I often hear from my clients who need to track billable time for invoicing is that they have a great deal of difficulty accounting for their time later, after the work is complete.
In a perfect world, you’d be able to keep track of each and every thing you do, and make a note of it as you do it, all the time.
This is not a perfect world.
So, what to do in such a busy life?
One idea is to use time-tracking software. There are many quality products geared towards helping you track your time as you go. You may want to try a software program called Chrometa which can actually do all of this automatically for you. It logs and categorizes everything you do on your computer as you work, without any input from you, making time reconciliation a snap.
Eliminate Time Wasting Habits
Now that you know how you’ve been spending your time, you can take the first step – deciding which behaviors to change.
- Begin your new behavior purposefully and mindfully.
- Tell people about it so you are not tempted to fall back into the old behaviors.
- Establish new routines associated with the habit
- Put up signs to remind you of the new, desired behaviors
- Change your environment so that the new habit has a chance to take root and grow.
Benefits Of Managing Your Relationship With Time
Time management can help you increase your productivity on the job and at home, help you enhance the quality of your work with less stress, and give you a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.
You never know, you might just find the time to reward yourself and do something you have never had the time for!
What are some tricks that you use to help you keep focused at work and at home? Have you had some success in eliminating unwanted tasks as a result of a changed habit or behavior? Let us know what has been working for you!