Special Issue on: Personal Time Management

As I sat on the plane heading for Chicago on September 11th this year, it offered me the rare opportunity to reflect on the events of last year and to draft this issue of “Keep in Touch”. It somehow seemed timely to address the issue of our personal time and the challenge of managing it appropriately.

Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day? Or a ten-day week? Or a longer weekend? Two extra days of holidays? Thinking this extra time would relieve the enormous pressure under which we live our daily lives. We leave a trial of unfinished tasks in our lives… those unanswered letters, uninvited friends, unwritten articles and unread books and unseen movies. But would a thirty-hour day, etc. really solve the dilemma? Would we soon be just as harried as we are now with our 24-hour day?

If we stop to reflect, we realize that our quandary goes beyond the shortage of time; it is basically the issue of priorities. Hard work does not hurt us, it is the unreasonable demands/ expectations that have driven us onto a reef of frustrations, where doubt and misgivings create anxiety. We often reflect on the saying, “we have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done”.

We live in relentless worry between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task hardly ever must be done today or even tomorrow. The urgent task calls for instant action with endless demands and challenges every hour and everyday.

Even at home or in our cars there is no peace of mind; cell phones and e-mails even penetrate the walls of our homes and the interior of our automobiles.

So, time is a unique resource. Interestingly day-to-day, everyone has the same amount of hours.

Unfortunately it cannot be banked, turned off or stopped, or replaced. It needs to be used at the rate of sixty seconds every minute, sixty minute every hour until used up in 24 hours.

Time management should be viewed as all other resources, for its benefits and its limitations.

Time Management is a personal process that must fit your style and state of affairs. It takes a strong commitment to change old habits; however this choice is available and yours for the taking.

The best starting place to improve the use of your time is to determine the extent to which you control the time made available to you. No one has total control over ones daily work or leisure schedule. Be they self imposed or imposed by others, there is usually someone or something that makes demands on our time. However, we do have some control, maybe more than we realize.

When you take into account your daily schedule it may be a good idea to keep your energy cycle in mind. Some people are best in the morning while others peak in the afternoon or evenings. Whenever possible you should try to plan your day to match your “prime time”.

When the opportunities exceed the resources, decisions must be made. This is most apparent in the use of your time. Since time cannot be manufactured you need to determine what you need to do and what not to do.

The setting of priorities is a two-step process:

  • Listing things that need to be done, and
  • Prioritizing items on the list using the (A) Must Do (B) Should Do (C) Nice To Do categories.

Your priorities may need to be flexible, since they change over time. What is a B today maybe a A tomorrow when the deadline is nearer.

Some quick tips on how to control your use of time:

  1. Establish responsibilities, priorities and objectives.
  2. Eliminate unnecessary and inappropriate activities.
  3. Delegate as much as possible.
  4. Plan and schedule the use of your time – weekly and daily.
  5. Include room for unexpected events.
  6. Eliminate or reduce as many distractions as possible.
  7. Make optimum use of your peak energy.
You are the best judge of what you have to do. Let the pang of guilt you feel from not getting something done sharpen your judgement.

As you compare tasks or activities, it should become clear that some are higher than others. You should always be guided by the question “What is the best use of my time now?”

Deadlines have a way of determining priorities. Also important, but often overlooked, is a required starting time in order to finish a assignment by its deadline.

Nearly everyone has the potential to save five to ten hours a week. To do so requires discipline and a commitment to the basic principles of time management. Remember we each have 168 hours per week. How do you use yours??

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