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Daily Leadership Thought #163 – Time Management Is Not Optional

June 28, 2011

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Time is an extremely valuable currency in business and life.

As someone who doesn’t like too much structure, I must admit that time management doesn’t always come easy to me.  I like to keep my options open and focus my efforts as I deem fit.  I pride myself on being adaptable and quick on my feet.  I also try to match my workload with my energy levels.  I regularly attempt to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.  This may have been an okay strategy (debatable) when I was younger with fewer responsibilities, however it can cause problems at this point in my life if I’m not careful.  There is often a fine line between being independent and foolhardy.  Time is our most precious commodity and how we use it often reflects the results we get in our lives.

While energy and competency levels may vary by person, there are also only 24 hours in a day and limitations on what can be done in that amount of time.  You may be able to “burn the candle at both ends” or go without much sleep for some period, but eventually it will catch up with you and manifest itself through increased stress and health issues.   Unless you are lazy, working harder is rarely the long-term solution.  Implementing effective time management strategies allows you to work smarter and not get completely sidetracked by the inevitable distractions in life.

I’ve found the following actions/tactics to be useful in managing my time (especially when I adhere to them):

  • Before jumping into your day, take about 10-15 minutes on what you need/want to get accomplished that day and at the end of the day briefly reflect on how you did against your morning expectations – THINK IT THROUGH AND REVIEW
  • Use a daily “to do” list and rank the items from most to least important.  Try to always stay focused on the top 5 most critical issues – PRIORITIZE
  • Be honest with yourself and think through the level of effort to accomplish major tasks and plan and pace them accordingly – BE REALISTIC
  • Create warning/alert systems in your calendar to flag regular action items/commitments, e.g., tax payments, important family dates, etc. – MAKE IT EASY
  • When items show up on your desk, ask yourself if you are the right person to be doing this or can it be delegated to someone else – PUSH BACK
  • Not every minute of every day must be booked.  Create and protect white space in your calendar to accommodate the unforeseen events that will inevitably occur and/or provide downtime – ALLOW FOR SOME FLEXIBILITY
  • Be very disciplined about scheduling and doing the things that keep you physically and mentally on top of your game, e.g., exercise, diet, sleep, reading, worship, etc. – STAY HEALTHY
  • I know it’s hard to fathom but only check and respond to email and voice mail 2-3 times per day and do your best to avoid personal communications during work hours and vice versa – AVOID SELF CREATED DISTRACTIONS
  • Create a filing system that makes it easy for you to access valuable information – BE ORGANIZED
  • Set reasonable work life boundaries and do your best to adhere to them, e.g., not working weekends, dinner with the family, etc. – HAVE BOUNDARIES
  • If you share your life with someone else, make sure you schedule a set time to synchronize your calendars and discuss joint responsibilities – COMMUNICATE AND COORDINATE

My list is by no means exhaustive. I’m certain you have other strategies/tactics that work well for you.  The important thing is to be intentional and proactive about managing your time.  Don’t just wing it.  Believe it or not, some level of structure can be liberating in life.  I’ve learned this the hard way.

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