7 Secrets to Manage Your Time Effectively Tools to Live Life on Purpose
Effective use of our time is not synonymous with relentless productivity. To manage your time effectively means to spend it doing what matters most to you. As leaders, we must always grow in this area. Professionally speaking, we should allocate our time to the the areas of greatest importance to us, and to the areas which bring the most value our organizations.
I recently read about a dying man who said if he had more time, he would do nothing. His point was that we fill our lives with so much to do that we have little time to breathe, to savor the journey, or to see people we love and to enjoy them. I have certainly been guilty of this. How do we carve out time for the important things? There is only one way. Do less of what matters less. I will share with you seven practical ways I accomplish that in my life.
Effectively using our time requires that we be intentional about how we spend it.
One myth we associate with being effective is that every minute of our lives must be productive. Living like that is actually counterproductive and unbalanced. Instead, we must work toward intentionally planning our time, even our downtime.
Effective time management hinges on aligning everything we do with our life priorities. For example, which is more important to you, going grocery shopping three times a week or doing something else you value, like spending time with your children? Personally, extra trips to the grocery store do not fit into my list of life priorities, which are: Faith, Marriage, Family, Health, Joy, Giving, Growth, Finances, Career, and Friends.
So in this example, if I am to excel in time management, I must creatively find ways to go to the grocery store less often. It may seem like only an hour here or there, but how we choose to spend our hours significantly impacts how we spend our entire lives. Effective leaders don’t just value every hour, they value every second. I will not obsess over every second so I can make more time for work. I will obsess over every second so I can do less of what is less important to me and more of what is more important. Peter Drucker said, “Nothing else perhaps distinguishes effective executives, as much as their tender loving care of time.”
Here are my 7 secrets to being judicious with my time.
- Say no. What must we say no to? First, to people. I appreciate the sentiment of this saying: People who have nothing to do want to spend their time with you. Well meaning people call or text at any time, and sometimes they push. Unless spending time with them is a priority, we must be comfortable to say no. On the other hand, we must allow our schedules to be interrupted to honor the people we love. The second thief of our time is opportunity. One of the hardest things to say no to is a new and amazing opportunity. Two days ago, I was presented with an exciting opportunity to take a position with a local organization. I believe it would have pushed me forward and would have even fulfilled a dream I’ve had for years. I was excited at first, but after prayer and discussion with a few close people to me, I decided to say no. I am getting married June 25th, and I want to focus on my relationship with my wife. At the top of my list of life priorities is my relationship with Joanne, and I think this position could potentially take too much of a toll on me emotionally.
- Stick to your calendar. Before you can stick to your calendar, you must do two things. First, have a calendar. I use my Mac calendar which syncs to my iPhone. Secondly, you must look at it daily. Part of my daily morning routine is looking at my calendar. I confirm appointments, so I am not wasting time going somewhere if others cannot make it. I look at today, this week, and few weeks ahead. It is especially important to stick to your calendar when you have blocked time for yourself to do what is needed or most important.
- Schedule regular life on your calendar. Last year, I heard the former CEO of Ford and Boeing, Alan Mulally, speak at an event. Someone in the audience asked him, “How could you do all you have done and still see your family?” His answer was simple and profound, and will always stick with me. He said, “I put them on my calendar.” If you don’t seem to have time to spend with your son for example—I mean real quality time—then make time, and add him to your calendar.
- Decide. Quickly. Much time is wasted because we cannot make a choice. Indecision occupies our time and more importantly our emotions. I can easily spend two hours mulling over something confusing where there is no way to be 100% certain of a choice. But great leaders will tell you, decisions must be made 70% from the facts, and the rest is instinct. This is hard to do, but the motivation for me comes when I remember it is more important to decide and move on, than to spend my life trying to decide. Certainly, some decisions require we take as much time as is needed, like choosing who we will marry. But the majority of the decisions in our daily lives must be made quickly.
- Delete. At first glance, our calendar is always full. Our time is always allocated. But if we take a closer look at our schedule and ask a simple question, “What can I delete?” or “What is least important that I can delete?” we will find more time for what really matters.
- Delegate. What should you delegate to others? Ideally, everything you can. Great leaders relentlessly ask themselves, “Is there someone who can help me with this?” With delegation, the pay off is typically not right away, but down the road. In the beginning it would be faster for us to do things ourselves. It takes time to teach others what we need. Be patient and persistent. Honor people and develop them. Then trust them. After a while, they can help you by lifting the load for you.
- Organize. Where did I put my keys? Where did I leave my wallet? Where can I find extra tissue boxes? We spend our lives looking for anything we did not create a system for in the first place. I used to constantly look for my computers chargers. I use my computer in three places: my bed, my desk, and my bag I take to work. I finally resolved my dilemma by purchasing two extra chargers. I know this may seem simplistic and maybe a bit funny, but if you look for ways to save extra effort where you can, you will create more time for what you really need to commit yourself to.
I hope these seven secrets will make an impact on your time management the way they have for me. Focus on what matters most to you, then create the time to devote to your priorities. If you have any time management tips, I invite you to share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear what works for you!
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