My last two posts have examined four ingredients to time management: Purpose and Values followed by Roles and Priorities. Purpose and Values are the ultimate compass for how to invest your time. When you understand your purpose and values, you can strategically pursue the right roles that will help you best fulfill your purpose and live out your values. And as you clarify or acquire those roles, you must establish clear priorities for each role that focuses on your strengths. So what’s next? There are two final keys to effective time management: Planning and Boundaries.
Planning and Boundaries focus on the “how” of time management. Planning employs an effective system to help you strategically plan the use of your time. Boundaries are the parameters you establish to ensure your time is not abused and important values are not violated. So how do you establish Planning and Boundaries?
Here are several “PLANNING” considerations:
- Secure an Effective Time Management Tool – Whether it’s Microsoft Outlook, iCal, or any number of tools or apps, find what works best for you. The only “right” tool is the one that works for you.
- Enter Start Dates at the Beginning of the Year – Begin each year by entering start dates for your key goals and initiatives. This will allow you to forget your goals without forgetting to achieve them–because your calendar will remind you when to get started.
- Have a Weekly Meeting with Yourself – Set aside 15-30 minutes at the beginning of the week to plan your week, schedule priorities, organize your workspace, and organize your inbox.
- Understand Your Personal Rhythm – Everybody has peaks and valleys in the flow of their day. When you understand your most productive times, you can allocate your high energy moments to your most important tasks.
- Maximize Downtime – It’s the loss of 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there that really adds up to major loss of time. Consider having a 10 minute stack for those in-between times when a meeting ends early and the next one doesn’t start for 15 minutes. Keep a book in your car for those times when you arrive early or find yourself waiting on somebody. Make quick calls during down times.
- Schedule Appointments Back to Back – This will enable you to start and end appointments on time.
- Avoid Time Wasters – Things like hallway conversations, unorganized workspace, and fruitless technology can consume large amounts of time.
- Work Off-Site – Sometimes the best way to get things done is to work where you will be free of interruptions.
- Delegate and Outsource – Delegate everything that falls outside your strengths, can be done by somebody else 80% as well as you, or is a waste of your time. Build a volunteer base who can assume various tasks. Furthermore, outsource when possible.
BOUNDARIES are the final key component in time management. Without boundaries, somebody else will determine how you spend your time. To help you establish clear parameters for the use of your time, consider the following:
- Conduct a Time Management Audit to Identify Your Greatest Time Management Pitfalls – In what areas of life do you most often violate the use of your time? Is it at work, with your family, in your volunteer roles, or somewhere else? A 7-day time audit will help you discover exactly how you spend your time.
- Determine the Root Cause of Your Pitfalls – What often drives imbalance with time is one word–FEAR. We allocate disproportionate amounts of time to certain areas because we’re afraid what will happen if we don’t. For example, we work long hours because we’re afraid we’ll let the boss down or bring in lower results this quarter.
- Identify Clear Boundaries – Determine what you must do in order to set a boundary that will help you get your time in balance.
- Pursue Accountability – Chances are you won’t be able to maintain your boundaries without somebody else asking the hard questions. If you’re married, ask your spouse what your boundaries should be–and don’t blow up when he or she tells you.
- Take a Regular Day Off and Use Your Vacation Time – God did not make you to work seven days a week. Violating this boundary will only deteriorate your health and sabotage your family life.
Time management minus planning and boundaries equals an unbalanced life. These are the practical day-to-day aspects of time management. But let me emphasize, planning and boundaries without purpose, values, roles, and priorities only leads to efficiently accomplishing the wrong things. But when all six ingredients are present, time is truly maximized.