My wife has a saying when I do something that annoys her.
“Was that really necessary?”
Because I hate to admit when I am in the wrong, I will usually respond by saying, “Apparently, it was!”
Of course, when I seriously review my behavior, I realize that whatever I did or said that annoyed my wife really wasn’t all that necessary, and there were probably several alternative approaches I should have taken at this particular moment.
When it comes to how we use our time each day, we can all probably look back and determine that there were certain tasks that we performed or situations that occurred that were either unnecessary or could have been handled in much less time that we dedicated to that activity. For many people, the amount of time spent on things that truly aren’t all that necessary is quite significant.
The fact is that the failure to properly prioritize how you use your time is probably costing you much more time than you realize. You could be losing hours per week and hundreds of hours each year working on tasks that by your own analysis would reveal aren’t among your highest priorities.
If you scroll back up near the beginning of this blog, you’ll notice that I wrote that after annoying my wife (which really doesn’t happen all that often. Just ask me!), my next step is to seriously review my behavior. That’s where I suggest my clients that are struggling with time management issues start—take inventory of exactly how they are spending their time. Here are four practical steps that can help you ensure that you are making the best use of your time on any give day:
Keep a diary of your day. Write down every task, meeting, project, rest break, lunch, leisure activity….everything. Keep track of how much time you spent on each activity. Ask yourself some hard questions about each item on your list. Was that really necessary? Could it have been done in less time? If so, how much less?
Identify time wasters. We all have them. Be honest. What are yours? Too much time at the beginning of the day talking about your kid’s soccer game? Back from lunch a little late? A drop in meeting by a colleague that should have lasted 5 minutes, but went 20?
Meetings that started and/or ended late? Be tough on yourself and ruthless about getting time wasters out of your life.
Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. Sit down for a few minutes at the beginning of each day and prioritize everything you think you have to tackle that day. Focus on the top 3-4 items and do them well. Don’t be afraid to knock something (s) right off that to-do list.
Plan work according to your strengths. I am a writer. I do my best writing in the morning. I plan my days so I can do as much writing in the morning and hold more meetings in the afternoon. You know how you work best. You can’t control everything, but as much as you are able, play to your strengths.
I often hear people tell me, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” I would argue there are a lot more hours available to you than you realize. Make it a priority to evaluate your daily priorities. Then, you can figure out what to do with all that extra time you discover.