Time management for better life balance
Time management for better life balance
“… And then one day you find ten years behind you. Nobody told you when to run, you missed the starting gun…” – Gilmore, Mason, Waters, Wright
What’s the fastest way to reduce stress and achieve more balance in your life? Develop better time management skills. I know, I know, it sounds “crazy,” but it really is the fastest way to a productive lifestyle that allows balance to creep into your life. Managing the many tasks one has to deal with during the day or week is an art, but when done right, the productivity of your life allows you to smell the flowers along the way.
Improving your time management skills allows you to spend more time with your kids, pursue hobbies of interest, and what the heck, be more productive for the people who use your services. Tackling tasks in a systematic way will allow you the freedom (over time) to expand your horizons. Here are some of the best practices I’ve used over the years that allow me to create optimal balance in my life:
Know your strengths/weaknesses: I’m a morning person, so I get up early in the morning and then tackle the highest priority things. My brain is fresh and my energy is high, so I’m at my best to be as efficient as possible. Knowing where your strength and weakness lie is critical to staying on task. If you’re a morning person, don’t waste your time trying to complete a critical task in the late afternoon. Plus, that’s when you should be on the golf course! (Did I mention balance?)
Have a plan before a plan is needed: In today’s business world, aimlessly sorting through emails is perhaps the biggest waste of time. I’m always amazed when someone tells me, “I have 4,000 emails in my inbox!” Come up with a plan that allows for a smarter approach to email processing. Create folders and action steps to reply to or store emails (see Blocking and Handling section below). When I was in the corporate world and getting 125 emails a day, I had less than 10 emails in my inbox. Today I probably write close to 1000 emails a month and as of this morning I have less than 10 emails in my inbox, so it is possible to manage large volumes of emails if you have a preset response plan.
Sort by priority: Either based on a key hard deadline or the financial impact of the task, prioritize and list them against the timeline. For the highest priority items, provide a work environment that is focused and free of distractions. Set intermediate goals that cumulatively lead to the end of the game. Decide in advance what the upcoming intermediate goal is and map out the steps necessary to reach this important point. For larger tasks, breaking each task into project parts allows you to “move the project down the river” and enjoy the accomplishments of the day.
Blocking and handling: Divide the workload. Once you’ve established your priorities based on deadlines and impact, group similar items together to create a more efficient workflow. Open and sort all your mail at once. Manage emails in specific blocks of time. Get rid of all the administrative stuff in one fell swoop. Creating blocks of tasks will minimize areas of your business from being neglected and then piling up. Simple, routine tasks then become a burden simply because of the workload.
The Magic of Time Shift: Everyone has to live with both real and artificial deadlines. Addressing items today for future deployment allows you to “time shift” your work to a stress-free environment. Remember when you were in college and finals were coming up and then you stayed up all night cramming for the test? The question is why? Did the professor tell you about the exam the day before? Hardly – you knew about the exam all term and instead of studying all term you waited for the last minute to cram. You’ve missed the opportunity to “shift” your workload. In the end, extra stress was applied with no room for error (i.e. in case you had the flu this week). Master the time shift and your productivity will improve exponentially.
Do it routinely: Practice makes perfect and where perfect is not, discipline will prevail. mine way of acting with tackling tasks is to put them into a routine. In my personal life I have made it a practice to stay fit so I walk 2-3 miles every day as part of this regiment.It is and always will be my routine. In fact, this has been my routine for so long that missing a day of walking feels strange. Establishing routines allows one to carry out the task systematically and deviating from this is actually a greater imbalance. Handle business tasks in exactly the same way and your routines will lead to greater productivity.
Life is short: Life is clearly not a dress rehearsal, and if you’re waiting for someone to tell you to take control and find your balance, you’ve “missed the starting gun.” Manage your time, find your balance and realize the many additional opportunities that are making their way into your life. Yes, it’s possible to have it all, but without a plan of attack, time will pass you by.
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