Time is money. There’s no time to lose. Time waits for no one. It’s only a matter of time. We’re in a race against time.
There’s a reason that so many expressions in the English language revolve around time. It is our most important non-renewable resource. Time runs our lives in a lot of ways – it forms intangible boundaries of what we can achieve. We only have so many hours in the day to accomplish our goals, and that is why time management is one of, if not the most important skill that people can learn if they want to be productive. It’s surprising because so many people, yours truly included, have trouble with time management. I know I always seem to take as much time as I possibly have to accomplish something. There’s a name for this, it’s called Parkinson’s Law, and it states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, the amount of time it takes to complete a task is the amount of time you have for the task. But for those of us who would rather live ahead of the curve, not constantly be scrambling to fulfill a deadline, there are a number of steps you can take and tools you can use to better manage time.
As the founder of a thriving tech talent agency, 10x Management, and as the co-founder and administrator of 2 non-profit organizations (not to mention being an active husband and father of two), I have learned the positive value that effective time management has on one’s life. Keeping a calendar, setting realistic goals, and respecting other people’s time are all very helpful in managing time, but living up to your own expectations might be the most important accomplishment you can achieve. No one wants to be late, or wait until the last minute to do something. But we are all guilty of it at one time or another. Here are some helpful ways I have learned to take control of time:
- MAKE LISTS and know what you want: I cannot overstate the importance of making lists for yourself. Everything becomes tangible with a list, and it becomes easy to track tasks and check things off when you accomplish them. Whether this is on your smartphone or on paper, a list of goals is absolutely paramount to time management and organization. After all, if you don’t know your destination or the aim of your goals, you might not be reaching towards anything concrete. When I have an end goal in mind, it becomes easier to be disciplined around that goal.
- Use technology to your advantage: You have a supercomputer in your pocket that will alert you, remind you, guilt you, and reschedule for you if you use it. Here are a number of apps that help with time management and time tracking that you can install on your smartphone.
- THE CALENDAR KNOWS ALL: Use a calendar. I know it sounds simple, but a calendar is your best friend in the world, and it will also keep your actual best friends happy because you know when and where you’re supposed to be somewhere, and you’re not letting anyone down.
- Set specific deadlines in meetings: Start calls and meetings by telling people you have a hard stop at x time. Warn them 10 minutes before. You will know when that is because you will get a calendar reminder for your next activity. You might think this is rude but it is actually the opposite: you are respecting their time as well as yours while giving them the opportunity to get anything else important done. You can also always schedule a time for follow up.
- Downtime can be useful: Use your travel and waiting time to knock out tasks like email. I can usually clear my inbox of most items on my way back from a meeting while traveling (including walking) simply by using the dictation capabilities on my phone. It does take a moment to get used to dictating punctuation but the ability to take care of those things on the go, in waiting rooms or in any other idol moment, frees me up to do more important things when I get back to being stationary. By clearing myself of the reactive things which require my attention while I am on the go, I can focus on being proactive when I get where I am going or tackling longer term tasks that can’t be done while in motion.
- Look at the day ahead: Each night, take a look at what is on task for the upcoming day. This allows you to be prepared, choose your wardrobe for the day ahead, and notice conflicts that may have arisen ahead of time so things can be canceled or adjusted ahead of time. Google Calendar allows you to set a reminder to get a day’s event by email which is another way to do this.
- Look at the week ahead: On Sunday nights, it is helpful to do a look forward at the week. This gets your mind ready for what is to come and is also an opportunity to schedule any goals you have.
These are simple tips. I know, writing things down, keeping a calendar, and making lists sound like mundane tasks that won’t actually make a difference. But you’d be surprised at what a difference they will make in your life. Having constant reminders of what needs to get done is actually the most effective way to make sure that things get done. So start organizing your life, and managing time will take care of itself.