Time is the great equalizer for all of us. We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, yielding 168 hours per week. Take out 56 hours for sleep (we do spend about a third of our week dead) and we are down to 112 hours to achieve all the results we desire. We cannot save time (ever have any time left over on a Sunday night that you could lop over to the next week?), it can only be spent. And there’s only two ways to spend our time: we can spend it wisely, or, not so wisely.
We can effectively increase the amount of time available to us each week by working “smarter” rather than working “harder”. In my twenty years as a full-time Professional Speaker on the topic of Time Management, I have noted five sure fire ways to make an immediate impact on increasing our available time each week.
1. Engage an intern.
Most high schools and community colleges offer intern programs for their students. The student is assigned to a real-life organization for 10-20 hours per week. They are typically unpaid but do earn academic credit and make great contacts and the organization gets an “extra pair of hands”. The person who is assigned the intern can now delegate any number of things to the intern to free up their time for more productive matters. It’s a “Win-Win” deal for both.
2. Run an Interruptions Log.
It would be great if we could plan our day the night before and then make that plan happen as scheduled. The real world is different. We have to deal with interruptions. Interruptions are unanticipated events that come to us via the telephone (any of the electronic stuff: beepers, pagers, email, etc.) or in person. Many interruptions are important and are what we may be paid to handle. However, many interruptions have little or no value to our responsibilities. Run an Interruptions Log for about a week. List every interruption as it occurs and rate its value to you. A=Crucial, B=Important, C=Little value, D= No value. After the week of logging them in, review the list and take action to eliminate the repetitive C and D interruptions and re-capture some wasted time.
3. Run a Crisis Management Log.
Crisis management for the most part is when the deadline has snuck up upon you and robbed you of choice, you have to respond and you are a slave to the clock. Crisis management is generally poor time management because you’re rushing, the quality of your performance suffers, your stress level is elevated, and, most important, you are often having to go back and re-do what was done in the first place. “If you want to manage it, measure it.” Run a Crisis Management Log for a week. After encountering every crisis, log it in on a piece of paper. After a week of accumulating the data, go back through every crisis that occurred and ask yourself, “Which one of these could have been avoided?” and start to take corrective steps to stop their re-occurrence and buy back some “smarter” time for your weeks ahead.
4. Become a Speed Reader.
The average person reads about two hours per day at a rate of about 200 words per minute. (We get more information exposures in one day today than people in the year 1900 received in a lifetime.) Speed-reading is a simple skill that is easy to learn and improves with consistent practice. The average person can easily double their reading rate and thereby cut their reading time in half or double the volume of reading material they can go through in the same amount of time.
5. Do Daily Planning.
“A stitch in time saves 9.” Every grandmother knows this. Every minute of planning will save you nine minutes in execution. Walt Whitman, the poet, said it best, “The most powerful time is when we are alone, thinking about what we are to do.” Daily Planning helps us to focus on what is really crucial and important in our day to come and permits us to identify time wasters in advance to avoid them and use that time more productively.
Recommended Books on Time Management:
- Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule — and Your Life
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Time Management In an Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day (In an Instant (Career Press))
- Successful Time Management For Dummies
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