Conversation among overwhelmed busy people is often about wanting to learn how to better manage time. That’s impossible – you can’t manage time! It just keeps ticking away no matter what you do. That’s why the term is a misnomer. With greater self knowledge and self acceptance, you can, however, learn how to better manage yourself in relation to time.
The following four basic principles will allow you to more efficiently and productively use the time that you have. Like all powerful work and management habits, they take time to incorporate into your life. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. The results are well worth the effort.
Avoid the Perfection Trap. Accept that no human being is meant to do everything. We all have our uniqueness; things that we do better than others and vice versa. Perfection is not a human condition. Besides what is perfect for you is not the same for someone else. So cut yourself some slack and adopt the concept of “good enough”. You can rework a project 50 times. Is it really 50 times better than an earlier version? You can shop for the perfect dress endlessly? Wasn’t the first or third one you tried and liked as good as the 15th? Ask yourself how much time did you spend going past “good enough?” Demand higher standards of excellence only where it really counts.
Don’t Go It Alone. Delegate, hire, share, and partner with people who complement you or can fill your needs in areas you don’t enjoy or know well. Concentrate on improving in what you do well, what you’d enjoy doing better, and new areas you’d like to learn. Don’t ever berate yourself for not being able to do it all. Appreciate your talents and excellence, while valuing and making use of the talents and excellence of others. The results will not only save time but also enrich your working relationships and free you for work you find more enjoyable and that you do naturally more efficiently.
Know and Honor Your Energy Levels. Are you a morning person? Do you have an afternoon slump? Your time will be best used if you pace the tasks you have to do based on this knowledge. Do the most challenging at your peak energy times. Build in breaks to reward yourself for finishing a formidable task or to refresh yourself at low energy periods and to rejuvenate your creative juices. I call them Joy Breaks, and advise a least a few every day.
Focus on the Present Moment. Limit distractions and develop habits that help you focus on what you are doing in the moment. Don’t allow yourself to be diverted by thoughts about what you have to do next. When possible, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and do not take calls or read emails. By putting everything else out of your mind while focusing on the task at hand, you will be using your time more efficiently. If you get stuck on something, take a break. Move on to something else, get the information you need to continue, change scenery, stretch, whatever it takes, but don’t sit there stuck.
Although there are a multitude of time management programs, don’t attempt to fit yourself into someone else’s plan. Self-knowledge holds the key to what will work for you. Even though you can’t manage time, you can manage yourself in relation to it.