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Opinion: 6 ways smart people tackle time management

Business Shifts

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Time is forced on all of us. The next 60 seconds come whether we are ready for them or not.

Most of the leaders I work with face an endless stream of tasks to complete, have the need to juggle numerous responsibilities at work and home, and face the constant pressure of staying on top of emails, texts and voicemails.

Perhaps technology has made it easier and faster to complete some types of work, but the sheer volume of work hasn’t decreased. This makes it challenging to balance the busy pace of work with life.

I’ve been wondering lately whether true work-life balance is actually achievable, and given the increased demands on our time, it definitely won’t be easier to achieve in the future.

What’s important to keep in mind is that improving time management is more about managing yourself to manage time, than it is about managing time. Here are six ways I see smart professionals tackle time management.

1. Use scraps of time. You can’t purchase more time. Not even Amazon can sell you an extra hour when you need it to meet a deadline or spend more time with your family. If you utilize scraps of time, whether it’s seven minutes before a meeting that you can use to write an email or a few minutes freed up on your schedule to review a report, it’s smart to have a stack of activities to work on whenever a few minutes are available. 

2. Live each day as if it was your last. Life is doled out in one-day increments – one hour, one minute and one second at a time. In Steve Jobs’ graduation address in 2005 at Stanford University, he said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it.” The value of living each day as if it was your last helps you focus on regularly making good time choices.

3. Do what needs to be done even when you don’t feel like it. Tasks or goals without deadlines create procrastination. Those dreaded deadlines perform a vital role in personal productivity; they motivate us to start afresh on our goals every day. Author Karen Lamb said, “One year from now, you will wish you started today.” That’s smart advice.

4. Control time wasters. People waste more time at work than they think they do. Research studies indicate that wasted time at work can be as high as 33 percent, and activities like unnecessary co-worker conversations, poorly run meetings and inefficient email management are some of the major culprits. In contrast, if we eliminate just 20 minutes of wasted time daily and invest them in more productive activity, we will gain 80 hours a year. It’s amazing how the minutes add up, over time.

5. Value time because time flies by. How it slips through our hands so quickly is a mystery to me. Columnist Harvey Mackay summed it up well: “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” This is why it’s wise to pour over our calendars and budget time for the work that has higher payoff and allocate sufficient time for personal life, too.

6. Manage priorities aggressively. Unless we take a definitive approach to setting clear priorities, the endless drift of events will do it. Unplanned interruptions can be a real problem for personal productivity; smart professionals control interruptions as much as possible.

Time can’t be inventoried, stowed away or used later when we feel like it. Time is here and now, and smart people tackle the challenges of time management by deciding how to make it more profitable.

Consultant and professional speaker Mark Holmes is president of Springfield-based Consultant Board Inc. and SalesRevenueCoach.com. He’s also the author of “The Five Rules of Megavalue Selling.” He can be reached at mark@salesrevenuecoach.com.

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