10 Timeless Time Management Techniques

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“I saw a bank that said ‘24-Hour Banking,’ but I don't have that much time.”

 -Steven Wright

It’s impossible to “manage” time. There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute. You can’t slow it down or speed it up.

We can control where we spend our time and take actions to reduce or eliminate time wasters. Managing time is really about managing ourselves.

Here are ten timeless ways to take control of your day and stop wasting time:

Establish prioritized goals

Without goals, we trend to chase after whatever seems most urgent or is staring us in the face. We get distracted by shiny objects. Establish your priorities by setting yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Rank each of these goals using the following:

Importance: (A=high, B=medium, C=low)

Urgency: (1=high, 2=medium, 3=low)

Always work on the most urgent and important goals and tasks (A1) first.

Follow the 80/20 rule

The “80/20 Rule,” also known as Pareto’s Principle, says that 80 percent of your results come from only 20 percent of your actions. It’s a way to prioritize your time against your most important goals. Are you focusing in on the 20 percent of activities that produce percent of the results?

Learn to Say No

At times, requests from others may be important to them, but conflict with our most important goals. Even if it is something we would like to do, but simply don’t have the time for, it can be very difficult to say no.

While it’s great to be a team player, it’s also important to know when and how to be assertive, and let the person know you can’t handle their request at the moment. Negotiate a deadline that helps them achieve their goals without sacrificing your own.

Overcome Procrastination. Use the “4D” system:

  • Delete it. What are the consequences of not doing the task at all? Consider the 80/20 rule; maybe it doesn’t need to be done in the first place.
  • Delegate. If the task is important, ask yourself if it’s really something that you are responsible for doing in the first place. Can the task be given to someone else? See “10 Things a Manager Should Never Delegate.”
  • Do it now. Postponing an important task that needs to be done only creates feelings of anxiety and stress. Do it as early in the day as you can.
  • Defer: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.

Eat the Frog

From Brian Tracey’s book: "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long."

Your frog is the task that will have the greatest impact on achieving your goals, and the task that you are most likely to procrastinate starting.

Meetings 

Poorly run meetings are time wasters, multiplied by the number of people in the meeting. See “How to Lead a Team Meeting.”

The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, and Water

Tackle the “rocks” first. If you keep tackling the small things (the sand, pebbles, and water), and not the important strategic items (the rocks), then your jar will quickly fill up with no room for rocks.

Eliminate Electronic Time Wasters

What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Continuous messaging with friends and family? Stop checking them so often. Set times and limits, and wean yourself off of these distractions.

Get Organized 

In order to effectively manage your time and be productive each day, you have to create the right environment. Start by eliminating clutter, setting up an effective filing system, and utilizing workflow management tools to help you create a productive environment.

Take Care of Your Health

A good night’s sleep, healthy eating, and exercise will give you the energy, focus, and stamina required to make the most out of your day.