Are you frustrated when you end your day with a long list of unaccomplished tasks? Would you like to finish each day knowing that you have done the most important things? This article is for you.
If you don’t manage your minutes and hours, you will waste your days and weeks. This will lead to not only wasting months and years, but ultimately your life. Here are my 7 top time management tips:
1. Get in touch and stay in touch with your most valuable goals. I strongly recommend that you do the soul searching needed to come up with your individual purpose statement and the major domains of your life. This will allow you to set long, short, and immediate goals that aligned with your purpose.
For example, my purpose is to glorify God by obeying Him and trusting Him for the results. At the core of obeying God are the issues of making sure that I have accepted Jesus as my savior by faith and that I am loving God and others, as I love my self (see Jn. 3:16; Mk. 12:29-31).
My domains are 1. Fellowship with God (i.e., quality time, obedience, worship, giving, and serving), 2. Self-care (i.e., physical, mental, emotional, and fun), 3. Relationships (i.e., close family, friends, and extended family and network), 4. Finances (i.e., work, budgeting, and investing), and 5. Serving (i.e., church, community, personal legacy).
Given my purpose and domains, I have long term (over a year from now), short term (less than a year from now), and immediate (i.e., today, this week, or this month) in my five domains.
For example, under fellowship with God, I have goals like listening to the Bible on my mp3 player annually, spending 20 minutes a week on memorizing 101 helpful verses of scripture, living in obedience to God’s will, etc.
I have shared my purpose, domains, and goals to help you think about what yours should be. Once you have them written down, you need to review them at least weekly, so you can use them as a guide to your daily and weekly activities. Be prepared to tweak them a number of times in the beginning and periodically as time goes by.
2. Prioritize a list of things that you want to accomplish today. Think through Stephen R. Covey’s “Time Management Matrix,” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (NY: A Fireside Book, 1989). Covey talks about focusing as much time and energy as you can on those things that are important. Some will be urgent and others will not.
For example, eating breakfast is important and urgent. However, eating a high protein breakfast may not be considered urgent, but it is important.
Covey also urges us to avoid spending time and energy on those things that are not important to our goals. Just because something is important to someone else who wants it to be important to you doesn’t necessarily mean that it is important to you.
example, listening to your child or co-worker complain about how they will not
be able to purchase all of the gifts that they want to purchase may be
important to them. But it is not more important than your quiet time with God
or your morning exercise routine.
3. Make a schedule that covers YOUR priorities. Some people like to plan their day in the evening. I like planning my in the morning. You also need time to plan your week, month, and year. I enjoy going to a coffee shop every week to visit with my thoughts for the upcoming week and month.
And on a quarterly basis, I spend a longer period of time revisiting my current and upcoming year. Do what works for you. The idea is that you have to plan time to plan, or your will not do much planning, especially monthly and annual planning.
There are times when you will not be able to allocate eight hours to one priority, even though the priority calls for eight hours. Here is where you need to allocate as much as you can and try to come back to it on another day.
For example, you may need to study your Sunday School lesson, compile a report for work, or clean up the house. When you cannot do the entire assignment, do what you can and come back on another day.
I am not certain who said it first, but I like the idea that you can eat an entire elephant, if you take it one bite at a time. It is amazing how much can be accomplished by giving 20 to 30 minutes a day to an assignment. Even 5 minutes a day or 20 minutes a week will get you closer to your goal than doing nothing because you don’t have more time.
If you are not sure, I recommend that you do 7 to 30 days of journaling to help you see when you are at your peak of attention, energy, and/or creativity, so you can plan your priorities around your most energetic times. I find it helpful to do my studies during the morning and meetings doing the evening. Experiment and find what works for you.
By crossing out items that you complete, you see which items are yet outstanding. The unfinished items will be something to consider, when you make the schedule for the next day.
4. Plan for breaks and flex time. There are times, when I can set my timer for 25 minutes of work, a 5 minute break, 25 minutes of work, and a 5 minute break. After two hours, I take a 20-30 minute break before doing the routine for another two hours. Click here to read more about the Pomodoro Technique.
I work in 10-20 minute intervals of work, when my energy is low or the subject material is draining to me. Do what works for you, but understand trying to stay focused for hour after hour with no breaks is not very sustainable.
By “flex time,” I mean leaving some flexibility in your schedule. If you have an eight hour work day, you may want to plan for seven or seven and a half hours, which leaves you 30 minutes to an hour of “flex time.”
This allows you to deal with the unplanned phone call, visit, email, text, or whatever happens that was not a part of your plan. Or it allows for you to give a few more minutes to a task you are trying to finish, even though your allotted time has expired.
5. Develop a plan for distractions. Be aware of and seek to eliminate those lesser things that distract you from doing what you believe to be God's will. The devil doesn’t want you to be a wise steward of your time and energy. People can be rather selfish.
When a distraction comes along, make a judgment call about which is more important, the distraction or your schedule. If the schedule is more important, nicely but assertively stay on schedule.
If the distraction is more important, decide if you can delegate or delay the work until you can schedule it. If you have to handle it, handle it. When you finish, you have to reprioritize your list and schedule (#2 and #3 above), in light of how much time and energy you have left.
6. Learn to say “no.” As Christians, we want to always be loving. For some, “loving” means always saying “yes.” However, sometimes the most loving thing to do is to say “no” to those things that don’t support your goals.
Remember that your goals probably has some God, family, friends, and service elements to them. So saying “no” to a request for the sake of your goals may not be a selfish as it seems.
7. Use habits and routines. If you have to do original thinking for everything that you do every day, you are going to be mentally exhausted. For especially routine things, aim to develop helpful habits and routines (i.e., a series of habits).
Do what works for you, in this area. There is no one size fits all. I like having monthly things to do, supported by weekly things to do, supported by daily things to do, supported by a daily schedule of what I am trying to get done within a given hour.
So there are my top 7 time management tips. As with Jesus, in John 19:30 (i.e., … Jesus said, “It is finished.” …), work on finishing what God is calling you to do.
Living Carefully and Wisely
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