What do you do with your time? Do you accomplish the things you want to accomplish in a day, or do you find that time keeps moving on even though you are not getting the important tasks done. Discovering where you spend your time is important if you want to take control of what is happening in your life. The process of managing your time is valuable. If you want your dreams to come true, it is necessary to create and plan time for your expectations to become reality.
The first step in managing time, is exploring what you are presently doing with your time. This can best be done by keeping an hour to hour monitor of what you do. This can be a simple eight column spreadsheet that has the hours of the day in a column down the left side of the paper, and space for each day across the paper. You will need to mark on the monitor when your activity changes and how long each activity takes. This will include details like showering, eating, watching television, talking on the phone, preparing meals, traveling in the car, getting dressed, work, classes, and any other activity that absorbs time in the day. You should also keep track of how many hours a day you sleep, to determine if you are sleeping too much or too little.
At the end of the week, take time to tally just how many hours you are watching television, or wasting time in other ways. You may be surprised at how much of your time is consumed by meaningless activities. It is important after completing a week of time-inventory that you ask yourself this question, “Do I really want the rest of my time on earth to be spent the way I have this week?” Most people who are not time conscious will respond with a resounding, “No!” One study showed that the average American watches 30 hours of television a week. The average millionaire watches 2 hours of television a week. The difference is that the people who are successful are filling their day with the activities that are significant and productive, not in pursuit of brain numbing entertainment.
Steven Covey, in his book First Things First, suggests reasons why people waste time. He broke time management down into four quadrants. This categorized activities into: urgent unimportant, urgent important, non-urgent important, and non-urgent unimportant. He explains in his book that people spend so much time in "urgent unimportant" tasks that they become discouraged and worn out. This leads individuals to spend more time in non-urgent unimportant escapes like drinking alcohol, television, gambling, and other time consuming vices. Covey suggests that if a person can develop a plan that includes important non-urgent tasks such as: Going to college, developing a skill, pursuing a hobby, exercising, reading inspiring literature, etc.; the outcome of that person’s life will be a great deal more positive.
So what does that mean to the average person trying to manage their life? It means make time for the things that are really important. This entails prioritizing and planning. Many people are opposed to planning, because they say it destroys their sense of spontaneity. If spontaneity is taking you where you really want to go with your life, then you do not need to worry about time management. For the majority of us, spontaneity means waiting for a break in the tedium. Planning eliminates the tedium, and provides movement into a productive life. It does not mean you will not be able to do the things you want to do. It means now you will plan for leisure, work, school, studying, relaxation, relationship building, and any other worthwhile pursuit.
One necessary tool in your journey toward time management is a planner. This can be as complicated as the exclusive Franklin Planner, or as simple as a pocket size weekly calendar. There should be space for each day of the month, and it is important that you carry it with you so that it can be used. You will start each day by checking what is on the list of activities. Perhaps you have not written anything down for the day. Take the time to write down one task you would like to start on this day. Try to include things that are important to you, but do not have a specific deadline. These are the tasks that get forgotten and cause people to get frustrated with what is happening in their life.
Review you planner after a month and look at what activities dominated most of your time. Are you taking time for yourself? Does most of your energy go toward someone else’s goals and needs? If the answer is yes to these questions, you need to schedule some time for yourself. Mothers often find themselves in this situation. It is easier to meet the needs of a family, if a mom takes some time to unwind, and attend to her own priorities. This might be taking an exercise class, reading a book, or planning time for a long bubble bath. It is imperative to see to the needs of the self if an individual is going to be effective in all other areas of life. As you look back at the month of planning, analyze how much time is wasted, and how this waste can be eliminated. Think about tasks you would like to accomplish in the coming month and write them into the calendar. This becomes a pleasant chore as you realize how planning is helping you to get to the activities that hold meaning for you and enhance your existence.
People often complain about their lack of time. It is true that we pack many activities into our day, yet prioritizing and exploring options may lead us to more efficient routes, and goals achieved. It is possible to make better use of your time, but this is an individual choice. Will you make your dreams a reality or allow the majority of your time to slip into clouds of unrealized fantasy?