How often do you have to decline an opportunity to do something fun or exciting simply because you have no time for it? How often do you give up bright ideas which keep occurring again and again? How often do you find yourself feeling guilty for letting the opportunity go simply because you thought you had no time for it?
Time management is very important
No matter what you do – it is always a good idea to be time conscious. Even having a pretty good idea of how much time you have at hand and what exactly your progress is, the task of successful time management is not an easy one.
Some people like the idea of having a daily plan accurate to every minute. They would know what time they usually arrive at work, when it is time for them to leave, when and how long a lunch break is going to be. They are making every appointment they’ve arranged, they’re sticking to the plan and never let a single minute escape their productive and effective approach.
Unfortunately, it’s a luxury not many of us can afford. Such is the real life of many – not everything is up to us. In most cases we’re being regulated by someone else’s idea of the best way to spend our time. At work, we’re advised about our lunch break time – we’re basically told when it is the good time for us to stop working and leave the office for an hour. We’re also advised in a similar way when to do many other things related to our work.
And face it, it is not so often that we’re told HOW to do things, or when exactly. We’re generally expected to give some results within a certain deadline, and we are to manage the time allocated for the task on our own.
Project management, they say. Use your time wisely, they advise. And it’s not always that you get a chance to attend a relevant course – on project or time management, so most of these things you’re simply expected to know or to pick up from your colleagues.
The good news is that it’s quite possible to learn and obtain such skills, so you should be fine if you have a colleague or two willing to share the knowledge.
Time-saving tip one: be conscious
That’s all time management is about. Be conscious about everything you do. It’s actually very easy.
From GTD, I’ve learned about the 2 minutes approach: when given a task, instead of diving into it right away, sit back and take 2 minutes to break it down into smaller tasks. Think of the ultimate goal you have. Enlist the steps you think are necessary in order to achieve this goal, and propose the time you’re going to need for each step. Don’t spend much time thinking about it, literally spend 2 minutes and not more. Write down your goal and steps to achieve it, and note the time.
You’re set to go – start working on steps, taking them one by one. After working on the problem for the time you expected you needed to complete it, stop and review the situation. Analyze the tasks list and answer few more questions to yourself: Have you reached your original goal? Has your original goal changed after taking one of your steps? Have all the steps proved to be necessary? Did any step take longer or shorter time than expected?
Even this simple approach – extra 5 minutes overall, is bound to dramatically improve your performance. You will not work any faster or any harder that you would usually do. Instead, you would have your approach optimize for each particular task, and by brainstorming the goal before and after the time allocated for it, you would see the potential for improving your timing.
Time-saving tip one two: be patient
Don’t expect to improve momentarily. Such things don’t happen overnight, so be prepared to spend at least few weeks working on all your daily tasks and goals with exactly the same approach. Don’t be lazy to write everything down. If it takes you longer than 2 minutes to take notes of your planning, do so – it’s always better to spend another 5-10 minutes planning your tasks that to lose a day working on some step only to realise later it was completely unnecessary and irrelevant to the overall goal.
You’ll soon discover that some global goals need more time for breaking them into smaller steps than others. Don’t be afraid to spend this extra time, in fact when you do start distinguishing goals and realising how much consideration time they require, this will mean you’re on the right track and that you’re improving.
Finding time: use 2 minutes approach
Our life isn’t about sacrifices, but if there are any we’re making at all, then time is definitely one of them. To do anything, you have to put your time to it. So whenever a new opportunity arises, don’t simply throw it away by saying you have no time. Take the 2 minutes approach again. Look at the opportunity. See it a goal. See what the positive sides are. Try and quickly break it into some steps, and try to predict the time commitment required for each.
Chances are, you’d lose the same 2 minutes by simply regretting you’ve just missed a good opportunity. When you deny yourself even the slightest chance of trying something exciting out, you’re bound to be thinking about it for at least some time later on. So instead of not doing something and then losing time regretting about it, just take the time and consider the possibilities.
Once you agree that 2 minutes is a fair price to pay for a good chance, it gets easier. Once you’ve given something a proper thought, you’ll feel more relaxed and assured – you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you might be missing, and after just 2 minutes you’ll have a list of some kind of the benefits you may gain should you agree to spend the time necessary. Try this, and you’ll be amazed how many good opportunities which seemed to be real time wasters will turn out to be the things you can quite easily afford.
You can spend 2 minutes considering the opportunity, and therefore improving your chances for a right decision, or you can lose the same 2 minutes regretting the missed opportunity later. One more thing: often you regret something just because you have not properly assessed it. Lots of opportunities seem attractive, but turn out to be somewhat different once you take time to analyze them. So you may feel upset and ruin the rest of your day simply because of some opportunity which in reality was no benefit to you anyway. But because you haven’t taken time to look at it closely and see this, you’d regret that you have let something go.
So all it takes to find time is really to take a closer look. And once you make yourself comfortable with the idea of spending 2 minutes in order to save yourself hours, you’ll feel much better and easier about making such decisions. You’ll also be sure to look at every opportunity closer, and to make sure that you never miss a really good chance or never take up something you really shouldn’t have. Of course, 2 minutes aren’t going to make you 100% right about every decision you make, but they sure are going to improve your chances.
[tags]finding time, time management, planning, efficiency, self-improvement[/tags]