Continued from "Better than Time Management Skills, Part One."
Time is an external resource that we all have access to. We all have the same resource, so time is not the variable. The variable is you – your skill, clarity, focus and ability to harness this resource to your benefit rather than to your detriment. Time is not working against you, no matter how much it feels like it is. Similarly, time is not working FOR you either. Time just is. What you need to develop clarity around is how you are using this resource of time. Are you using it productively, clearly moving forward on goals that are meaningful to you? Or are you struggling to get through each day, with such an array of tasks and things coming at you that your head is never clear?
A disorganized mind produces a disorganized life. Or maybe you have noticed that already.
Most people externalize their reasons for not being more focused and productive. By “externalize” I mean that people point to things outside of them to explain why they are overwhelmed and not as productive as they would like to be. They point to things like unexpected client requests, emergencies, customers that need something right away, a boss that adds a new task that you did not anticipate, a child who stays home sick and so on. Yes, these things all occur.
You cannot control every life circumstance. In fact, many people in more demanding roles such as human services, retail, medicine and management probably only have control of 25-30 percent of their day (so says Peter Drucker
in his seminal book The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done). The question you want to ask yourself though is this, “With the time I do control, what am I doing or not doing that helps or hinders my productivity?”
What is the remedy that is better than time management?
It is learning to manage your self, your decisions, your priorities, your actions. One of the best ways to do that is to set time aside each day (morning and late afternoon are ideal) to go over your plan for the day. What are you setting out to accomplish and WHEN (specifically) will you do so? Yes, unplanned interruptions will come your way, but the biggest drain on your energy that leads to overwhelm is not starting with a plan in the first place.
At the end of the day, go back and review your plan – how did it go? What did you accomplish that you planned to and what did not get done? Move those items forward on your schedule for the next day or later in the week so they don’t pile up in your head, adding stress and leading to overwhelm. Just as a disorganized mind leads to a disorganized life, an organized, well-planned day leads to clarity, heightened productivity and reduced stress. You can do it. Small changes sometimes make the biggest difference. Learning to manage yourself rather than your time is a great small change.