The January edition of Toastmaster magazine features a tracking perspective on time management by Laura Vanderkam, author of several books on this perpetual subject.
We often think of this issue in business, career-related terms – but it really contributes to any of us wanting to adhere to the adage, recognized increasingly as one ages, of “living each day to its fullest”.
With some personal input, here are the major points raised in her article:
- Try chronicling how your time is spent over one week. Record activities in detail as much as possible, as much as may be useful. Then add up the categories: working vs. impassively watching media vs. interacting with family vs. sleeping, etc. The focus should be on how much is spent on activities neither fruitful nor meaningful, which are periods which can be redeployed.
- Make an unedited list of 100 dreams. This would include one’s personal ‘bucket list’, but likely topped up by other, lesser goals, which in accumulation help to reveal more about oneself.
- While considering the biggest goals on the list, generate a review of what accomplishments you would like to have achieved by the end of the current year. Such performance reviews, be they professional or personal, describing in advance the things one did that were deemed personally important, can be trimmed to a handful of goals to focus on, now; they, in turn, can be dissected into doable steps. It would help to write the expectations on a yearly calendar.
- As Steven Covey reminded us in The Seven Steps of Highly Successful People, by focusing on ‘first things first’, our life more fully reflects what we consider important, with the unimportant naturally occupying less space in our available time. Taking an interval at the end of the week to do some prioritizing for the next week is a practical way to help maximize this result.
- Make more productive use of mornings. We start out the day with at least a little time to ourselves, before the needs of the day start to impinge. (Motivational speaker Brian Tracy has termed this the “30 golden minutes”.) Try changing slack time habits to alter the routine, and free up a little more time for useful activities. (As a personal observation, recognizing that some of us are more night people than early morning people, we can make similar adjustments later in the day to make that time more valuable.)
- Strive to plan weekend activities before the weekend. The mundane activities which often seem to clog up our potential relaxation time will take a back seat to rejuvenating ones (which help, according to Covey, to “sharpen the saw”), permitting time for what one actually wants to do.
- Limit the repetitive activities which seem to arise to fill time, but which can be managed better by confining them to blocks. Examples would be checking emails (or texts) and doing housework. While this may be difficult in our increasingly instant messaging, social media driven culture, it should be realized these activities are interposing themselves on what we could find more fulfilling. If we take the time objectively to look upon the juxtapositions, we will be better able to take more control, segment our attention span, and get back to managing our own time.
Time to move on…