The Time Management Myth

A guest blog written by Amber Fogarty that first appeared in October 2010 on the Greenlights for Nonprofit Success blog

How can you make time work for you? The idea that time can be “managed” is a myth. No matter what you do, you can’t change the amount of time you have, nor can you change how quickly or slowly time goes by. You can only manage yourself and the choices you make with your time. Here a few tips to help you make the most of your time.

1. Improve Your Time Habits

One of the greatest tips I received from the SOS Leadership Protecting Goals Program is this:

Keep a small sign on your desk that reads, “Is this the best use of my time right now?”

Every time I see my sign, I force myself to give an honest answer. If what I’m working on isn’t the best use of my time, I stop. Procrastination is a habit, one that can be replaced as we make better choices about how we spend our time.

2. Identify Your Time Thieves

How many times each day do you get distracted from the task at hand? Whether it’s a phone call, someone stopping by your office, a coworker sharing endless details about his or her weekend, or receiving dozens (maybe even hundreds) of emails, we often allow time thieves to steal valuable hours from us every day.

For the next week, track your interruptions by writing down what happened and how long it took. Look for patterns among the time thieves. Is the same person always interrupting you? Strategize ways to minimize the impact of the time thieves so that you can remain focused on your goals.

3. Prioritize What Matters Most

Most of us make “to do lists” so that we don’t forget to complete any important tasks. When we tackle our “to do lists” each day, we often do the things that are easiest to do first, rather than starting with the tasks that are the highest priorities.

How many times do you get to the end of your day and realize you didn’t finish the one task you really needed to complete? You see lots of check marks on your “to do list,” but there’s no check mark by the thing that should have been first on your list.

Learning to schedule what matters most first and prioritize your tasks takes practice. We’ve been conditioned to schedule our work commitments, but not our personal ones. Our personal lives often take a back seat to our professional obligations. This is a choice we make, and we can begin choosing to prioritize what matters most TODAY!

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