“If you control your time, you control your life” – Alan Lakein (1973)
Time is Money. Time is a precious commodity and everyone gets an equal share, but we use it differently. Even different societies have different attitudes towards times.
One thing about time is that it is elusive; it cannot be changed, and once it is gone, it is gone forever. According to a saying, ‘Time and tide wait for no one’. Our situation and needs influence our time orientation, but our time orientation (and needs) can be changed and that should lead to a more successful life.
Vilfredo Pareto, an early twentieth century Italian Economist, formulated what most of us call the ’80-20 Rule’, technically known as the ‘law of maldistribution’. This rule states that “80 percent of our effort is spent on unnecessary activity and only 20 percent of our time is spent on something productive.’ The question now is: how can we spend 80 percent of our time on something productive and spend 20 percent on something unproductive?
For more effective use of our time, the following tips are suggested. They are not sequential, you can decide the order.
The first is that you must set goals.
A goal gives your life and the way you spend your time meaning and direction. You must decide what you want from life and organise your time around your goals. Look at your life in such areas as: finance, career, spiritual, social, health and community or cultural, and develop smarter objectives for each. Your goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic and they must be time-bound. You must also evaluate and review your goals regularly to check whether you are heading in the right direction or not.
Secondly, you must plan and organise.
Using time to think and plan is time well spent. Nobody plan to fail but many people fail to plan. Organise and plan in a way that makes sense to you, otherwise you will find yourself dealing with problems as they arise instead of creating opportunities for problems to be avoided and for progress to be made.
Thirdly, you must put first things first.
In his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,’ Stephen R. Covey deduced that: “the one denominator that all successful people shared was not hard work, good luck or good human relation but ‘putting first things first'”. By putting first things first you eliminate the urgent and concentrate on the important things. Urgent tasks have short-term consequences while important tasks are those with long-term, goal-related implications. Work towards reducing the urgent things that arise and you will have more time for your important priorities. If things are important, they contribute to your mission and help you in achieving your goals.
Also, to make effective use of your time you must do the right things right.
Noted management expert, Peter Drucker, in his book ‘The Effective Executive’ (Harper & Row, 1966) said: “doing the right thing is more important than doing things right. Doing the right thing is effectiveness; doing things right is efficiency. Focus first on effectiveness (identifying what is the right thing to do), then concentrate on efficiency (doing it right).”
Moreover, you must aim for excellence and not perfection.
Excellence is attainable; perfection is elusive if not unattainable. I believe that the pursuit of perfection is a waste of time. Yes, some things need to be closer to perfection than others; but perfectionism – paying unnecessary attention to details can be another form of procrastination.
Furthermore, you must conquer procrastination.
To be a peak performer and be able to make good use of your time, it is necessary to conquer procrastination. Do not postpone till tomorrow what you can do today. Alan Lakein explained in his book: ‘How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life’ that “Many of us procrastinate when faced with long and difficult or unpleasant tasks, even though they are quite important to us. One technique to try in order to conquer procrastination is the ‘Swiss cheese method’. When you are avoiding something, break it into smaller tasks, and work on the big task for just 15 minutes. By doing a little at a time, eventually you’ll reach a point where you’ll want to finish.”
Be ready to say ‘No’.
This is such a small word, yet so hard to say. Focusing on your goals may help. Making time for important, but often not schedule, priorities such as family and friends can also help. But first you must be convinced that you and your priorities are important – that seems to be the hardest part in learning to say ‘no’. Once convinced of their importance, saying ‘no’ to the unimportant things in life gets easier.
In addition, you must consider what time of the day suits you best.
For instance, I like reading at night and writing in the morning because by late afternoon I am exhausted. Kathy Prochaska-Cue, an extension family economics specialist averred that: “Knowing when your best time is and planning to use that time of the day for your priorities (if possible) is effective time management.”
Besides, to make effective use of your time you must have a ‘To Do List’. I have a daily ‘To Do list’ which I do either the last thing the previous day or first thing in the morning. I also have a weekly, monthly and yearly ‘To Do List’. You can either use a diary or calendar and you could combine the two. The coming of Personal Digital Assistant and Pocket Personal Computer has made life easier. Try any method that suits you. Having a ‘To Do List’ is essential for wise time management.
Another tip is that you need to be flexible.
Allow time for interruptions and distractions. Time management experts often suggest planning for 50 percent or less of one’s time. With only 50 percent of your time planned you will have the flexibility to handle interruptions of unplanned emergencies. Save (or make) larger blocks of time for your priorities.
Finally, reward yourself.
Even for smaller successes, celebrate the achievement of goals. Anytime I am able to finish the entire task on my ‘things-to-do-today-list,’ I smile and say ‘thank you, Lord’. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task or finishing an entire task. Keep your promise to yourself and indulge in your reward. It may be as simple as special snacks after getting certain things done. Doing so will help you maintain the necessary balance in life between work and play. As Ann McGee-Cooper said in her book: ‘Time Management for Unmanageable People’ (Ann Mc-Cooper & Associates, 1983); “If we learn to balance excellence in work with excellence in play, fun and relaxation, our lives become happier, healthier, and a great deal more creative.”