Time can run away from us. We think we have plenty of it, that deadline is days or weeks away. Or we intend to spend five minutes doing something. Suddenly, two hours have passed.
Looking back and realising you didn’t achieve everything you wanted to can produce an uneasy jolt. This reminds me of a Bill Gates quote:
‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and
underestimate what they can do in ten years.’
It doesn’t help that time appears to move faster as we age. That’s because our concept of time is relative to our lifetime. When you’re five years old, a week as a percentage of your life is a huge chunk of your existence. Whereas a week is a tiny fraction when you’re 55. Thus, time appears to move faster.
We tend to hibernate or not go out as much in the long winter months. As the year stretches ahead, it lulls us into a false sense of security. So, we put tasks off thinking we have more time.
As the saying goes, life’s too short.
It’s Time to Manage Time
We all have the same 24 hours. We do have time to do what’s needed. It just takes time to learn how. My clients find my Time Management workshops very helpful. In fact, it’s less ‘time-management’ and more ‘self- and task-management within an allocated time.’
In the workshops, I share tools and techniques on the different ways of managing activities and yourself within a timeframe. One technique I created is: The 3 Ps – Plan, Prioritise and Persist.
1. Good planning and organising gives an illusion of control. Planning ahead and scheduling what needs to be done helps to manage your time, energy and resources.
What about prioritising and persisting, though?
2. Prioritising goes hand in hand with planning; you cannot plan without knowing what your priorities are. For a lot of us, that means list-making. And who doesn’t love a list! Yet, how much time do you waste writing and re-writing your priority lists? That used to be my weakness. It brings to mind the phrase: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. So, I developed an Urgent vs Important Matrix to help (more on that later).
3. Finally, persistently working on the plan. That’s where the struggle is real for many of us!
Persistence is the Key to Success
Even when it feels like an uphill slog, following a plan makes it easier to power through, because you know where it’s leading you. Whereas, when things are not scheduled, procrastination can occur.
When you’re feeling unmotivated, remember your end goal to help keep you going. A prioritised plan (see my matrix below) also helps make better use of your time to persist. Persistence is one of the key elements of working with a coach. The accountability keeps you going, because you know you’re going to report your progress in the next meeting.
Making the most of today
I love this ancient Sanskrit poem that my headmaster used to read in school assemblies:
Look To This Day
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived
makes Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
This poem reminds us that our past history and our future experiences are all a series of “now moments”. By living for today, all your yesterdays are happy memories and we can look forward to creating more happy memories tomorrow.
During my time qualifying with Brian Mayne as a Master Goal Mapping Practitioner, to my delight he often quoted this poem. It’s a beautiful reminder to make the best use of our time.
A tip: When goal setting, write them in the present tense. By using the future tense – ‘I will do xyz’ – your brain treats it as something that may or may not happen. Stating your goal in the present tense, as if you are currently doing or having it, gives it certainty. Saying ‘I am doing…’ rather than ‘I will do…’ is a stronger statement. Then, you can celebrate your goals twice – once when you set the intention and again on achievement! What’s not to like about that?
Timeframes, Timelines and Other Timely Tips
So, you’ve set your goals and created a to-do list. You’re prioritising your plan and need to get it right. Here are some pointers:
- Create a timeline for your goals and other actions. Regularly check it to see where you are, adjusting as necessary, to ensure you’re making timely progress
- Check that your goals have realistic timeframes; allow enough time to accomplish them.
- When life throws you a curveball, check your timeline and adjust it to suit your circumstances.
- Find your best way of keeping track of your to-do list. One favourite is my online calendar – I add tasks between appointments to see everything at a glance. There are also many scheduling tools and time management apps available.
- Digital diaries are a really efficient time-management tool – schedule appointments with yourself to get tasks done.
- I like good old-fashioned paper, too, and always carry a notebook around. Remember to transfer your notes to your calendar and other tools on your return.
- Whiteboards are very helpful – you could even use my Urgent versus Important Matrix on it (more on that below)
- Delegation and outsourcing are essential aspects of time-management, timesaving, planning and organisation. They also help with your three resources – time, energy and money.
- Spend five minutes in the morning and evening planning the day ahead and the next day. The book ‘18 Minutes’ by Peter Bregman has some additional helpful ideas.
- Work with a coach who will hold you accountable to achieving the tasks you’ve scheduled.
Final thought: Whenever you feel like you don’t have enough time, read this article again. Alternatively, if, like me, you set out with good intentions and if you’re left to your own devices, you know time can run away from you, then book an exploratory chat with me to see how I can assist you to shift your perspective on prioritising your time and getting things done.
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
If you’re wondering where all your time is going, do a time audit over two weeks. Log what you’re doing and how long you’re spending on tasks. Log everything, from waking to sleeping and everything in between – even fun things. How much time did you take on each aspect or task?
You may be surprised at the results. What did you notice? I’m fascinated to find out, so do let me know!
Urgent versus Important Matrix
Stephen Covey’s popular tool, also referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix, helps you to identify what is important versus what is urgent. You can see where you’re being reactive and fire fighting instead of being organised and ahead of your deadlines. I first came across it in a time management workshop over 25 years ago. The problem was that, for me, it missed some specificity for scheduling tasks.
So, I created my own Prioritisation Matrix that follows the same principle. The difference is that my version has more time-management scope, as you can see in the picture above. My clients love it!
To receive your own copy of my digital template, do get in touch and I’ll talk you through it.