If you don’t organise your time,
you’ll be left wondering where it all went!
Your time is, quite literally, beyond price. Even a billionaire can’t get an extension on it, not even to the tune of a single extra minute.
Time is the most limited and therefore the most valuable commodity in the whole world. One of the most basic facts of life is that time is limited, and limited absolutely. It is our duty, then, to make the very best use of it, of what we have of it. While it’s true that we can’t get even another minute of it, we can squeeze the most out of what we’ve got. As Kipling said, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run …”
It’s not easy to organise your time properly. I say it’s not easy, but there are ways. It’s just that, for most of us, and for most of the time, we just don’t manage time very well. We don’t realise that, of course … until later. Then we wonder where all that time went, and we wonder wistfully why we let so much of it slip so carelessly through our fingers.
Before I get too depressed and crawl into a corner to weep uncontrollably till I fall into a fitful sleep, let’s make a start on this! Here’s a few tips and suggestions for organising your time.
Prioritize to organise your time successfully!
Now this may come as a shock, but a bulging to-do list won’t actually help you get anything done. Spend some time working out what you really need to get done, and list the most important five to ten items. That’s your main to-do list, right there!
From a big, confusing, daunting list of ‘stuff’, you’ve trimmed it down to a few important items. Now you’ll find it a lot easier to actually get things done. You’ve finally made a start on using your time wisely.
Next, decide which are really the most important few items, and focus on them. Leave everything else alone – place your entire focus on those few vital items. Make it your priority to TAKE ACTION and get these few things done. If you approach a to-do list this way you will actually achieve a lot, instead of carrying the same things over to the next day’s to-do list, and the next … and the next …
Take that first item on your list and break it down into its component parts. Everything can be broken down. When you see the list of the elements that make up the first, or most important, task, it will suddenly seem a lot more do-able.
Now, get a cup of coffee or whatever you need to help you feel ready to move on, and just make a start. The very act of making that start will get the wheels turning. Overcoming inertia is really important. Many’s the time I’ve put off making a start for all kinds of reasons, and when I’ve finally got started all I could keep saying to myself was, “What was I waiting for?”
Today’s to-do list
There’s one list of things to do that can be a real help if you’re feeling ‘stuck’, and getting nowhere. It’s a short list, and it consists of only three items. Take a few minutes in the evening and consider your most pressing tasks. Write down a list of the things that come to mind and ruthlessly go through the list, crossing things out till you’re left with only three items.
In the morning, review the list of things to do. Then, when you’re at your desk, or wherever you need to be to get things done, take the list out and look at the task numbered ‘1’.
Do whatever it takes to get it done. If it starts with making a phone call, get busy, make the call. If it starts with putting together a document of some sort, start it, even if it’s only one sentence. Don’t sit there looking at a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen. If it’s a physical task and you have to get your hands dirty, get stuck in and get on with it. Remember, quicker started, sooner finished.
Make a start. Get moving. Keep going. When you’ve completed the first task, have a break, enjoy a well earned cup of coffee or get some fresh air, then move right on to the second. Same again, then on to the third. You might only get three things done that day, or maybe only two, but they will definitely be the most important things, if your list was accurately made. Do this every day and you can organise your time. And your to-do list will actually be of real use to you, instead of a lame reminder of things you just ‘haven’t got round to’.
To organise your time, make punctuality a priority
Do you want to be known as unreliable? Then treat punctuality as an optional extra. If you want to be taken seriously, and you want to get things done, make it a priority to be punctual. And let people know that you expect punctuality from them as well.
Few things impress people more than than when you’re clean, well-dressed, well prepared, and on time. If you’re going for an interview for a job and you fail in any of these points, the odds are already heavily stacked against you. Make it easy on yourself – all these things are easily fixed.
Once you start to make a habit of being there early, and being well prepared, and being eager to get things moving, you’ll feel like the job’s half done already. And you’ll always feel one step ahead of the game.
Be prepared to say “No!”
It’s easy to keep taking on more and more things, and sometimes we do it just to be ‘nice’. Well, your first priority if you want to make efficient use of your time is to be fair to yourself. You simply have to be prepared to say “No” to people sometimes. If it’s something that will heavily cut into your time, or if it’s just something you really don’t want to do, then you really should just be straight about it and refuse. You don’t have to be nasty about it, but you must be forceful. Don’t be swayed. If the answer’s going to be “No”, then don’t waver.
If this is a new thing for you, practise how to do it. Imagine situations where you would normally fold and take on even more things when you know perfectly well you’re already overstretched, and imagine how you would deal with the situation. You can still be polite and reasonable. Just don’t be a pushover!
Snatch back ‘wasted’ time
We all find ourselves in queues, or waiting rooms, or on trains, or stuck in traffic from time to time. That’s all wasted time, unless you choose to actually make use of the time instead of just idly watching it slip away.
If you’re stuck in traffic, you could be listening to audio recordings of things you’re studying, or self-help recordings. If you’re on a train for an hour or so, you could be using your laptop or your phone to get on with something you’d normally do at a desk. If you’re stuck waiting in a queue, what’s stopping you glancing at flash cards or the online equivalent (e.g. Quizlet) on your phone? Keep your eyes open for time leaks, and try to plug them with something productive.
Work is work
When you’re at your desk, you’ve got work to do (whether that’s in a crowded office or in a spare bedroom serving as a home office). Once you sit at that desk, remember you’re there to do a job, to achieve something, to make progress. Twiddling your thumbs or making paper aeroplanes, or flicking paperclips around is definitely not classed as working! If you want to socialise, that’s fine – do it away from your desk. Make sitting at your desk and getting on with your work a habit. The two go together, always. Don’t muddy the waters by mixing in other things, like chatting, drinking coffee, making arrangements for after work, etc. Stay focused, and you’ll get more done in less time!
Make that call count!
Sometimes we spend far too much time on the phone – fact! Calls can drag on far too long, for all kinds of reasons. One common reason is that you don’t want to seem pushy and be the one to end the call. Maybe you just feel it’s not in your nature to bring the call to an end, and you’re just happier waiting for other person to do it. If the person you’re speaking to happens to feel the same way, that call could just go on … and on … and on …
Every call has a purpose (or should have!). If the purpose of the call has been achieved, it’s time to bring it to an end. Let it drag on and you’ll only have yourself to blame for that wasted time. Your choice!
Know the value of time
We all waste time, sometimes more wildly and rashly than others. At least, when we’ve been wasting time to a huge extent, we generally realise, eventually, that it’s been a foolish thing to do. Remind yourself sometimes just how valuable time is.
As I said at the start of the page, it is simply the most valuable commodity you possess. You have no more of it than anyone else, and no less (and the sum total of it is decreasing by precisely one day, every day!). Each day starts with a clean slate – you have a certain number of hours, and bucketloads of opportunities. You can either fritter them all away, or you can achieve something special.
Remind yourself too, that Michelangelo and Leonardo and Shakespeare and Chopin and Mozart and Einstein and all the other great achievers had just the same opportunities that you have. Each of them woke up each day with only so many hours in which to achieve things, or to laze around and achieve nothing. Remind yourself of this simple truth from time to time and watch your attitude to time change for the better.
It’s important to use your time wisely (and if you didn’t agree you wouldn’t be reading this, right?), but don’t get carried away. It’s also very important to keep things in perspective. Make sure you take regular breaks from your work. And when you take them, get away from your desk! Remember, don’t cloud the issue by ‘living’ at your desk.
A good indication of when you need to take a break is when you feel your mind wandering, or you feel you can’t really see a way through the task you’re involved with. At that point in time, you would probably benefit from a break from what you’re doing, even if it’s only ten minutes or so. Sometimes you’ll need more. That’s fine – don’t treat yourself harshly (if you work in an office, you’ve probably got a boss to take care of that!).
The present is a gift
The moment you wake up in the morning and become conscious, utter a silent prayer of gratitude. You have been granted another day. All around the world, some are being denied that gift. They woke up yesterday completely unaware that it was to be their last. Today, once again, you have been granted the opportunity to see the miracle that is the dawn. Or to tell someone how much you love them. Or to take a risk. Yeah, to just take a deep, deep breath and do what terrifies you anyway.
Today you can do things you failed to do yesterday. You’ve been given another day … another chance. It is a gift beyond measure. Be grateful. Today really, truly is special. Start to see that, to feel it, each and every morning, and watch your appreciation of life soar. You’ll no longer struggle to organise your time, instead you’ll revel in its beauty, filling each moment with something wonderful.
There are other pages devoted to helping you get organised, and they’re not scattered haphazardly all over the site. The links to them are all conveniently organised in the sidebar!
>> Get Organised! links in the sidebar >>