4 Step Process to Help You Get Clear
On How to Manage Time Wisely

There’s no shortage of time management books, tips and tricks. Yet most people I know seem to struggle with their time in one way or another. We all have the same 168 hours every week of our lives. Once you take out time for work, sleep, meals and commuting, you’re left with roughly six to ten hours a week.

Not much time to play with, is there?

The real secret to time management is actually self-management. In order to better manage your time, you first have to manage yourself.

It requires a level of awareness about your values so that you can design your life the way YOU want. It’s understanding that there will never be enough time to get everything done, so you better discover what’s most important to you so that you can focus on it.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, feeling or experiencing in your life, then it’s time to make a change. Writer Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” If you’re not spending your days on your priorities (the things you most value), then you’re not spending your time the way you’d like to be spending your life.

Here’s a four-step process to help you get clear about how you want to spend your time:

1.  Identify your values and priorities. What’s most important to you in life? What must you be, do or have in order to feel happy and fulfilled? A few common priorities include: freedom, family, health, travel, career, spirituality, adventure and continuing education.

2.  Write out a list of goals for each value/priority. For example, if one of your priorities is family, a goal might be to spend more time together. Or, if one of your top values is adventure, one goal might be to travel to a new destination every year.

3.  Break down your goals into projects. If your goal is to spend more time with your family, then a project might be an activity together every Sunday. If your goal is to travel to a new destination every year, a project could be researching possible locations.

4.  Break down your projects into daily/weekly tasks. Here’s where it starts to get fun. Write out a list of tasks for each project in order of necessity. For example, if your project is a family activity every Sunday, then your tasks might include: 1. Poll family members for desired activities and availability, 2. Spend one hour online researching possibilities, 3. Purchase any necessary tickets, 4. Put on family calendar and alert all family members of upcoming activity. Make sure you put your tasks into your calendar at the beginning of each week (or each month). Outlook, iCal and Google Calendar are good programs to explore.

Sure, we all have a million demands on our time. Meetings, email, voice mail, deadlines, doctor’s appointments, bills to pay, kids to pick up, etc. But if you’re not taking an active role in how you spend your time, then you’re allowing life to spend you.

It’s almost too easy to let life take control and run away with the little bit of time you have left in your calendar. If you allow it, your time will get eaten up by a gazillion things that have nothing to do with what you value.

The secret is self-management. Get clear about what you value most and make sure you’re including those priorities in your calendar on a daily basis.

Manage yourself well and time will be on your side.

© Liz Dennery Sanders 2011

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