My late father’s obsession with time has passed down to me. Unlike Dad, I don’t obsess about taking my watch in to the jeweller’s to get it regulated. Like him, I keep looking at my watch and the many clocks in my house (four in my office if you include the two on the computers and the one on my wrist. I refused to put the battery in for the digital clock on the stereo). Lately, this obsession has me trying to tame time, or rather tame what I am doing in my business and personal life.
Right now I’m reading Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. (http://peterbregman.com/). The first part is about finding your vision, including what you don’t like doing. Been there, done that. However, when he gets down to the nitty-gritty of time management on page 100 about Creating Your Annual Focus, he has me hooked. Without a focus you can’t plan your day. He suggests dividing your year’s focus into five (more or less) categories and use that as your daily planning guidelines. If it doesn’t fit in, don’t do it. I have four categories: Self, Family and Friends, House and Property and Career. I have to watch I don’t overload any one of them for any day. Bregman has another category which I just love and started to include: an Ignore list. That list gives you so much power and makes you feel justified for example, refusing to waste time chatting with friends (phone, email, Twitter, in person) during business time. And because last month I obsessed and spent so much time dealing with administrative snafus caused by others in both business and personal, my ignore list has that on it – with one exception – the one administrative snafu I may decide to deal with that day.
So, from what I’ve read in Bregman’s book and elsewhere, from personal experience, here are some suggestions for taming your time.
- Have an annual focus and divide it into four, five, six categories.
- Use those categories to plan each day – your “to do” list (the night before – that 18 minutes works fine) for business and personal. Bregman says not to worry if one or two categories are much shorter. If one item on one list conflicts in time with an item on another list, Bregman, says to choose. He gives the example of two family birthday celebrations conflicting with the time when he was asked to speak about his work. He chose the family celebration.
- Have a daily ignore list and list what you will not do that day.
- Follow your “to do” list and your “ignore” list. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get everything done on your “to do” list.
- Set regular times to check and answer email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, phone messages and stick to it. Turn your Blackberry or iPhone off and put it in a desk drawer. Do a voice mail message letting everyone know when you are available (be positive, rather than negative here). Check your messages – two or three times a day maximum, not every five minutes.
- Use the four D’s (I’ve changed the categories slightly) – Delete, Dump, Delay, Don’t Do. Delete email but Dump things you do that you don’t want to do or that don’t fit in with your annual focus. Delay some tasks that do fit in but you can’t get to right now. And my favourite – Don’t Do. Don’t join that committee if you don’t have time for meetings, etc.
- Make the word “NO” a big part of your vocabulary and use it.
- Spend time with your family and friends – but don’t let them monitor your time. For example, don’t let a whiney friend take over your work time or family time or your personal time to complain about his or her latest problem.
- Don’t forget yourself. You need to be in the category list. Your health is important. Alone time where you can just read, meditate, etc. is important.
- And try not to feel guilty about doing the other nine suggestions. Focus on the sense of mastery, achievement, connecting more with your family and self, and just plain not letting other people and things take over your time. And take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief.
How do you manage your time?
Only Child Writes