Anger is an emotion that is often triggered by a common malady of modern life-time stress. When you think about it, you may see that time is the original equal opportunity employer. We all get the same amount of time to work with-60 minutes an hour, 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week, 8730 hours per year. If you live to the average age of 76 years, you will have had 663,480 hours to accomplish your goals, pursue your dreams, satisfy your passions and desires, and make your mark on the world.
Despite the fact that time is fair, it is elusive. It is also extremely valuable, and it is needed for everything you do. Unfortunately, it cannot be stored like money in the bank. At once a moment in time occurs and then it is gone. You can’t come back to it at a later time and use it. Imagine the parent who does not have time for his or her children when they are growing up, but the parent tells himself that “some day” he will make time for them. The misguided parent finally retires and now wants to dip into the “bank” for the lost time.
But, he is unable to do so as the words to the well-known song “Cats in the Cradle” remind us:
I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.” He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu, But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad. It’s been sure nice talking to you.” And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.
Why can some people handle so many pieces of their complex lives so well, while others seem unable to accomplish almost anything throughout the day? We may admire the people who find enough time to run huge corporations (or even countries), contribute to civil causes, sit on numerous boards, participate in the religious community, and spend quality time with their families.
By comparison, we may feel lucky if we just slog through the day and get the basics done, only to gratefully go to bed to prepare ourselves to begin the same process over again the next day.
The difference is often time management. Strictly speaking we can’t manage time (because it marches on without consulting us in any way), but we can manage how we spend it. At its core, time management is about freeing up more time for the things that matter most to you, while still getting the necessary (and sometimes mundane) life duties done and obligations met. Time management will allow you more time for fun and being with the people you love. Successful Time Management often helps you feel less angry and more fulfilled because it allows you to spend more of your life energy the way you choose.
At this point, you may be convinced that time management is a good thing, but remain unconvinced that you can actually do it. It does seem overwhelming sometimes, but we have found that there are six simple steps to successful time management as a tool to reduce stress and anger in your life.
Step 1 – Develop the proper attitude
Time management begins with an attitude. The attitude is one of taking personal responsibility for your time. This means taking charge of your life instead of blaming others or circumstances for low productivity or lack of time to do things that matter most to you. Granted, life makes many demands on us, but effective time managers find a way to make time for worthwhile activities. This may involve learning to spend less time on things that deliver little value and instead focus on things that merit our time and attention.
Step 2 – Monitor your time
Simply counting how many minutes a day you spend on various life activities will focus your attention on noticing how you spend your time. This will help you get into action to perhaps manage your time differently.
There is no one way to do this. You can count your time in various activities by using any kind of calendar, day timer or to-do-list. It can be paper, computer, store-bought or hand-made. You can keep track of your time down to the quarter-hour, or just an overview.
Use a system that works for you.
Step 3 – Plan your time
Looking at your results, how would you answer the following questions?
- Were you surprised at how much time you are spending on a particular activity?
- Were you surprised at how little time you are spending on a particular activity?
- Would you like to find a way to spend more time on things of value to you?
- Would you like to eliminate some time-wasters on your list?
There is no correct way to plan your time. Planning is an activity that makes room for many different individual styles. Following are some guidelines that have helped many others:
- Never start your day without a plan. Loosely pencil-in your day either the night before or first thing in the morning.
- Schedule predictable events first. This might include obvious activities like sleep, work, housework, etc. When planning, allow adequate time for these parts of your life. Then schedule other tasks around them.
- Schedule your life long-term (like for the coming year), mid-term (e. g. for the month), and short-term (for the week). Sit down with your family with a scheduling method that is comfortable to you, from the “old-fashion” refrigerator block calendar to electronic methods such the Outlook program on your computer. If you are high-tech you might also want to synchronize your Outlook calendar with your PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) scheduling device such as a Blackberry.
- Get things done, one task at a time. As you plan, convert any goal into a list of small steps-simple activities that you can add to a daily to-do list.
- Define a time limit for activities. Set clear starting and stopping times for each task. Sometimes a task that typically takes four hours can be completed in three. Activities tend to fill up whatever space is allotted for them. By allowing less space for them on our calendars, we can sometimes squeeze out more hours in the day.
- Build in some pleasurable, rewarding or relaxing activities each day “just for you.” Find time to emotionally replenish yourself. Charge your emotional batteries to avoid burn-out. This does not have to take a lot of time and can be very simple like taking a walk, reading a book, working in your woodshop, listening to your favorite CD, etc.
Step 4 – Implement proven time-savers
Try to be more effective, not busier. Work smarter, not harder. The example comes to mind of the two campers sitting a river bed watching the sunset. Suddenly a person is seen struggling in the water. The first camper swims out and saves him. Soon, another person is seen in the water. Again, the first camper jumps in, swims out and saves her. After three times of the same routine, his camping buddy finally jumped up and left. “Where are you going?” asked the first camper. “You can keep jumping in the water all night, if you want to,” said the second camper, “but I’m going upstream to find out why all these people are jumping into the water.”
Some simple time-savers that others have found helpful include:
- Weed out activities that aren’t consistent with your values-what you deem as important and valuable. Ask yourself if the activity moves you closer to what you want, what your goal might be, or what you want to become. For instance, if you want to earn an MBA degree to better yourself, watching 6 hours of television a day instead of studying probably is not consistent with your stated values.
- Avoid the morning rush.
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual and wake up 15 minutes earlier to allow more time to get organized to leave the house in the morning
- Lay clothing out the night before to make morning dressing hassle-free
- Finish your personal morning routine (shower, getting dressed, etc.) before the kids wake up
- Keep necessary items, such as your car keys, purse, briefcase and school backpacks, in a consistent location for ease of locating during the morning rush
- Empower your children to get themselves organized (if they’re older) by making their own lunches the night before, laying out their clothes, packing up their school supplies, etc.
- Ask your spouse with help in organizing for the following day
- Set the table for breakfast the night before
- Set your clocks and watches ahead 5 to 10 minutes to keep you on schedule (yes, it’s psychological but it does tend to work)
- Do some jobs immediately. Often we can return phone calls or reply to a letter immediately instead of putting it on our to-do list to complete later. Sometimes we spend more time and energy avoiding a task than it would take to get it done.
Step 5 – Get more organized
By carefully listing our tasks for the near future, we can choose how to spend our time. While looking at the big picture, we can rank each activity according to priority and decide when to do it. Following are some suggestions for managing your to-do lists:
Keep all of your to-dos in one place.
Prioritize your tasks. Choose which items are most important and which ones you need to do today, this week, this month, this year and in coming years. Be honest about the items you never really intend to do, and be willing to let them go. You’ll save yourself needles mental and physical clutter.
Clear out the clutter. An important part of this process is deciding what not to do. When we purge the low-value activities from our to-do lists, we open up a lot of breathing space in our lives.
Step 6 – Actually do your do’s
Some people unfortunately are time challenged partly because they spend much of their day making to-do lists, instead of actually doing the items on the list. Obviously, this is useless and counter-productive. It may be another way of avoiding doing what you should do but don’t really want to.
Recommended web resources for further help with time management: