We all would like to accomplish more with our time, and we seek to use it more effectively in our professional and personal lives. The best approach to using time to the fullest is to improve the management of it on a daily basis. Here are twelve suggestions for using your time better each day:
1. Make a time log.
Write down everything you do during a day and the amount of time you spend doing it. This point, while not a time-saver in itself, will increase your awareness of how you are using your precious moments. You may think you don’t watch much television, for example, but your time log may tell you otherwise. You need not record your actions every day. Do so for the first few days, and then write out a day’s activities once in a while to monitor your progress as a time manager.
2. Don’t spend time with people who waste time.
People who waste their own time will probably waste yours, too. The propensity is contagious, and the profligate one always drags the other one down a notch. If you hang out with folks who fritter away their time, you are likely to pick up the habit.
I have a friend who is a successful attorney. He volunteers time to a variety of organizations, but at the outset, he makes it clear that his time is valuable and he will not work with anyone who wastes it. Meetings must be purposeful and well run. Working inefficiently is not fulfilling to him, so he doesn’t do it, no matter how worthy the cause.
3. Choose your friendships carefully.
Not everyone is headed in a direction that fits into your life plan. Periodically culling your weaker relationships to make room for new ones is a healthful practice. Interests change and life moves onward, and some evolution of your friendships is a good thing. If you are picky about what you eat, what movies you see, and what books you read, why wouldn’t you be picky about the quality of your friends?
4. Learn to multitask.
Multitasking is an effective time saver. If you want to socialize as you work, save up some menial tasks and then telephone a friend and work while you converse. I’ve painted the entire interior and much of the exterior of my house while talking on the phone. I rarely do anything around home without someone to keep me company on the other end of the line.
5. Limit your television time to half an hour a day.
Adopting this practice will force you to choose well from among the myriad programming options that are available on television. If you watch no television one day, then allow yourself to view an hour program the next, but it’s best to limit the amount of credit that you carry over to subsequent days. The goal is to use your time well each and every day, and you can’t do that if you blow a whole day using saved-up minutes. I usually watch some of the news as I eat dinner, and the rest I glean from the Internet in the morning before starting work. Unless a particularly interesting article catches my eye, my morning Web review of two newspapers takes around ten minutes.
6. Do things that fulfill you.
Go after your dream list with all the gusto you can muster. Engaging in your passion will satisfy you like nothing else can, and if you’re happy, you’ll be a positive influence on those around you. The marvelous collateral benefits to following your heart and the superb sense of wellbeing that doing so bestows on your life are impossible to overstate. Fill your days with the things of your soul, and your time will be well spent indeed.
7. Redefine your daily activities in terms of the contribution they make to the quality of your life.
All activities, no matter how modest, that add to the quality of your life are good uses of your time. Thus, shopping for fruits and vegetables, cooking a healthful meal, organizing a closet, and cleaning the garage are all excellent uses of your time. Establishing priorities is a constant process. What is good for us today may not be so tomorrow. We must work constantly to eliminate ineffective activities and replace them with others that will bear fruit. Think about each thing you do as you progress through the day and consciously analyze its productive potential. If it adds little to your life, discard it and look for something that will contribute positively to the life you want to live.
8. Don’t stay up too late.
Partying is fun, but sleeping the better part of the next day or losing it to exhaustion is unproductive. Assuming you want to spend four of five hours with friends in an evening, try meeting them an hour earlier than usual. And, if you arrive home pumped from a bit too much wine, coffee, hours d’oeuvres, and conversation, make an effort to settle down without getting caught up in a movie or book that will keep you up several more hours.
9. Set goals.
Establishing goals will not only save you time, but also will help you accomplish a number of the other points on this list. A person with no goals has nothing to lose by wasting time. Most people who read articles like this one are already natural goal setters, but the point is still an important one. You should set professional and personal goals and work out concrete steps toward attaining them. Listing specific goals and action items for achieving them will go a long way toward organizing your time.
10. Encourage your children to be organized.
Kid’s schedules can jerk parents around and cause them to lose vast amounts of time. It’s not too much to ask that your children respect your time. Teaching them to understand that you have a life and that they cannot assume that you will always be at their beck and call will be good for them. After all, the sooner they learn that life is not all about them, the better. They will benefit by learning to be courteous, and you will benefit by regaining control of your life.
11. Pay attention to your health.
Health problems can cause you to waste scads of time at work and at home. Taking sick leave, shopping for medication, and sitting in physicians’ offices can eat huge holes in your productivity. If you pay attention to your diet, exercise, and sleeping patterns, much of this time drain is avoidable. Staying healthy can save you many hours a year, and not only will you lose less time, but also the quality of the time you spend will improve.
12. Stay in motion.
This suggestion may be the most important one of all. If you are constantly moving and doing things to improve your life, the result will surprise and please you. People who accomplish a lot don’t spend time lounging around. If you do positive things in order to have a quality life, you won’t have time left over to squander.
Some people may respond to this list of time-management suggestions by saying that we all must have some down time once in a while. True enough, but I have found that it’s just as easy to use my free time doing something that will improve my life as it is to watch a sit-com that will turn my brain and body to mush. It’s your time and your life, and you can do with both as you wish. It seems a waste, though, not to use to the fullest every moment we have. Only by doing so can we be everything we are created to be.