You’re the Boss of Your Time

We all struggle with time management. The day begins with the best of intentions. Plans are made and then they blow up in our faces. Chaos takes control and we find ourselves in a vicious cycle putting out one fire after another. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You’re the boss of your time. If you don’t make a plan that is flexible, yet allows you to accomplish your goals, then you have just allowed yourself to be controlled by circumstance. No plan is perfect. You have to allow for the unforeseen. But, not making a plan allows the unforeseen to be the plan.

Setting Priorities

I have read from more than one time-management guru that the best planning begins the day before. Every day before you leave the office to allow yourself 15-30 minutes to set your priorities for the next day. Make sure to put this on your schedule and stick to it. Getting organized for the next day will help you to make goal setting a daily priority. It will also allow you to start the next day out with a plan.

On the flip side, allow yourself 15-30 minutes at the beginning of your day to review your priority list and readjust based on whatever you walked into that morning. Your list should give your day structure but it should also allow you the flexibility to adjust to new priorities and circumstances.

The To-Do List

You may see a to-do list as an anchor tied around your waist, but if done right it can be a valuable tool to managing your day and keeping track of multiple priorities.

I have discussed to-do lists in two other posts: Creating Lists to Manage Projects and Prioritize Tasks and Giving Your List Power – Creating Context, so I will just give some quick tips here.

Building your list can be done utilizing Evernote, Google Keep, One Note, a Word document, or pen and paper.

Use whatever method gives you the most flexibility and keeps you on task.

Get your priorities written and then prioritize them based on importance, when it needs to be completed, and how long it will take to accomplish each task.

Make sure to set a date for accomplishing each task. It is probably a good idea to add these tasks to your calendar and set reminders to ensure you get them done on time.

Keeping a list also has another side benefit – it allows you to go back and look at what you have accomplished which will help keep you motivated. Some days it can feel like you haven’t gotten anything done. Then you go back and look at your to-do list and see that you’ve accomplished quite a bit. That can give you a good feeling that should help keep you motivated.

Just Do Em’s

When starting your day if you have tasks that you can accomplish in under 5 minutes just complete those items. This will get tedious little tasks out-of-the-way so you can focus on bigger, more involved projects.

Minor tasks can clutter up your day and keep you from getting focused on important tasks. Better to get through them, or set aside a specific time for getting them done, so they don’t become speed bumps.

Your Outlook Calendar is Your Friend

Technology can be both an enemy and a friend. It is our enemy when we allow it to be a distraction – i.e. email and Facebook. It is all about how you utilize it. Turn off your email alert and set aside five minutes every couple of hours to check email.

One of the best tools is your Outlook calendar as it allows you to create tasks, prioritize, and set reminders. If you have longer-term tasks with multiple steps Outlook can help you to set up reminders to keep you on track. Here is a good video that discusses how to use tasks in Outlook to create a to-do list.

One thing to remember – if you need time to accomplish something create an appointment, not a task. A task is a specific item that needs to be accomplished without setting a specific time for doing it. If it is a specific activity that needs to be done then set an appointment for completing it.

Take Charge of Your Time

With all the tools and technology available to managers there is no reason why you should allow circumstances to set your schedule. By doing a little planning and taking advantage of these tools you can become productive no matter what comes up. Setting priorities, staying flexible, and keeping track of tasks will allow you to gain control and become the boss of your time.