Time Management

by Di McLanachan

Time and outcomes, the bigger picture

As you now realise, managing your time requires some kind of system, even if it’s just in your head. One system is to base what you do from day to day on the outcomes that you want to achieve tomorrow.

You will find out more about this under Well-formed outcomes and Goal Setting. For now, however, it amounts to this: if you are constantly feeling under pressure; if there is never enough time in the day, despite the fact that you are following all the basic tips for organising your work effectively, maybe you need to start looking at your time – your precious time – in another way. What do you want to achieve? And why?

Life is too short, and there’s too much potential in it, and you, to waste it fretting about day-to-day tasks. There’s another way of looking at time. Decide what you really want to achieve first. To do this, you may need to start taking a higher level view and looking at more abstract and powerful concepts. What are your beliefs and values? What’s the bigger picture as far as you are concerned?

Life plan

Develop a plan for your life before you ever start planning your time.

This ensures that you are consistently making progress on what is most important to you. Without a life plan, you will tend to live in reaction to the demands of the moment, or risk focusing on one area of your life at the cost of another.

This type of planning gives a sense of purpose and fulfilment to your life. Most people walk around unconsciously chipping away at seemingly random actions. In fact, many people accomplish a great deal in their lives, only to reach a point where they start to ask themselves, ‘Is this all there is?’ Life planning gives you a compelling reason behind all your actions, keeping you focused on the meaning and value your activities provide to your life.

Acting from this basis of firm intention immediately reduces stress, helping you transform overwhelm into a sense of certainty that you can accomplish what you truly want. Instead of focusing on a huge daily to-do list, this system causes you to focus on a smaller number of results or outcomes.

For most people there is a happy medium: on one level, they maintain a focus on their to-do list and at another level they focus on the outcomes they really want in life. Develop a system for yourself that incorporates both.

It may take a while to get used to planning and living your life in this way, but this approach to life and your time will help you experience far greater results and tremendous levels of fulfilment.

Values

You can’t physically control external time, but you can manage yourself and the choices you make with regard to time. Does the way you use time reflect your priorities and your values?

The first step towards analysing whether or not you are using your time in accordance with your values is to become aware of what you are doing from day to day. Get a snapshot of how the 24 hours you have each day are being used. Create some sort of time log to illustrate how the time you have each day is allocated.

Exercise

Grab a piece of paper and three differently coloured pens. Make a list of all the things that are in your life right now that take time and energy (for example, exercise, self care, relationship, children, hobby, coaching and your work).

Next, use one colour to number them from one to whatever, based on the amount of time and energy you currently (or recently) have been giving them.

Then take the second colour and number them again, basing the order on what you feel you should, according to outside influences or internal limiting beliefs, be spending time and energy doing.

Lastly, take a moment to really get in touch with yourself, and with the third colour, rank the items according to where you really want to put your time and energy.

What did you learn?

Is how you are currently using your time in alignment with what is really important to you?

Become aware of your values. What is important to you? If you do not already have a list of your values, look at the topic on Values for exercises to help with uncovering what really matters to you.

This system causes you to focus first on what you want – the results that you are committed to achieving in your life – before you figure out what you need to do. You then design all of your activity around making progress toward achieving what you want. When you are doing things that are in pursuit of what you really want, you will find a sense of purpose in what you do, and life will flow more easily.

Beliefs

Realise your stories about time are just that – stories. If you continue to tell yourself ‘There just aren’t enough hours in the day’, ‘I never have enough time for the things I need to do’, ‘Time flies by faster and faster’, you will continue to attract and be attracted to all sorts of evidence to support these beliefs. Consider that these stories may not be completely true – we just live our lives as though they are. More constructive and positive beliefs about time will produce more constructive and positive evidence. (Have you ever noticed that when you start to think about buying a particular model of car, you suddenly see many more of them on the road than you ever have before?)

Outcomes

Once you have your outcomes firmly and clearly in mind, you are ready to look at your to-do list with fresh eyes.

  1. Look over the list, asking ‘What are the most important outcomes I need to produce today that will progress me towards my larger goals?’
  2. Remind yourself of your purpose. Ask, ‘Why do I want this result? What will that do for me?’ These questions link outcomes with values – the reasons why – which are the power behind motivated actions.
  3. Now make the step from outcomes to specific tasks. ‘Given my outcomes for today, what needs to be on my to-do list and how does it need to be prioritised?’
  4. Block out time in your diary for these tasks, knowing that even though they may be small actions, they are part of your larger journey.

Notice that you won’t be concentrating on ‘What do I have to do?’ The secret is to focus on the end result, not all the steps to get there. Start with the end in mind. With a clear picture of what you want, imagine you have it now, and work backwards. Looking back from a future vantage point, what did you do to get there?

This is a wonderful way of separating the wheat from the chaff in your to-do list. If you get your result, but don’t manage to tick off all your to-do items, do you care?