All For Time and Time For All: The 10 Commandments of Time Management

Time managementHow many times did you hear the phrases “Excuse me, please, I don’t have the time for that”, or “I’m in a hurry”? As far as I remember, I heard that at least once a day over the past 30 years. Did you know that 30 years mean 10957 days? If you heard a thing 10957 times in your life, isn’t it already shaping your habits? I’ve read the other day that it takes 20 days of practicing, in order to form a habit. If 20 days can form a habit, 10000 days can reshape a character. How do we fight this undesired modelling which tends to turn us into machines, to transform us into all kinds of freaks and workaholics, who hurry up their entire life, only to discover at the end that they reached a dip and it is too late to get out?

Wherever a problem arises, there comes at least one expert who figures out a solution. And the solution for this rat race (any other animal would do here; don’t you think a snail is always in a hurry? Think again!) was called TIME MANAGEMENT.

Leaving time management experts aside, these are a few habits I’ve developed, which proved to work in helping me live at my own pace and still have (almost) everybody around me happy:

1. Don’t wait until things become urgent

This very dear friend of mine who likes to think she’s a successful business woman (actually she really is, her business being amongst the top ten of its kind in Romania) is always in a hurry. She has a way of prioritizing things that would drive anybody crazy: “if it is not urgent, then it can wait”. The outcome? When things become urgent and need to be done, she enters a crazy race, spending nights at the office, thus forcing all her colleagues to adopt her pace. She finally does everything in a brilliant way, her clients are happy, but she is always tired and feeling that she doesn’t have enough time for herself, despite the fact that she goes jogging every morning, goes to massage every week, and her hair is always in perfect shape.

There is a principle in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that says “the map is not the territory”. It means that our vision about the reality is not the reality. If we look at a bee, the beekeeper will see “his baby”, an allergic person will see “a potential danger” and other person may see a breakfast with bread, butter and honey. You don’t need more time, you just need the belief that the time you have is enough for everything you want to do. At the end of the day, it’s your personal map which matters.

2. Make a to do list

Humans forget. Some of them quite a lot. Are they to blame for that? No way! Try this for 20 days: every morning, try to sit and think your day ahead. Write down the things you wish/need/think to do that day. Your brain will kiss you for that. If you spend no more than 10 minutes every other hour thinking of what are the things that need to be done, by the end of the day you’ve had spent about one hour on the activities planning process. The longest to do list can be done in less than 10 minutes. You can always spend the other 50 playing with your child.

3. Dare to break the to do list

Be flexible. You are your most valuable asset, so don’t stress yourself. If by noon your list becomes out of age, don’t be afraid to change it. The “noon” you may be a different person from the “morning you”. This reminds me of that joke: every man is entitled to one drink. After one drink, I become another person, so I’m entitled to one drink. After I drink it, I become another person… What I want to say here: priorities may change as the day/life goes on. Don’t be afraid to change with them. On a smaller scale of things, if let’s say I have on my to do list to write this article and I notice I’ve got so well into this writing mood, I’d always cancel some other things on the list for writing two more articles. Doing things when you are in the mood saves you a lot of time. Please don’t tell me that you cannot cut anything from that list. Are you a housewife? Then you are supposed to have some cooking on the list. Why not cut it and take your family out for dinner tonight? If you don’t wait until things get urgent, you’ll always find something to cut from the list.

4. When things tend to get out of control, don’t blame anybody (including yourself), but look for solutions

No matter how much we like to think that we are in control, there are times in life when things take an unexpected course. It is very easy to screw up a project, or a marriage, or a trip. A lot of people try to seek out the guilty, wasting their time to collect evidences, to playback the failure over and over, to match the punishment with the guilt. If you recognize yourself in these words, at least for once in your life, please try to leave behind all this guilt-punishment mechanism, and focus your energy on what to do next. Seek for solutions. Think for future, not for the past. Think “how?”, not “why?”. Don’t you see how much more constructive this approach can be? It can save you a lot of time, believe me. Not to mention that your peers will love you for that.

5. Know when to quit

Don’t continue doing something just because you started. Life is not a competition. If you don’t find a reason anymore, just quit and start something new, be it a career, a family or a hobby. In Seth Godin On The Fine Art Of Quitting, Steve Olson says:

I must admit, I have quit all my big ventures in the dip. But I don’t feel bad about quitting, because each time they were strategic decisions. The only regret I have is not quitting earlier.

6. Don’t look back in anger

Another very good friend of mine spends perhaps half of her time thinking of the past, re-playing over and over all the sad moments she lived, feeling frustrated now because 4 years ago somebody broke by mistake her favourite glass. Only try to make her see how she’s wasting her time! The answer comes immediately: “what do you know about that? Nobody broke your favourite glass, so you don’t know how I feel”. Or: “I just hate my former employer for his behaviour and I hope all future secretaries will quit their job as fast as I had to quit mine”. And she keeps on asking me if I still keep in touch with former colleagues, not to forget to ask them about the secretaries in that company. Does it really matter? It is true, that employer’s attitude was far from professional. However, my time is so valuable, that I don’t want to waste it on digging past shit.

7. If you delegate things, assume the outcome may not be what you imagined

There aren’t two identical people in the world. Then, why would you pretend that somebody thinks and acts exactly your way? If we are partners and you ask me to redecorate the office by myself because you are busy, please don’t come later to tell me that you hate the outcome. If redecoration was so important to you, you should have come with me and have your say then. Why do you come now and ask me to call the plumber again because you would have liked the sink to be mounted two inches lower? Of course I won’t move a finger, so you’ll have to do it by yourself, and you’ll waste your time doing again things for which I’ve also spent my time on. If you are a detailed person, at least look better who you delegate: I barely notice the kitchen sink when I pass by, and you want me to estimate how high it should be mounted?

8. “No” is also an answer

Please take a moment and do this test with a friend: in the middle of the conversation, pretend to drop something on the floor. Watch your friend’s reaction. I believe it is somehow in the human nature to help others. Was your friend trying to take that item from the floor and give it back to you? It is nice to help the others, but if 100 people just drop an item on the floor in the same time, I could possibly pick up only one or two. The other 98 or 99 people will have to understand that “no” is also an answer, and this does not make me mean. It’s just my resources are limited. Learn how to say no, and you’ll better manage your time.

9. Take 30 minutes of day dreaming every day

This is good for motivation. If it is true that motivated people work faster, then re-gaining your motivation from time to time may make you a more efficient person.

10. Remember that “all roads lead to Rome”

Each of us does things in a unique, personal way. Don’t waste your time in trying to convert the other persons to your beliefs, or to make them see life your way. Don’t look all the time at each other. Take each other by the hand and try to look in the same direction, the direction of your common goals, for this is your Rome. I remember a saying (I forgot where I heard it): in life, one should not bother with the details. And they all are details.

This article is my entry for the newest group writing project hosted by InspirationBit, Time Management. I want to invite you all to have your say in this group project, as time is the only limited resource we have. In front of time, beggars and millionaires are equal. Nobody can have more than 24 hours in a day. But some of us can manage it better, and this is what I hope to achieve at the end of this group project.

11 Comments

  1. I find all time management pieces of advice extremely hard to put in practice. Maybe because it takes about 20 days to form a habit and I tend to quit much sooner when reorganizing my working method is in order 🙂 Or maybe it’s just because my to do list changes twice a day 😛

  2. What a great first entry to my group project. This one will be very hard to top. Thanks so much, Simonne. As usual, I loved your humour and wise words: “In front of time, beggars and millionaires are equal” and “You don’t need more time, you just need the belief that the time you have is enough for everything you want to do”. So true!

  3. The key to managing your time is to refuse to perform any other activity than the one you have planned. Group everything, then attack one group at a time. Work with 15 minute blocks of time. “For the next 30 minutes I am going to call as many clients as I can that haven’t been contacted in the last 6 months.” During that 30 minutes refuse to take any incoming calls, even if it’s a client that you left a voicemail for. Remember, you planned to “call” clients, not take calls from clients. This may seem silly, but if you allow any deviation in the plan, you’ll end up shooting paper basketballs into the nearest trash can as you plan a lunch with your buddy in the next cubicle because, inevitably (without discipline) one thing leads to another. You can also plan a 30 or 45 minute block of “whatever” time. During this period you don’t act, you only react. Take calls, answer NEW e-mails, do work that people hand you… this will allow you to take a break mentally while still getting some things done. You’ll end up refreshed and ready to attack the next time block while refusing all distractions. That’s the key: REFUSE ALL DISTRACTIONS!! Otherwise, there is no need to plan.

  4. Hi Simone , Thanks a lot for this post , i am champion is missing the buses and any time deadlines.. your post is like a pill and i am working on it ..see how i go..
    Thanks ‘
    Jay

  5. Hi Jay,

    Thank you for stopping by. Just don’t panic and things will get better. Missing a bus from time to time is not the end of the world, you know. And with the deadlines, they could be just too tight to be respected.

  6. Hi Simone,

    Good article. What I like about this is that it’s simple to do! So many time management processes are long and detailed. The truth for many is that they don’t use them.

    What do you think is THE most important part? I would say making a to do list.

    M

  7. Hi Matt, thank you for your appreciation. Indeed, I’d say that making the to do list is the most important. After you’ve got it, things will start to settler and there will be time for anything on the list (and if not, you can always cut some items… lol)

  8. You must learn the art of saying no gracefully and tactfully to others. You’ll get request all the time particularly as you become more productive and manage your time better, others will see that and they’ll want you to participate in projects, causes, things that they have going on. Now, this isn’t to say that you always say no but you have to learn how to say no more often than you say yes because whenever you say yes to one thing you always saying no to something else. Now, what if it’s your boss making request or your customers? Well of course often, most often you’re going to want to say yes. But make sure that you always get a when. So, when someone asks you to do something, let say that your boss asks you to get a report to them, you always want to ask the question- “What is the deadline for this report? When do you need this from me?” That will allow you to make prioritized decisions about what you have in your calendar. Often it’s a common failure of managers and leaders to delegate lots of responsibilities to their employees but not give them clear deadlines on when they should be accomplished. This causes a lot of overlap and confusions to the employees.

    To learn how to say no to others, watch this video at http://davecrenshaw.com/how-to-say-no-to-yourself-and-others-and-stop-dam-failure/

  9. I second you point of not delaying jobs till the time they become urgent and add pressure in our already busy lives. Though it takes a lot of courage and sometimes (professional help) if you think you can’t make up your mind to stop, postpone or just quit doing something that you feel isn’t working for you. It can be very difficult because we believe that we might be seen as a failure.

    Absolutely love point #9. If we cannot clearly see what we wish to achieve or where we want to be or who we want to be with, we’ll never be able to plan and take action in that direction. Thank you for sharing the points (I think they come from your life experiences).

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