“People often complain about lack of time when lack of direction is the real problem.”
– Zig Ziglar
Time management is like baking a cake. The first time we bake a cake, we don’t have it quite down yet. We cook the cake too long (or not long enough), over mix the ingredients or use a mixer instead of a whisk. There are numerous scenarios of why our cake ends up looking like a pancake, but indeed that is what has happened.
The reasons our cake fails are the distractions we face when we face time management. Kids need taken care of my mom or dad; dinner needs to be on the table or the dog needs to go outside. You have to go to a luncheon or maybe you’re pulling an extra shift at work. Possibly you work out of the home and all the distractions come from your computer—social media, too many notifications or too many emails.
Time management is all about finding balance. Distractions are going to happen, but you have to learn how to organize them. Each morning, before I even get out of bed, I go through all my social networks. I have e-mail shut off on my computer most days because this constant distraction was pulling me away from my writing. But I feel if I check into social media in the morning then I’m not depriving myself of it throughout the day. In fact, ever since I started this, I have been less committed to checking it throughout the day. Social media will be there even if you don’t log on. Nothing is so important that it won’t wait until the evening when your work is done.
I also recommend buying or creating a planner. You can create a planner in a notebook, just by diving each page into four to six sections. I actually prefer this method because it gives me more writing room. But, if you want the month and day already in one book then there are several options in stores and online. Schedule each moment of your day so you know where your time is going. This means that you schedule each meal, when the kids have to be at school and activities, each project you’re working on and so forth. This is an excellent way to hold yourself accountable to what you get done during a day. It’s also to show patterns of your productivity.
You also have to learn to say no. This is often hard for a majority of people, but let’s be realistic. What is your main goal? Do you want to be an author or write a series of books? In order to get this done, you can’t go to every event on your calendar. There are going to be times when you have to respectfully decline invitations in order to get yourself ahead. Those close to you should understand your goals. If necessary, send a card and gift through the mail. It may be best to take a raincheck for some events. For instance, if your Aunt Sally wants to have dinner Friday—but your deadline is Monday—see if she can do dinner on Tuesday night. Pick and choose those events closest to you; those outside of your inner circle should be secondary.
Finally, make lists to help you move along faster. Think about your business and your project at hand. What’s involved? Maybe you have a to-call list or a list of clients you have to email by Friday afternoon. You may have a short list of your outline that you put on a post-it note and stuck to your monitor, just to help you stay on task. Lists are useful in a lot of ways. Each night before you go to bed, make a list for the next day. Don’t put too many things on it. I usually work best with short lists. For instance, most days I put three items on my list. Today’s list was to 1) organize my desk; 2) work on my book and 3) write in my journal. If you have completed each of the items on your list, you have had a successful day!
What time management techniques work best for you?