Part III: Taking Control of Your Time

On average in your life you’ll spend seven years in the bathroom, six years eating, five years waiting on line, three years in meetings, and six months sitting at red lights. No wonder we’re short for time. To boot, we now work approximately 164 hours more per year than we did in 1970.

Let’s not waste time philosophizing over why we have no time. Here are four tips to start using today. In fact, why not start as soon as you’re done reading this article?

  1. Use the I x U = P Formula. This is a tool to keep you from getting sidetracked by minutia. It means Important multiplied by Urgent equals Priorities. Most of us get caught up putting out fires that are urgent but not important.The best way to use the I x U = P formula is to ask yourself one question every time you get side tracked by an urgent matter: What would happen if I didn’t get to this right away? If the answer is benign, schedule a time to get to it and continue on with what’s most important.
  2. Use The Double To-Do Lists. You’ve probably noticed that your to-do list gets longer and messier every day. Start every Monday by doing a “clean out” of all left over papers and issues remaining from the week prior. Then create two lists – one for the week and one for each day. Your weekly list should include everything that needs to get done by Friday. This is the list that will grow during the week. Your daily list should be the first thing you do when you walk into the office in the morning. Look at your weekly plan and choose what’s most important (and urgent), them organize your day accordingly.Don’t forget to use a section of the list for personal tasks that you can’t save for the weekends. Set aside a few minutes of your lunch hour to take care of those errands or make those calls.
  3. Use the ABC Rule. This is a great tool to help you prioritize, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. Once you’ve created your daily to do list, put an A next to everything that needs to be done by noon; a B next to everything that must be accomplished by 5:00 p.m.; and a C next to anything that can wait until the following day.If there is one thing looming over you that you don’t want to do, make sure you do it first. Even if it’s small, you want to take that anxiety or frustration out of your day as early as possible.
  4. Schedule fun time. What good is managing your time if you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy it? Most of us put relaxation and fun at the bottom of our list; it’s what we do when there’s time left over. Burn out is a real and common problem. These days relaxation is as much a discipline as work. Schedule at least 30 minutes of pure fun and relaxation every day. Put it on your to do list if you need to.

In the big picture of our lives we may realize that too much of our time was spent on mundane tasks. Organizing ourselves is crucial in this day and age, yet remember that we are ultimately seeking balance. So manage your time, but make sure that occasionally you drop everything, take a break, abandon the lists and enjoy the short, precious time you have.