Time Management—Taking Stock of Your Most Precious Commodity

Time management


If you’ve been entrusted to manage a valuable commodity—whether it’s the company’s finances, the merchandise in your shop, or your own income—you start by taking stock of what you have to work with. Where and how are the resources being generated, spent, saved, and squandered? Is it possible to appropriate them more effectively? Where are the silent leaks? It doesn’t have to be any different with time, our most valuable commodity. Time management is one of the most important activities when it comes to work.

Whatever value we place on money, investments, or merchandise, it is that resource of hours and minutes that’s most elusive.

Time Management Tips & Tricks

Like money, you want to know how to make sufficient time to accommodate the world-changing things you want to do with your life. Do you complain you don’t have enough time or are you easy prey to any gadget that promises to make you a multitasking magician? Altering your life to accommodate your goals and ambitions isn’t easy, but the time-generating solution may be simpler than you think.

1. Face the Data

As eager as you are to dive into time management, it’s vital to take assess the situation as it now stands—the problem, if you will. Successful businesses are meticulous in taking stock of their resources. They know exactly how many pennies they have and where they’re spending them. You need to do the same with your minutes.

2. Remember: It All Adds Up

Minutes and pennies seem like such tiny quantities—throw-aways, really. But if you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you’ll remember that even fractions of a cent can result in millions of dollars if you can gather up enough of them. Minutes are your commodity—start counting.

3. Track

Set yourself up for a one week mini-project. Get a small notebook that will easily fit into purse or pocket and then trade out your fancy wristwatch for a good old-fashioned Timex with a stopwatch. Now start timing yourself. Be natural as you go through the week, not making big sweeping changes so you look better on the paper.

Log each activity (in exact minutes) as you proceed through your day. For example:

  • Showering and dressing for work: 45 minutes
  • Looking for keys and files for morning presentation: 8 minutes
  • Trip to Starbucks: 17 minutes
  • Morning commute: 25 minutes
  • Checking and answering email: 19 minutes

Continue making notes in your log. A tad tedious perhaps, but the information is invaluable. You’ll gain some surprising insight into how much time you have and where you’re spending it. Don’t forget to log eating, TV watching, and sleeping. Track it—all of it.

4. Be Specific

Don’t guess—we always estimate in our favor and we’re usually off by quite a wide margin. Remember, your mission is not to see how fast you plow through your activities of daily living. This isn’t a race. It is an opportunity for you to start to conceptualize the amount of time you have, and how you are choosing to use it.

5. Analyze the Data

Add up the minutes spent in each category and assess. You may be surprised to find out that in a typical day you spend two hours actually working, forty-five minutes taking a shower, and ninety accumulated minutes doing internet “research.” Highlight trouble areas.

6. Don’t Squander Resources

When people complain about not having enough time, the issue (usually) is not that they are so busy, but that they use their time so badly. Take the data from a typical week and multiply it by fifty-two to get an annual estimate. Think about the minutes you’re spending on non-essentials—what could you accomplish with that time over the course of a year?

For example, do you keep telling your mom you don’t have time to meet for lunch? Think about it: a standard lunch date, even with transportation included, is of one-and-a-half hours at max. About the same as the three worthless reality-TV shows you watched last week because there was “nothing better on,” or six nights of fifteen extra Facebook minutes before bed.

7. Make the Right Choices

Undoubtedly you are starting to realize that the issue is not time-poverty, but misplaced priorities. If you don’t have time for an activity or endeavor, it’s because you’ve chosen to spend that time elsewhere. The trick is not to try to multi-task more tasks or even work faster, but to clarify your priorities and make better choices.

8. Tighten Your Belt

We hate boundaries, but savvy time-spenders know that there’s freedom in the fences. That means putting some limits on the major minute munchers.

Tips for Minimizing Minute Loss

  • Confine your use of social media to 2-3 times per day. Set a limit on those sessions.
  • Disable Facebook and Twitter updates on your phone.
  • Set up an email schedule. Log in for 2-3 sessions per day. The world can wait, trust me.
  • Assess your TV watching schedule and weigh it in light of other leisure activities—pick one or two programs you can’t live without and spend the saved time on coffee with friends or those trips to the gym you can never squeeze it.
  • Save video games for a special reward, say after you’ve finished the presentation or cleaning the bathroom.

Conclusion

For some, it will be as though they’ve just been asked to amputate their own limb. But here’s the reality: time is a limited commodity and you make the choices. In three years do you want to boast great strides towards your life goals, or be able to say you saw every Lady Gaga tweet the moment it was released?

Raise the bar on yourself and on your level of discipline—no one can do this for you. Visualizing clear goals will help you to stay on track when you have that overwhelming urge to tweet your latest brainwave. Trust me, the world can probably live without it—stay on task.

How you choose to appropriate your most precious resource is a decision you make—no one is a victim to some nebulous, time-stealing monster. We all have the same 1,440 minutes to work with each day. How do you choose to get a better return on yours?

Tell us how do you practice time management. Got tips?

Photo by epSos.de.


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Jacki Christopher is a writer, translator and language instructor. When she's not working on an article, she's studying and writing about Mexican culture and current affairs, training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or baking. She travels as much as her budget allows, but Philadelphia is home.
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Discussion

  1. Mr Writing III on the 21st September

    Great article. Time is a lot like money – it will be spent somehow and without a plan you’ll just end up wondering where it went and complain you need more. : )

  2. Andreas on the 21st September

    Well written article. I really need to follow those tips and start tracking my time and be strict about it. Like you write, if you don’t know exactly what you are spending your time on, it’s easy to waste lots of precious time on things which really aren’t that important in the long run.

    I’d also suggest using apps like TinyAlarm (http://plumamazing.com/mac/tinyalarm/) to limit the amount of time you spend on different tasks while in front of the computer.

  3. ashley on the 25th September

    It’s Office Space, not The Office I think…
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0151804/

    I just spent 1 minute correcting you, I should have read the article instead…

    • That guy on the 26th September

      Its the first thing I picked up on aswell! I need to go into “corrective management” mode to, methinks…

    • Pooja Lohana on the 27th September

      Thanks for that, Ashley and That guy

      -
      Pooja

  4. Victoria on the 26th September

    Great article! I used to spent whole days doing smth and then realizing I was wasting my time on small unimportant things. Time tracking brought me back “on track”. That is why a small notebook did not represent the the sufficient tool. I needed to track my time and then see the visual representation of my day – what I spent time on, how much time I spent on each task. So now I am using an iPhone app http://itunes.apple.com/de/app/timemate-zeiterfassung/id448126495?mt=8 and can totally recommend it.

  5. Steve on the 26th September

    The one hundred day system advocates a lot of this, I think you guys featured it about 9 months ago on here?

    http://www.100daysystem.co.uk or http://www.slideshare.net/stevenfeeney/100-day-system-where-creativity-and-productivity-collide

  6. Timo Kiander on the 27th September

    Great stuff!

    Time logging has the same effect than when changing your diet.

    First, when you go to meet the nutritionist, he/she will ask you to keep a food diary. You may be thinking, that of course you know what you are eating.

    However, once you have the snacks, meals and all that on paper (what you eat on daily basis), only then you start to realize your nutritional habits.

    The same it is with time logging and time management. Once you actually see how you are spending your time, you are hopefully willing to do some changes (for the better).

    It’s an eye opener.

    Cheers,
    Timo

  7. Lenka on the 6th October

    Great post! :)
    I personally think that planning is the key to success – feel free to look at my blog (http://randomshooting.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/time-is-money-manage-it-effectively/) if you are interested in reading more :)

  8. Priacta on the 27th October

    Very well said Jack! We need to raise the bar on ourselves and on our level of discipline; no body else can do this for us. Only we can figure out what could be the best use of our time. Playing games with kids, meeting with a long lost childhood friend or working on and completing an office presentation on a Sunday morning so that one can spend the remaining day till late, stress free with family. The same task may be a waste of time for one while a top priority job for another. It’s not an absolute world. Another idea is to have a mentor; could be a family member, your manager or a colleague. It’ll make things easy for you as you’ll be constantly reminded of how to make the best use of your time.

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