Not Enough Hours in the Day?

April 15, 2008

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Finding more time in the day may be impossible, but managing what we do during that time may be easier than moving the heavens. So here are five tips to help you better self-manage.

Twenty-four hours just doesn't seem to last as long as it once did. In fact, for many of us, even the prospect of a 26-hour day still seems too short. Stuff is bouncing around in our heads and causing untold stress and anxiety. What's worse is that we're too neurotic to stop thinking about it, and we certainly don't have time to actually do everything in one day.

For many, work no longer has clear boundaries.

The 2nd annual Staples National Small-Business Survey earlier this year revealed that 98 percent of small-business owners and managers in the United States are working during their time off, including nights, weekends and vacations. And it's inescapable — even while we sleep. More than half of those surveyed by Staples said they "sleepwork," or dream about work.

More entrepreneurs and small-business owners are working harder than ever to grow and build their successful dream business. For many of them, 24-hour workdays six or seven days a week are not out of the norm.

No doubt, working hard is a great trait to have. But unchecked, it can consume entrepreneurs. When that happens, an ambitious and driven worker can turn into a burnt-out workaholic.

Finding or creating more time in the day may be impossible, but managing what we do in that time period may be easier than moving the heavens.

"If it was just a matter of time, simply using a calendar and a watch would handle it," writes David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, at Success magazine. "While a clock or calendar can give you a measure of control, it won't provide the larger perspective needed for greater success — self management.

"The savvy know self-management is really an issue of what we do with ourselves during the time we have," Allen continues. "Self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment."

So here are five tips to help you better self-manage.

Write it Down Each day, have a written plan based on priorities and goals. But do not try to keep it in your head.

"Get into the habit of writing things to do down using one tool (a Day-Timer, pad of paper, Palm Pilot, etc.)," Dr. Donald Wetmore, creator of the Productivity Institute, suggests in his Ten Time Savers. "Your mind is best used for the big picture rather than all the details."

Having the tasks you hope to manage written on paper can help you to measure the tasks — and more easily remember all that you need to accomplish.

Prioritize Tasks Accept that you may not get everything done, and prioritize. Some tasks are "crucial" and some tasks are "not crucial." We tend to gravitate to the "not crucial" items because they are often quicker, easier and more fun to do.

"Set priorities based on 'high-payoff' activities," writes Paul J. Meyer, founder of Success Motivation International, Inc., at Success magazine.

Carefully identify priorities and use them as a basis for making decisions, labeling the most important task as "1," the second most important as "2" and so on. Then tackle your items in the order of importance, doing the most important items first.

When you sit down to work in the morning, consider spending an hour on the most important thing on your to-do list. Do this before you even check your e-mail. This works best if you organize the night before, so when you sit down to work you already know what your most important task of the day is.

Plan in Advance Dr. Wetmore suggests planning tomorrow today. If you do not wait until you get to the office to plan your day, you will be that much further ahead. "Take the time each night to take control of the most precious resource at your command: the next 24 hours," he writes at PowerHomeBiz.com, a small-biz Web site. "Plan your work and then work your plan each day."

Don't procrastinate even a day. "The most effective planning in the world does not substitute for doing what needs to be done," Wetmore continues.

Delegate Tasks Delegation permits you to leverage your time through others and thereby increase your own results.

The hardest part of delegation — particularly for entrepreneurs and small-business owners — is simply letting go. Most of us take pride in doing things ourselves, and entrepreneurs often face a more daunting question: "If I pass off this task to an employee and it's not done well, then will my business go under?"

Every night, look at all that you have to do and want to do the next day and with each item ask yourself, "Is this the best use of my time?" If it is, do it. If it isn't, try to arrange a way to delegate it to someone else.

Sleep Your personal health can only take so much of a hit before your body and mind betray you. Studies show that nearly three-quarters of us complain on a regular basis, all throughout our days, that we are flat-out tired. As such, days are filled with more stress than is necessary and we end up working harder and longer rather than smarter.

There are only 168 hours each week, but you need to factor in time for not only some personal time but also for sleep. "You can have a great to-do list for your next day, but if you are tired, your productivity will be adversely impacted," says Wetmore. The amount is different for each of us. Your body knows the answer.

"If you plan your day and then work your plan, you will get more done, feel a higher sense of accomplishment and experience less stress and enjoy a more restful night's sleep," Wetmore writes in Top Five Time Management Mistakes.

Although we cannot change the number of hours there are in a day, we can manage how effective we are during those hours. The effectiveness of activities in each hour of the day — as opposed to the number of hours we work — determine the results we accomplish.

Resources

Staples Small-Business Survey Reveals People are Constantly Working, Even While They Sleep Staples, Inc., Jan. 3, 2008

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen Penguin Group USA, January 2001

It's Not about Time by David Allen Success Magazine

Ten Time Savers by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore The Productivity Institute

Some Time Savers by Dr. Donald Wetmore PowerHomeBiz.com

Top Five Time Management Mistakes by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore The Productivity Institute

Managing Your Time Well by Paul J. Meyer Success Magazine

Additional:

Top Five Best Time Management Practices by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

Time Management in a Multitasking World by Penelope Trunk Brazen Careerist, Dec. 10, 2006

Getting Started with 'Getting Things Done' by Merlin Mann 43 Folders, Sept. 8, 2004

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