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Time Management: Establishing Goals and Benchmarks
 
 
Time Management: Establishing Goals and Benchmarks
What do you need to get done? What do you want to accomplish? These two questions aren't always the same.

Setting benchmarks and goals are a strategic part of managing time and being successful.
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Time Management.

Before you can start setting goals, it's important to first identify the things that you don't want. Clearing that away will start to reveal what you really do want or need to achieve your goals.

Exercise:

Make a list of the things that you don't want to have, the things that you complain about in your life. Try some of the following topics for starters:

· I don't have enough money.

· I can't stand my job.

· I don't have enough time to do things I enjoy.

· I never get to __________ anymore (whatever it is).

· I'm lonely.

· I don't have friends I can hang out with.

There are plenty more from where these came. See what you can come up with. You definitely have permission to complain here!

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2. _____

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Now take a look at what you've written. Do you see any patterns? Are you beginning to see some goals you'd really like to achieve? If you aren't, go back and try turning the complaint around, into something positive, and see what you get.

Goals often stem from complaints. Sometimes, we just don't realize it.

So let's start focusing on the goals you want to reach. Be specific in articulating your goals. Saying, "I want to earn more money," won't get you there. Instead try something like, "I want to reach $20,000 in sales so that I qualify for the quarterly bonus." See the difference?

The more specific your goals are, the more easily they can be achieved. Now, you can begin to see what steps you need to take, or benchmarks you need to set, to help you reach the larger goal.

Suppose your ultimate goal is to have more free time. How would that translate into a specific goal? Perhaps it would be, "I want to coach my kid's soccer team." Alright, now what are the interim benchmarks you would need to set so that you would have the free time to do that?

This might mean organizing yourself so that you delegate certain responsibilities, be they at work or at home. It also could mean that you set a goal to stop work on Tuesday and Thursday at 3:30 P.M. so you can be at soccer practice later. Are you beginning to see how this works?

You want to set goals you can reach, goals that are attainable. Setting goals based on what you need, versus what can be done, is a prescription for failure.

Exercise:

Think about goals that you'd like to achieve. They can be work- or home-related -- your choice. They must be achievable, even if they are a stretch for you. Be as specific as possible.

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Take another look at the goals you have written. Are they specific enough, or do they need to be refined?

Now list the benchmarks or steps you need to achieve, in order for you to reach those goals. Make them real and quantifiable. Use the formula:
"In order to (fill in your goal), I will first (list the steps or benchmarks you have to take)."

Remember, the more specific your steps are, the more easily you will reach your goals.

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Now go back to both your goals and your benchmarks and put a time frame on each one. This helps you make the goal real, and it's another step toward achieving those things that matter.

Let's address something we all bump up against – goals that someone else sets for you. Many times we aren't happy about them. We may not even agree that they're the right goals to focus on. If you don't have a choice or a say in the matter, what do you do?

The best solution is to find a way to "own" the goal, to find a way you can make the goal your own. What can you do to bring your best creative self to focus on that goal? What is there about the goal that could get you excited about it, so you can dive fully into it? See how taking that kind of perspective can help boost your enthusiasm and your productivity?

Often, we focus on the "have-to's" without remembering to focus on things that are meaningful in our lives. Then, we wonder why things seem hard, why we're unhappy, or why we just don't have the energy we used to have.

Along with the "have-to's," you want to set some goals that are important to you. They probably will have nothing to do with work and may even seem silly at first, but do it anyway.

Include at least one item on each week's list of goals which is just for you. Something that is important for the quality of your life. Set a time period to achieve that goal.

Plan what actions you can, and will, take every day that will help you achieve that goal, within that time frame.
Prioritizing Your To-Do's

Time seems to be speeding up more every day. With the economy on a roller coaster, or even when it evens out, we experience pressure from all sides to get more done.

With so many "have-to's," the only way to stay on top of everything is to prioritize things. To do that efficiently, you need to write it all down.

A. Write out everything that needs to get done – errands, trips, phone calls, everything. Don't leave anything out. They're all things you do all the time, right? So, put them down so you can really see all of what you do every day.

B. Block out times for things that happen on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc.).

C. Schedule things "in time." As much as, and whenever possible, schedule appointments, call-backs, and meetings. Set phone appointments, as this will save you time, as well as showing others that your time is valuable.

D. Be sure to check things off your list as you complete them. It may seem foolish at first, but you'll quickly see how much you really accomplish. There is also satisfaction in checking something off your list.

E. When it comes to prioritizing, you may know about this, but in case you don't, let's give you the "how-to." You need to define your "ABC's." What's the most important thing that you have to get done? What things are not so crucial, but you want done? What are the, "I would like to do," but it has some flexibility, or there is no real time line?

You want to categorize items like this:

  • "A" is for those things that must get done
  • "B" is for those things that are important, but not critical, and should get done soon.
  • "C" is for those things that are either, "I would like to do," or, "I need to keep this in mind for a short period of time, in case it becomes more important soon."

Be "straight" with yourself when rating things on your list. What are you really going to get done and how much of it, within what time frame? Fooling yourself by putting something as an "A" on your list that you know you won't or can't get done in that time frame depletes energy and creates stress. Set yourself up to win!

If something critical stays on your list for several days, you may need to reevaluate it. Do you need to take other steps first, before you can do it? If so, what are they and what time frame will you do it in?

Exercise 1.

Take a look at what you have to do today, or tomorrow. What are the "have-to's," the "really ought to get done's," and the "would like to but don't really have to as yet." Begin writing them down here. Be as specific as you can.

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25. ______

Now go back through each item and mark the priority or importance of each one with A, B, or C, the way we have discussed.

Go through your list again. Put time frames or specific times (hours, minutes...) allotted for each, next to as many of them as you can. Then, reorganize them below, in order with A's first, then B's, then C's..

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2. _____

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For those items for which you have no specific time frame, you'll want to keep an eye on them over the next few days to see if you can turn them into "in time" action items. If they stay on your list for a week or more, it's time to reevaluate. Are there other actions you need to do first, before you can do the ones on your list? Put those n your list as well, with specific time frames and priorities for each one.


F. Be realistic in your planning and scheduling for the day. Anything else is setting you up to fail.

G. Procrastination is the killer of creativity. It also saps your energy and your sense of accomplishment. If the same thing has been on your list for days, be realistic. Is it something that you're going to do, or something you think you should do? Is it really a "must do," or is it something you can delegate, or team up with someone else, to get it done? If none of these are true, and you really aren't going to do it,take it off the list! It will be a big relief psychologically and you may find you have more energy for the other tasks ahead of you.

H. Schedule a time to review and respond to emails (first thing in themorning is usually the best). Managing your time this way helps to get things done and out of the way.

I. Set up a "tickler" file – an actual file, or on your computer, and set up a reminder system to check it regularly. This way, things don't fall through the cracks or get missed.

J. Whether you work outside the home or not, your day is usually busy with things that need to get done, errands to run, people to talk with, or people to get together with. It's helpful to work with a calendar – put meetings, appointments, etc. on it and check it daily. Get into the habit of not scheduling anything without first checking your schedule – you'll avoid double booking and embarrassment.

K. Have you ever heard the saying, "The faster I go, the longer it takes?"

How can you slow down your pace? It's been documented that when we slow down and focus on what's in front of us, we're more productive and can accomplish almost twice as much!

What can you do to make your "to-do" list easier to get done? (Dovetail, combine...?)

L. Are you putting things on your lists that make your heart sing and your spirit feel lifted? If not, it's time to start!

M. Are you on your list? Make yourself a priority. You're just as important as about anything else on your "have-to" list. Balance means making time for fun, R&R (rest and recuperation), friends, and other good-time things.

N. You aren't tied to your lists! They should be flexible, so when something pops up that is either important or fun, you can "plug it in."

Exercise 2.

Write down one thing you've always wanted to make time to do (but never have).

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Now, write down what steps or actions you would have to take to actually have that become part of your life?

Make the action steps specific. It's not, "I'll think about it." It is more like, "I'll call so-and-so and set an appointment for piano lessons." The more specific, the better.

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