Time Management Tools

There are many good systems out there for managing time and projects. Many people start with one type then, as their needs or commitment levels change, they gradually gravitate to a different system. It isn't about the system, per se; it's that you are willing to use it and that it works for you.
Some of the better known self-management systems are the portable paper-based ones. These include The Franklin Day Planner, Day Runner, At-A-Glance, and dozens more. These multifaceted systems come in a variety of sizes and styles and can be found online and at most office supply and other large chain stores.

Another option you can choose is the desk or wall-mount calendar. Use it to outline and track your daily actions and appointments. They come in monthly, yearly, or fill-in-the-blank versions and can be found in office supply stores or online.

There is also a variety of computer software, time management systems. These can be found online (do a search for "project management systems" or "time management systems" as examples), or check your nearest office supply store. These systems are fairly easy to use and often have reminder elements,which you can set up for upcoming events or appointments.

Among the many self-management tool options available, there are great electronic tools, such as the Palm Pilot and the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) that have helped countless people successfully manage all kinds of time-related plans. You can find these at any quality office supply store, or online.

Here are a few other tools that can help you to successfully manage time. They may seem different or a bit more unconventional than you're used to, but don't dismiss them without first seeing if they work for you.

1. New habits don't just happen; they evolve over time. But, they can also be created consciously and intentionally. There's a vitally productive tool known as the 21-day rule. Studies show it takes 21 days of consistent repetition to create and cement a new habit. It takes persistence and commitment to do this, but it's doable. If you really want to make changes in your skill level for managing time, be diligent with this rule. Practice, practice, practice!

Exercise 1.

What is one new habit that would help you be more effective in your daily life? It could be either work-related or something that would help you manage your home life. Choose something that will make a qualitative difference for you. Write it down.





Now, what action steps will it take to start creating that habit and putting it into a place in your life? What will you do to ensure that it becomes part of your daily routine? Write that down now.




2. Make time to envision the results you want. Remember to dream! Write these dream projects down and keep your list on hand. Refer to it regularly to keep a clear picture of them in your mind. You want to keep focused on the result you want to attain as you manage the to-do's to get there.
3. Take notes – at meetings, during, and after phone calls. You can't count on being able to retain something critical that you will need later, so take steps to head off that impending disaster. Put your notes on paper, or in your electronic management system, or computer. Then, plan whatever necessary actions you need to take, based on those notes, and put them into your daily list or calendar.

4. Periodically review your activities, calendar, appointments, etc. Are there ways to fine-tune the activities, so as to spend less time on them and take more effective action? What other actions could you be taking?

This is something professional sports players do after every game, to help
improve their skills. All kinds of successful people do this too!

5. Before traveling, plan ahead. What supplies will you need to take with you (papers, computer discs, zip or flash drives, or others)? Create a list of all the things you'll need, then check off each one, as you pack it.

Exercise 2.

What kinds of things do you have to do, or actionsdo you have to take, to prepare for a trip?

If you travel regularly for business, or even take occasional trips with your family, there is a routine you use that gets you ready to leave. Think about what that is.

Include things like:

· Put a vacation stop on the newspaper.

· Put a notice in to stop the mail.

· Take the trash out.

· Pick up dry cleaning.

· Change the message on your voice mail and answering machine.

There are myriad little things you have to manage to finally be ready to walk out the door for your trip, no matter how short a trip it may be.

Write these down now.

1. _____

2. _____

3. _____

4. _____

5. _____

6. _____

7. _____

8. _____

9. _____

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Time Management course?

10. _____

11. _____

12. _______

This is just the beginning of a list you will want to create and use regularly. Continue working on this to beef it up. Print out a copy when you start preparing for your next trip. Check off each item as you complete it. You'll be amazed at how much more smoothly preparing for travel will be.

Tools and systems are only as good as the person who uses them regularly. Find one or several that work for you, and you'll use them. Then, practice using them every day, or at least during the work week. Remember, you aren't tied to your system. It's a tool that you will use to get more done and to make more time for things that matter to you.
And What Else?

Becoming a time management expert is not an overnight action. It's a long-term process that requires diligence and regularly committed practice. As with any skills, the more you practice, the more expertise you gain. Mastery, on the other hand, needs to be viewed with an eye for the larger picture. It comes by taking regular, consistent, small committed steps over an extended time frame.

Here's an idea that's both different and enjoyable. Schedule mini-vacations for yourself during the day. If you've never done this, try it. If your calendar or schedule tends to run your day, write vacation on your scheduling calendar somewhere for a half-hour, or during your lunch hour. Then, operate as if you really are on a vacation during that time. Don't answer your phone. Don't return email. Don't do any have-toduring that time. See how this makes you feel!

Chances are you'll find yourself with more energy, a boosted spirit, and lightness in your step. For those of us who work too many hours each day, practicing this simple step can be a real blessing in an otherwise hectic day.

If you work from home, set an ending time for your work day and stick to it, as much as possible. It's easy to just keep working when you don't have a clock to punch. But that can take a toll on you that you might not even notice, until it's too late. Working fairly regular hours (there areexceptions) helps keep us balanced and productive. You can look forward to leaving the office and getting on with the rest of your life!

Look for ways to de-stress.

· Take regular breaks. Most of us don't, not even for lunch! A new report shows that 75 percent of the people eat lunch at their desks at least 2 to 3 times a week! Make a change! Get away from that desk, at least for a half-hour each day. Do this, even if it's to go somewhere else in your office or home to sit and have lunch. A change of view can give you a change of perspective when you need it.

· Schedule some quiet time each day. It may be hard at first, but you'll see the benefit right away.

· Take time to smile! This sounds corny but the more smile time you have, the better the day seems, and the more productive you can be, too.

Take time to rest and relax. That may mean sitting quietly and meditating, reading a book for half an hour, or just staring out a window at a sunset. We all need to recharge regularly. It's really okay to do nothing for a little while each day, even though most of us are raised to feel that we have to be productive every minute or we're doing it wrong. Sometimes our minds work on a problem when we're not focusing on it and the result is often a brilliant solution. Give yourself some of that time.

Also, make sure you have a support network. Whether you're a 9-to-5-er or you run a household, support is crucial. Without support, we get stuck and we may stay there too long. A strong support network can help us see the larger picture. It can be the lifeline we need to find solutions when we see only problems.

Plan for downtime on airplanes. Instead of working straight through, like many of us do, try using the time for creative mental or visionary work. Is there a project looming ahead, or one that you haven't had time for? Use the travel time to begin the vision process. Take a small notebook with you to jot down notes and action steps which you'll take in a specified time frame. Don't forget to do that! Leave room for spontaneity and fun. Just because you're busy doesn't mean you can't play! Have you ever noticed how dogs or cats will play at a moments notice? They know the value of fun in life. It's we humans who have trouble remembering that. Here's a statement to live by:

There's always time for fun. You just have to remember to make the time.

Keep your sense of humor! If you can laugh at yourself, things look a lot easier to manage, and they'll go more smoothly, too. When we can laugh, regardless of the circumstances or pressures around us, it's as if we take a small break and breathe a deep breath. It's a healthy thing to do, and often!

As important as anything else, be sure to leave room for the unexpected. Just because you've planned out what has to be done and how you're going to do it, doesn't mean that's how it's going to go. Sometimes things go sideways, and that ends up as being the best thing that could have happened! If there's a monkey wrench in the plans, take a hard look at it, instead of getting upset. Is there a silver lining there, that you can spot, and turn it into something wonderful? Chances are that if you look, you'll find it.

As you've seen, successfully managing time is more than creating to-do lists. That's a component of it, but it's MUCH bigger than that. Let's do a short review.

1. Everything has a place – at home or work. Decide what and where, and then be vigilant about putting things where they belong. Cut the clutter!

2. Beliefs can drive us to success or stop our actions. Make that voice in your head your ally.

3. Try to operate by your values. When you miss, see how to correct and get back on track.

4. Identify and clarify your goals. Then, see what the smaller steps are that will help you achieve them.

5. Get stuff out of your head and down on paper or on your electronic system.

6. Work with to-do's in time, and be specific.

7. Define and prioritize your ABC's.

8. Do it now! Procrastination depletes your energy and focus. It just wastes precious time that you could spend doing something fun!

9. Slow down your pace. Focus fully. You'll get more done.

10. Put you on your list. Be flexible for the unexpected.

11. Make time to dream, and then see what actions you can take to make your dreams happen. You deserve it!

12. Look to see how you can work smarter.

13. Do those time- or energy-intensive tasks during that time of day when you're most productive. It just makes sense, and you'll get a lot more done that way.

14. Get enough rest! You'll be more productive and focused.

15. Pay attention to nutrition. What you eat, and how often, affects your productivity and well-being.

16. Have "Exercise Equals Fun" be a phrase to live by. Practice it regularly.

17. Help yourself stay organized.

18. Make sure to set up rewards that will keep you on the ball. It's a lot more fun to achieve your goals that way.

19. Go beyond your limits. See how you can stretch yourself to achieve without becoming overwhelmed.

20. Make sure you have enough time to accomplish each project or task.

21. Manage the details or you can easily get derailed.

22. If you're part of a team, be sure there's clear, detailed, and complete communication. Keep everybody informed.

23. Don't multitask everything! Focus, and great results can be obtained by giving things your undivided attention. Try it and see!

24. Sometimes, it's okay to say no. We all need time to recharge.

25. Delegate when possible and learn to ask for help when you need it.

26. Find ways to autopilot repetitive tasks for efficiency.

27. See where you can eliminate those lines (queues} that waste your time.

28. Look for more balance in life. What can you do differently to avoid putting up with annoying little things?

29. Make time for friends and family. Everyone will appreciate it.

30. Find a good self-management system. There are a variety of them. Pick one and use it regularly!

31. Practice the "21-day rule." Create good habits that support accomplishment of your goals.

32. Make time to envision your goals and dreams. Keep them in front of you so you know where you want to go.

33. Organize and prepare ahead for trips. You'll leave behind fewer things that you need..

34. Schedule a mini-vacation during the day. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes!

35. Set an ending time for your work day and do your best to stick to it on a regular basis. That's another tool to create more balance and more time for fun.

36. Take breaks during the day. Find ways to de-stress.

37. Create and use a support network. We all need them.

38. Use travel time for creativity, rather than the usual work. It's a good time for envisioning those dreams.

39. Leave time for spontaneity and fun. And keep your sense of humor!

40. Allow for the unexpected to happen. Even if you don't think so, it could be a surprise bonanza in a different way.

Perhaps all of these sessions, all the planning, organizing, managing details -- everything -- all comes down to these simple truths.

True time management begins with and encompasses vision, clarity, identification of goals, and benchmarks, outlining the overall (or team) strategy, marshaling the important and necessary resources, and taking all the critical steps to ensure success. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Like most things in life, it is simple, once you know how to do it.

Now it's up to you. What are you going to do with all this information? It could easily become just another program, another seminar, or training course you took. Or, it could be the start for you to redefine yourself and your skills – the beginning of your diving in and really accomplishing something big time. So what will you do next?

One last exercise

Write down three actions you'll take within the next 24 to 48 hours (no more than that) . What will you do that will make a difference in a current project, or at home, or to help you begin creating that dream you've put off, maybe for years now? Be specific. It's your chance to do something different for yourself.

Write it down.




Congratulations. You've just made a commitment to do something for yourself. Keep up the great work. And, have fun along the way!