I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date
- White Rabbit, “Alice in Wonderland”
Feeling a bit like the White Rabbit these days? Always running but never catching up? Each of us, including the rabbit, has 24 hours in a day. No act of Congress or of any other earthly power can change that. We can change, though, what we do with that time. The first step in getting more time in your life is becoming aware of how you are spending your time currently.
A time diary can help you discover why you feel you’re being cheated out of your share of precious time. This kind of diary can be used for a month, a week, or for as little as two days. No matter how long you use it to record activities, you’ll begin to pick up patterns about how you use your time.
The time diary breaks down your day into one hour increments, making it easy to record where your time goes. To make a diary, simply draw a chart with the hours of the day written on the left hand side. List the tasks you must do (personal hygiene, exercise, work projects, commuting, recreation, etc.) across the top. Every time you spend time doing something within those categories, place a check mark in the appropriate box.
This diary will help you to see whether or not you are a “focused” worker at the office, someone who works on one project and one project only until it is completed because only one of your projects has check marks in its block.
If, however, you have made check marks in the blocks under several different projects, you are most likely a “grazer,” a worker who is less structured.
Both of these ways of working are fine, but it is important to know which one you use.
Focused workers function best with a structured time schedule: “from 9 to 10 a.m., I will return phone calls; from 10 to 11 a.m., I will work on the Grason project...” and so on.
Grazers, on the other hand, hate that kind of structure. They prefer a weekly or even monthly goal to an hourly one. One of the simple ways to help grazers complete projects (because this may be an issue for them) is to make a chart listing all their projects. Each time a task is done for a project or progress is made toward completion, an “x” is jotted down next to that project name. This allows grazers to see what kind of progress is being made on each of their projects, prompting them to spend more time on those which are not moving forward.
How do you spend your time?
If this type of time management strikes you as a little abstract, it really isn’t. What time management really comes down to, bottom line, is asking the question: Looking back over the past week, how do you feel about the time you spent? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment? Do you feel you were running in place, dodging arrows all week and you didn’t do any of what you really wanted to do? Or do you feel happy about what you’ve done and look forward to the next week?
Regardless of what your work habits are, you should feel good about how you spend your time each week. If you don’t, it could be that you are not spending your time the way you really want to.
How many times last week did you say, “I don’t have time to do that?” Is that really true (be honest) or was “that” just not a high enough priority for you or not worth the scheduling changes it required? (The next time someone tells you that "I don’t have time to do that,” what they are really saying is “that’s not a high enough priority for me.”)
Keep in mind that YOU set your own schedule even if you feel like you don’t. Since you are responsible for how your time is spent, take the time you need to set your priorities, and then make sure you leave time in your schedule for those things that are important to you.
If you choose not to set priorities and goals for yourself, others will be glad to set them for you, something you really don’t want. When other people begin telling you what to do with your time, it’s only natural to feel like your life is out of control. The reality is that your life is out of your control.
Naturally, there are times when we willingly place control for our time in someone else’s hands. But if we do that too often, the feelings of being out-of-control and overwhelmed begin to take over.
To rid yourself of those negative feelings, begin to set your own priorities now and stick to them as best you can. If these priorities are based on your personal goals, you’ll find you can achieve more in your life than you ever thought.
Decide today where you want to be in your life and what your priorities must be to get there. You’ll not only accomplish your goals, you’ll be able to look back over each week with feelings of joy and peace of mind, the worthiest goals of all.
By Sylvia Kirks McClintick
Sylvia Kirks McClintick is a professional organizer and owner of Organized Chaos. She offers coaching via telephone and e-mail throughout the country. Organized Chaos offers a free needs assessment to get you started. Check out Organized Chaos at www.TameTheChaos.com. Sylvia may be contacted at 336-548-4646 or 1-888-TO-CHAOS. Organized chaos has been in business since 1992.