A key component of conquering your stress is learning how to use your time more efficiently. I specifically use the word efficiently instead of productively because I don’t believe that we always need to produce something in order to manage our time to the best of our ability. Efficient use of time is using it to meet your values-based goals for the day.
For example, imagine that you had three major goals for today; go to your early morning exercise class, go to work, and pay your bills. If you accomplish those three goals you’ve used your time efficiently today. Any leftover time that you have can be used any way you wish. You don’t have to produce anything during the remaining time. You could watch television, check your social media accounts, or go out for a drink with a friend and not feel stressed about wasting those hours instead of being productive.
Efficient Time Management is a Three Step Process
Step 1: Setting Values-Based Goals
Because efficient time management revolves around meeting your values-based goals you need to determine what those are those before starting any time management plan. This is why I discussed goal setting and values in my previous columns. Please refer to my previous columns for information on this (Columns 20, 24, 25).
Step 2: Assessing Current Use of Time
If I wanted to assess your current use of time I could ask you to close your eyes and describe a typical day. I’m sure that you’d paint a pretty accurate picture of how you use your time but it wouldn’t have the same impact as actually seeing how you use every hour on paper. This is why I use a 24 hour time journal as a tool for helping people get the most accurate picture possible of how they use their time. The visual effect of seeing a 24 hour day broken down in 48, thirty minute segments is very powerful. I’ve found that actually seeing how you use your time compared to describing it with words is much more powerful. In addition, only you can determine if those 48 chunks of time were used efficiently. The following exercise, My Personal Time Journal will help you do this.
My Personal Time Journal
- Begin keeping this journal tomorrow.
- Keep the journal at least five days a week for one month (rotate the five days to include weekends and weekdays).
- Keep this in whatever format you desire; electronic, lined paper, etc.
- Fill it in whenever it is convenient for you; as they occur, at the end of the day etc.
- I recommend that you do not let more than a day pass without recording the prior day’s use of time. This will keep the details of it from blurring.
- Each line in you journal represents one, 30-minute segment of your day.
- Put your name and the date at the top of each page or 24-hour period.
- The “Efficient y/n” column refers to whether or not you used that time segment efficiently (yes) or inefficiently (no) to meet your goals.
- Make sure you fill in all 48 lines (24, 30-minute segments).
- On each line list the activities you engaged in during that time period (sleeping, getting ready for work, waiting for the kid’s school bus etc.).
- If you are engaged in continuous activity (like sleeping) for several 30-minute segments use ditto marks on the lines following your initial notation of the activity.
- Spend 10-15 minutes at the end of each week examining your time journals and assessing where you used your time efficiently and inefficiently. Look for patterns and trends in your use of time.
- At the end of the month answer the following questions related to your personal use of time:
- Did your use of time help or hinder you in meeting your goals for the month?
- Did your use of time contribute to feeling rushed this month?
- Where did you use your time most efficiently?
- Where did you use your time least efficiently?
- Describe 2-3 things you can do to use your time more efficiently.
|6:30am||Woke up, brushed teeth, went for a run||Y|
|7:30am||Showered, ate breakfast, got dressed||“|
|8:00am||Drove to work||“|
|9:00am||Going through e-mail at work||“|
|9:30am||In a meeting||“|
|11:00am||Working on a project||“|
|1:30pm||Working on a project||Y|
|3:00pm||Meeting with client||Y|
|7:00pm||eat dinner with wife and kids||Y|
|8:00pm||watch television with family||Y|
|11:00pm||went to sleep||Y|
The information gleaned from your Time Journal is the raw data you will use in Step 3, using your time more efficiently.
Step 3: Change the Way You Use Time Inefficiently
The third and final step of efficient time management is taking action to change the way you use your time inefficiently. In this step you take the data you collected about your personal use of time and identify areas where you use your time least efficiently. You then apply new skills for efficient time use. In the next couple of columns I’ll share a couple of my favorite Time Management exercises designed to help you use your time more efficiently.
In the meantime remember to Stress Less and Live More.