As the world gets more and more complex, people, especially someone who is trying to become successful, are asked to do more and more. More time with the family, more time on the job, more time to the community, more time to improve oneself, more time to learn -- more time is needed in every aspect of your life. But we only have the 24 hours of the day, so where do we get "more"? We get more by managing our activity, our actions, and our efforts. Finding ways to do more with the time we are given becomes a necessity, and that need is the guiding force behind time management.
Time management, then, is not the management of time but of our usage of time. Generating more results with less time is the hallmark of effective time management, as is the reduction of wasted time. Whatever we do in our time management practices, our goal is to improve our effectiveness and reduce our waste.
When you look at time management practices through this lens, you can see that there are three levels to time management. Each level is more powerful than the previous level, but each level requires more effort and more commitment than the previous level. Finding the level that works for you creates a strong result; going for the wrong level, either too low or too high, creates a misfit of policy and behavior, and thus reduces the effectiveness.
To Do Lists
The first level of time management is the to-do list. This is where you create a list of tasks to be accomplished in a particular time frame, say a day, and as the task is accomplished it is crossed off the list. Many people do not even do this, going from day to day in a whirlwind of activity that creates no results. If you are just starting, start here. Make sure you write everything down; this has the two benefits of helping you remember and getting the satisfaction of crossing the item off the list.
By creating a daily schedule, you can prioritize your efforts and assign the tasks to their best time. Rather than just picking something off the list, you can work out what must be done and put a certain amount of time to each activity. By scheduling your efforts, you can make yourself more productive. Tools to help you do this are the mainstay of the time management industry, indicating that this is the level of most people.
The third level of time management is to schedule your time blocks based on your goals rather than your tasks. This process means that your activity remains in the realm of the important rather than the urgent, and thus you are even more productive. However, to use this technique you must have done several things first: you must have your goals worked out in detail, you must have your plans in place to accomplish those goals, and you must have a large enough time frame to handle changes. The usual time frame of this technique is by the week rather than by the day. This also requires that you put off the satisfaction of accomplishment until the goal is reached, rather than celebrating the completion of a task. Many people try to use this technique without being properly prepared and thus failing in the effort. Don't use this technique until you are ready. You will know when, if you really look at yourself.