Effective time management is about working smarter in the right direction - the direction of your highest priorities.
The problem is that just because you organize a great schedule the demands on your time will not cease.
Challenges abound in workplaces, families, colleges and in every online space. We have to get good at dealing with these conflicts of interest.
What about when the demand comes from your manager? Your sister, partner or child?
What about when the culture of your workplace is easy going and dropping everything to help a colleague is de rigueur?
Saying no to something is an art form in itself – so much of our self-image and ambition can be tied up with being the kind of person who says yes.
But at what cost……?
There are a few simple principles to help you when the urge to say “yes” is about to undermine your goals.
Our defences start with a great plan.
As Winston Churchill said:
"Failing to plan is planning to fail"
A long term plan for your goals arms you with a shield to protect you from giving in to other demands.
A visible and clearly stated long term plan keeps your wanted outcomes at front of mind. When new demands on your time arise you simply consult your long term plan and consider the impact of agreeing to take on more. You can then weigh up whether it is worth consenting to something that will rob you of time on your primary goals.
One of the most common goal setting mistakes is to set a deadline without setting a schedule.
Setting a great plan gets you off to a good start but without equally great time allocation there is every chance your great plan will remain just that - a great plan.
Use your 90 day Time Management Plan to map out your goals and your anticipated time-spend.
You can use your plan to share your priorities with key people who want your time – Your scheduling maintains a constant reality check on your time and foregrounds the impact of taking on new things on your current commitments. From there it is simply a numbers game - if you have a time commitment of 2 hours to work on your primary goal - then allocating that same 2 hours to something else will set you back on your key outcome.
Be your own gatekeeper and be a strong one. Saying no early can save you the anxiety of indecision and is key for effective time management.
Keep in mind your highest priorities - weigh incoming demands on your time against your own values and priorities -make this a habit when you are approached to take on something new.
If in doubt or you are being heavily pressured, remove yourself and delay your response so that you can do the weigh up exercise – sometimes “I’ll get back to you” gives you the time you need to assess.
Music teachers often suggest that real accomplishment is about the ability to "have flexibility on firm ground”. The music has a written form or plan but the musical achievement is created through sensitive interpretation. No two renderings of the same composition sound exactly the same. Setting achievable and successful goals and schedules is about recognising that success lies in staying with the plan unless changes in circumstances make the plan less relevant or that veering from the plan might lead to a better outcome.
Thus the key to setting and achieving goals is to be clear on what you are going for and how you are going to get it (in terms of your time allocation) but the key here is to be flexible. Trying to achieve an impossibly rigid plan can lead to disillusionment and the chance of just giving up on the whole thing - or worse missing out on better options because we are so fixed on our initial plan.
It is far preferable to recognise that life has a habit of throwing curve balls and we need to flex and adjust often. Effective time management is thus about being firm but flexible.
While committed to your course sometimes the new demand might actually outweigh your prior plan – the key here is to do the weigh-up. Sometimes unexpected opportunities arise and while we need to be disciplined in our responses, it would be a pity to miss out on better options because we are too wedded to a prior plan.
Being "on firm ground” means remembering it is okay for you to have and respect your own goals and commitments. Having flexibility means being open to reviewing your planning and scheduling to make sure it is still relevant and leading to your most important outcomes.
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