Time Management Exercises to Align Your Life with Your Priorities

These time management exercises enable you to weave a life that aligns with your priorities. They do this by

  1. beginning with end in mind
  2. focusing your attention on those things that matter most to you, your family, or your company.
  3. encouraging you to reduce the misalignment between the day-to-day and what matters most to you in the long term.

William Moulton Marsden once eloquently said:

"Realize what you really want. It stops you from chasing butterflies and puts you to work digging gold."

The modern world of work can often mean that we are juggling 10 different things and that our attention is grabbed by who shouts loudest, most often, or has the tightest deadline.

This can mean that the vital few are at the mercy of the trivial many!

You don't want to spend your day, your week, or your life, climbing the ladder only to get to the top and realize that it is leaning against the wrong building.

In other words you want to ensure you are heading in the right direction before you put your head down.

As Stephen Covey in his bestseller 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' reflects in habit #2 that to this we need to "Begin with the end in mind”

Exercise #1: Begin with the end in mind

time management exercises

Effective time management encourages you to align your life with your priorities to ensure that you are spending your time on what is most important to you.

The surest way to do this is to have a long-term vision that is aligned with your values. Then to set goals and actions to achieve these goals which are aligned to what matters most to you.

Or to put more formally, have an annual plan that filters into your quarterly check-ins, and your weekly planning.

Annual planning exercise

By developing an annual plan of the things that you want to achieve you are making a declaration of your intentions for the next 12 months.

Why is this important?

Because clearer your intentions the better and more likely you are to achieve the result. This is because you are making a commitment to yourself (and to others?). This time management exercise is carried out on the annual planning worksheet in which you clarify your intentions for the next 12 months

Download several of these time management worksheets (PDF file).

Use one worksheet for each yearly goal.

What do you want to achieve...what type of person do you want to be? Personal goal setting creates the bridge between today's vision and tomorrow's reality.

For each worksheet you clarify your value, the goal that is aligned with this value, and the five actions to support this goal. To set clear goals the best way is to use SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Exercise #2: Quarterly check-ins on your annual targets

Just as a business checks-in on a quarterly basis, so should you! But rather than doing a quarterly business review, check-in on how you are progressing towards your goals.

Ask yourself how much time you need to devote over the next quarter to move your goals forward? What would success look like in the next quarter?

time management exercises

Now that you have written your goals and actions that support your annual goals it is now important to set quarterly goals. These quarterly targets are some of those actions that support your annual planning goals.

Download this time management exercise to set quarterly targets (PDF file).

Like the annual planning here you are bring your SMART goals down to the quarterly level.Try to be specific about what your time commitments are to achieve these quarterly targets. What is holding you back? Ask yourself how you can aid yourself in moving forward?

Why is the quarterly check-in important?

The quarterly check-in is important as you are getting feedback on how you are traveling, and reviewing what is working and what is not working.

My clients find that the quarterly check-in, done once every 3 months, takes 20-30 minutes and is a very useful tool.

Time management exercises #3: Align your day-to-day with quarterly targets

The first two time management exercises take the big picture view by conducting an annual planning session in which you make a declaration of your intentions for the next 12 months.

This is then reviewed and your goals are tracked on a quarterly basis with the quarterly check-in.

The single act of protecting your big rocks in this time management article could dramatically increase your productivity on those key projects that matter most to you.

But to ensure that you are building habits of effective time management you need to create the link between quarterly check-in and weekly planning.

By planning what is important and scheduling the hours into your weekly planner you are ensuring that you are getting traction on your most important projects.

To make your weekly planner successful for you please look at these notes on developing a time management schedule that enables you to close the loop on this plan, act, and review process.

If you are still overwhelmed with what you have to do then it may be important to diagnose your time management problems and find out what is going on. To do this you can:

If you liked these time management exercises then you are likely to like these time management activities.

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