Your hours are filled with important duties, tasks and people. Balancing responsibilities to your business and family, especially in busy seasons, can be a challenge. Of course, you don’t have a typical 8-to-5 job and long hours are often required. But, the first step in time management is to stop making excuses.
“Time management is not about time, we all have the same amount of time,” says Bob Milligan, senior consultant at Dairy Strategies and former Cornell University
professor. “Time management is about setting priorities.”
If you want to make the most out of every hour,consider employing these time-tested tactics.
With proper planning and priorities, you can have it all, says Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author. “The absolute best way to know how to spend your time better is to know how you spend your time now,” she says.
Keep a time log for a week, jotting down what you’re doing as often as possible. “Knowing where the time goes means you can make changes based on accurate data,” she says. “The purpose of a time log is to keep us from telling ourselves stories that aren’t actually true.”
“Time is highly elastic,” Vanderkam explains. “We can’t make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we need to do with it.”
If you want to accomplish a lot in reasonable hours, then you can’t fritter away your peak productive hours on stuff that doesn’t matter, she says. Most people are more productive in the morning hours. Schedule your most important tasks for those vital hours. Also, plan out your priorities for the week before you’re in it.
During jam-packed days, you and your team have a strong sense of how to spend your time. But what happens when you finish a major project?
“If you don’t have a plan, you waste a heck of a lot time figuring out what you have to do next,” Milligan says. “You are inefficient, and then your employees are inefficient. The real time management opportunity is when things aren’t urgent.”
Keep a task list for both yourself and your team, he suggests.
Add to your energy level. “Sleep and exercise don’t take time; they make time,” Vanderkam says. “Build in breaks to nurture yourself.”
This is just as important for your family members and employees.
“Communicate with your employees to find out if they have any critical things they need to go to, such as a birthday party or family reunion,” Milligan says.
“Then figure out a way to make it happen,” he adds.
In between important tasks block out open space. “This time helps you seize opportunities,” Vanderkam notes. “Wonderful things will come into your life if you have the space to deal with them.”
Spend that five or 10 minutes at the end of the day reading or catching up with an old friend. “Small moments have great power,” she says.
Plan For Productive Days
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix helps you prioritize tasks by putting them into quadrants based on importance and urgency. “It’s a simple tool that helps you plan your day and prioritize, by putting first things first,” says Joe Horner, University of Missouri Extension economist. Spend five minutes filling it in each day, then you can put it in your pocket and check it twice before the end of the day. “If you get good at scheduling, fewer things fall into the urgent and important list,” Horner says.