Taking Control of Your Time: It's a Matter of Choice

Hanging clocks in sitting room
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Whenever I speak to groups about time management, the first thing I say is that time management is choice management. We all have the same number of hours in a day, so why do some people seem to have it all under control while others are scrambling to get things done and keep their heads above water?

It's the difference between managing your time instead of having time manage you. When you make conscious choices about your time, it puts the control into your own hands - where it belongs - rather than being at the mercy of external circumstances.Think of it this way. When you relinquish control of managing your time it's like the old video game Galaxy. You hit the "fire" button over and over as fast as you can in an attempt to destroy the aliens coming at you from every direction before they destroy you. In life, you're mindlessly tackling whatever task or activity is being thrown your way. When you take control of your time, you are more like Pac Man. You decide in which direction want to go and what dots you want to eat.

Here are five ways to be a more mindful time manager:

1. Change the way you perceive time. Do you look at time as working for you or against you? Successful people have a view of time that empowers them to be in control. Instead of thinking, "Time is always working against me," they think "The way I use my time is my choice, and I will use my time to my greatest advantage."

2. Know your goals. It is a whole lot easier to manage your time when you are clear about what you want to accomplish. When you see the big picture, you are more likely to make choices about your time that support that goal.

3. Decide how you will spend your day. You can't change the number of hours in a day, but you can be more mindful about how you spend them. Planning requires awareness, and awareness puts you in control. The more you plan, the less time you'll spend under the gun, and that eliminates stress and pressure.

4. Learn to say no. Protecting your choices about your time means being able to say "no" to activities and commitments that don't support your goals. Set boundaries and honor them.

5. Prioritize and reprioritize. Prioritizing is deciding what to do and when to do it. Prioritizing should be done often, sometimes daily, as priorities change. Don't be afraid to reprioritize when necessary.

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