By Brian De Haaff
I once worked with a team where the guy who was always "the busiest" got the least amount done. That's because he spent more time managing his personal distractions than actually completing his work. He was certainly talented and had the skills to do the job, but had no idea how to manage his time. You may know someone like this, or identify with him yourself.
We are not always at our best and sometimes times are tough. But the reality is that everyone has the same number of hours available to them in a day. Yet some people are able to accomplish so much more in one day than everyone else.
It can be frustrating. You try to gain control of your schedule each day, but time gets away from you, and you do not get everything done that you want to achieve. You wonder -- what are you doing wrong, and what are the others doing right? Stop and take a deep breath.
Those exceptional folks are not so different than you. They have simply come to realize the value of their time, and they make the best use of it. They know that their time is finite, and they work to protect it. How? By taking a strategic approach to managing it.
So, if you are ready to change your ways and start making the most of your time, here is how you can manage it more effectively.
1. Identify what matters most
Many things will compete for your attention in a single day, but you must first know what is most worthy of your time before deciding how to spend it. Think about what is most important in your life. Are you devoting enough time to those things that matter?
Once you recognize your top priorities, other minor pursuits will fade in importance. Some activities will need to fall off your schedule, as you learn to say "No, that is not a priority for me right now." But that is perfectly okay.
2. Set aggressive goals
It is easy to let the events of a day determine how you will spend your time -- and before you know it, an entire day has passed and you have not accomplished anything of value. But people who effectively manage their time establish goals for what they intend to accomplish -- and they stick to them.
Successful people may not have every day scheduled to the minute. But they do have an overall plan for how they will spend it before the day begins. They let that plan determine the course of their day, and then make incremental progress toward their goals (and ultimately, future success).
So, write down your goals and keep them in front of you -- and then hold yourself accountable to achieve them. If you do not get to everything, don't beat yourself up, but return your focus to your goals the next day.
3. Ignore the noise
Distractions will happen, and they can derail even your best-laid plans. Many times these interruptions will be trivial matters, but some may require your immediate attention.
Exceptional people can tell the difference -- they can pick out what is most important, and politely and firmly shut out the rest. They respond with a sense of urgency when necessary, but then quickly get back on track with what they want to achieve. Learning to sort out what is most essential is key to effectively managing your time.
Once you start taking a strategic approach to managing your time, you will notice a big difference in how you feel at the end of the day. Instead of frustration and regret, you will be proud for how much you have accomplished.