Time management is unique because it’s not a science or an art; nor is it a practice or a hobby. Time management is a tool that you develop and refine over time. Some people are naturally better at managing their time than others.
The good news is you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. You could strapped a lot of time trying to develop a time management system, or you can follow a simple guide that sets you up for success. It’s been done before—many times. So why not take it from people who have figured it out? This guide will walk you through the steps you should take to develop a logical, effectual time management system.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Begin with the end in mind”? It is a tried-and-true way of keeping you grounded and reminding you of your purpose. When you begin with your vision and your goals, you work with determination, purpose, and structure. It’s more effective, and it’s more impassioned.
Think about driving a car. You turn on your car and begin driving to reach a destination. You don’t know what kinds of things you’ll see, or how many red lights you’ll hit on the road, but you know your end goal is to reach a certain point. In other words, you need to know where you want to end up for you to get there.
The same goes for time management, and ultimately, success. You’re paving your own path to success, so your vision starts with YOU. This doesn’t mean you need to wake up tomorrow morning and have a detailed plan for the rest of your life. But it does mean you should check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “Why am I on this career path?” or “What do I want to get out of this in the long run?” Find that purpose and perfect it so that you have a good grasp of what you’d like to achieve.
If you’re just starting out, or you need to modify your vision, try asking a few of these questions to get a better understanding of what you want:
• What matters most to you in life?
• What are your passions and interests?
• What kinds of qualities would you like to have?
• What types of people do you admire the most?
• Who would you like to be more like?
• What issues do you care about?
It may take time to figure this out. No one realizes their passions in a short amount of time, but it’s worth figuring it out. You’ll be glad you did, once you find what makes your heart sing.
Once you’ve decided, treat it as an important decision. This is now your life goal. Write it down and make a promise to yourself. It will help to put a date on your note to remind yourself of the day you came to this decision. Post that goal on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, your dresser—put it wherever you need it to be reminded of your vision every day.
Now that you know your destination, you need to figure out how you’re going to get there. This means coming up with goals and breaking them down into small, feasible tasks that you can accomplish bit by bit. This is a step-by-step process, so start with baby steps and work your way up to the big steps.
Like defining your vision, define what you want to get out of your smaller goals. Write down each goal that you’re currently working toward. You’re starting small, so pick 1-2 goals to focus on, write them down, and work toward them.
You know what to do, what you’re trying to accomplish, and when you’d like to accomplish it. Now, you need a plan of attack. Make a list of all the things you need to do in order to accomplish your goals, and then go do those things!
Time management skills go hand-in-hand with being an excellent planner. You have a vision, you’re setting goals, and then you have to plan out how you’re going to execute.
Planning begins with creating milestones. Think about New Year’s Resolutions. Every year you come up with new goals for yourself, and after you achieve those goals, you cross the finish line into a new year. It’s a milestone! The same goes for planning out how you want to manage your time. If you’re writing a paper, make it a milestone every time you put 3,000 more words to the page. If you’re working toward a certain salary, define your milestone with increments of pay raises.
Next, you need to create a task list. In order to make it to those milestones, you’re going to need a set of actionable steps. Break down your goals into a step-by-step plan—and make it your own! Use your own language and design for your goal chart. Make sure you’re specific and that you outline task tracking that is easy to follow.
For each of these tasks, create a deadline. It helps to reverse engineer, meaning you start from the end (your long-run goal) and work back. This way, it’s easier to foresee what steps you’ll need to take.
The final step of your planning period is to put in the work. Work toward your goals and don’t give up. You’ll have passing thoughts of doubt and skepticism but try to push those out of your mind. Focus on what’s in front of you and remind yourself that you can and will accomplish your goals. You may have setbacks, but you’ll get there.
Now is the time for you to attack your goals. Use your deadlines, your timelines, and your action plans to guide you through the process. And if your focus gets off track, remind yourself of your “why,” your vision.
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