Have you ever wondered where all your time goes?
You’re not alone. People have been talking about time for centuries. Consider this excerpt from “The Book of Fate,” written by Voltaire in the 17th century: “Of all the things in the world, which is the longest and shortest, the quickest and the slowest, the most divisible and the most extensive, the most disregarded and the most regretted, without which nothing can happen, which devours everything that is little, and gives life everything that is great?
“The answer is time. Nothing is longer, since it is the measure of eternity. Nothing is shorter, since it is lacking in all our plans. Nothing is slower for him who waits. Nothing is quicker for him who enjoys. It extends to the infinitely little. All men disregard it. All men regret the loss of it. Nothing happens without it. It makes forgotten everything unworthy of posterity, and it immortalizes the great things.”
I have a saying that I’ve often used – “Killing time isn’t murder; it’s suicide.” We all start out in life with one thing in common; we all have the same amount of time each day, each week, each month and each year. Now it’s just a matter of what we do with it.
I’ve seen estimates that the average person spends seven years in the bathroom, six years eating, four years cleaning house, five years waiting in line, two years trying to return phone calls to people who aren’t there, three years preparing meals, one year searching for misplaced items and six months sitting at red traffic lights.
That’s nearly 30 years and doesn’t include a lot of what you might need or want to do. Prioritizing your time should be a top priority.
Getting more done doesn’t always mean doing more things. Sometimes it’s about doing less. Don’t try to schedule every minute of every day. When you make and prioritize your to-do list, leave yourself some flexibility to handle interruptions and unplanned tasks that are bound to come up during the day. You should block out segments of your day for important tasks, but be sure to reserve enough time so that you don’t have to rush through things. Taking your time can sometimes be the best use of your time.
Do you need to manage your time better at work? Who doesn’t? One of the first things you have to take control of is your time. It always seems like there’s not enough time to accomplish everything when you’re working hard, but Bob Nelson in 1,001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, says there are some steps you can take to rescue your time. Here is some of his advice:
- When you get to the end of your day, make a to-do list for tomorrow. Put whatever’s most important to accomplish at the top of your list. That way, when you walk in, you’ll know just what you need to do and where to start.
- Make a commitment to arrive at work a half hour early every day. Then you can get started on whatever’s most important and work without interruption for that period of time.
- Don’t jump down on your list to lower priority tasks until you have made sufficient progress on your higher priority tasks.
- Use a calendar and plan. It will organize you, and you won’t have to spend time asking what you’re supposed to be doing. You’ll already know.
- Go through your in-box at least once a day and prioritize it.
- Say goodbye to unimportant meetings. If you don’t need to be there, don’t go. It will waste your time, and your list won’t get any smaller.
- Focus on what only you can do. Then, when possible, delegate to others.
- Take a couple of hours every week to sit down and look at your big picture goals. Are you making progress? Set or reset goals appropriately.
- Learn to say no. Be polite, but firm. Otherwise, you won’t have the focus or energy to attain your goals.
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If we take care of the minutes, the years will take care of themselves.” A minute doesn’t seem like much, but the cumulative value of those minutes determines the quality of a lifetime. Don’t waste another second!
Mackay’s Moral: If you want to have the time of your life, make the most of your minutes.
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