On Yesterday, I reposted the first of three blogs that were written to help people who are striving to reach their goals. If you have not read it, go and check out Goal Setting: One of the Foundations of Behavior Change. Then come back and read today's repost on time management.
Developing well-written and defined goals is not useful if one does not have good time management skills. I've watched with frustration many people fail to reach their goals because they failed to sit down and objectively analyze how they make use of their time.
At times we often feel overwhelmed. The world seems to go faster and faster and we seem, at times, not to be able to "catch up." Additionally, we don't feel satisfied with the quality of our lives. Many of us complain that, "We don't have time for ourselves." I admit to feeling this way, but knew that the key to having more time for myself was to get up earlier in order to have more "me" time. It is imperative that we put a time management plan in place to help us to gain a better sense of control over all of our competing priorities. Often if we can write things down, they are no longer as free to "rattle about" in our brains, causing worry and draining our emotional and physical energy. An honest look at how we spend our time, often reveals a lot of "wasted" time. I recommend that anyone who seeks to change his or her life, particularly those who want to change or develop positive new habit or behavior, take the time to develop a time management plan. What follows is a brief exercise that I developed for the students that I taught at Syracuse. Get out a sheet of paper, better yet, a notebook and answer the questions that appear below. Be as honest as you can in answering the questions. Afterwards, try to begin to prioritize your time base upon the answers. Then, develop a Time Management Grid. I developed my grid by creating a Microsoft Word Table. It is a very simple table that covers my typical "waking hours" during a one week period. If you would like a copy of the table, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take the time to thoroughly fill in your grid. I recommend that you even put in "free time," "shopping time", etc. One would be surprised at how much time is wasted during an unplanned shopping trip, for example.
Answer the following questions. This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of questions, but gives you an idea of those questions to be asking yourself about how you spend your time.
- What commitments outside of my home must I fulfill?
- What commitments to family and friends must I fulfill?
- How much quality time do I need to spend with family and friends?
- How much time do I need for my faith and religious life?
- How much time do I need for my social life?
- What habits and hobbies do I need time for? How much time?
- How much travel time do I need to meet my commitments?
- How much sleep do I need?
- How much time for exercise and fitness do I need?
- How much personal (quiet time) do I need?
- How much study time do I need?
- At what time(s) am I at my best (e.g. alert, energetic, productive)?
- What other demands are made on my time?
- Can I find help and assistance that can help me use my time more efficiently? (Note: Things we don't do well or quickly can waste our time. Can we get assistance in completing those tasks?)
It is often easier to manage something if we break it down into parts. I know some people who feel overwhelmed just thinking about "a week" and all they have to do. I suggested that they look at the week as 168 hours instead. Just as we create goals by breaking down the main goal into sub-goals, we can break our time down into smaller increments. I personally have tended to break the day down into 1-hour blocks. Some may benefit from breaking the days of the week down into 30 minute increments. After you have analyzed where your time must be spent, you can analyze how your "free" time.
Now it is time to develop your time management schedule by placing your commitments in a time management grid. Remember this schedule is tentative and is always a work in progress. Some of the time blocks that might appear in your schedule are as follows:
- Work (and other required activities)
- Class and/or training time (e.g. Schedule two hours of study time for every hour you are in class.)
- Free time (Unscheduled time to pursue activities not normally scheduled)
- Shopping (e.g. grocery, pleasure)
- Reading time
- Travel Time
- Personal ("Quiet Time"
This becomes your "master" schedule. Realize that changes often have to be made for special events or circumstances. However, once the schedule is in place, do your best to adhere to it and not let others sabotage your efforts to change. Two other points:
- Don't schedule activities during times that you KNOW you are not going to complete them. This can lead to frustration and a sense of failure. For example, don't schedule a 5:00 am workout if you've never been up at 5:00 am in recent memory! Better to work on a goal to begin getting up earlier, then begin to do the workouts earlier when you've gained a bit of mastery over your wake up time. I also tell college students NOT to schedule study time on Friday and Saturday nights. I've not seen many students who study on Friday or Saturday night.
- Do review your master schedule every week. Perhaps on a Sunday night and adjust if for special events that do not normally occur every week (e.g. exam or paper due, race or competition, a wedding). In addition to the master schedule I would suggest that you invest in a cheap planner to track your time on a daily basis.
If you can set goals and effectively manage your time, you are well on your way to reaching your goals. Take the time to complete the exercise and come back to it periodically. If any questions, please feel free to send a message. Tomorrow, in the third and final blog, I will address how to remove barriers real or perceived as you get on the road to reaching your goals.
Have a wonderful evening!