Effective Time Management: How To Make The Best Use Of Your Time
For people who are trying to accomplish things, there are never enough hours in the day. Time. We just need more time! If I didn’t have to sleep, I’d get so much more accomplished, right? If you can’t make the day longer, then the only other way to do more is to figure out how to make the best use of your time.
What Are You Trying To Accomplish?
First things first. Before you can make a time management plan, you need to have clear objectives. If you don’t have your goals worked out, then go do that first. Once you know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish, then you can use your time management processes to make sure you’re doing all the right things to achieve your goals.
I recently wrote a blog about goals, and if you haven’t read that one, you can find it here. Essentially, you should have 1-2 goals for the year. Your daily, weekly, and monthly goals should be the incremental steps you need to complete to reach your annual goal.
Effective time management is when you organize your activities each day such that all of your effort is directed towards achieving your goals. There are plenty of daily activities that don’t directly contribute to meeting our goals, but still must be attended to. In The Four Disciplines of Execution, author Sean Covey calls these things “The Whirlwind.” It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily activities and never actually accomplish anything.
One of the most important time management tools you have is delegation. This is simply the art and science of doing what you need to do, and putting people in place around you to do all the other things that take away from your ability to accomplish your goals each day. Oh, and most importantly, actually letting them do those things.
Many of us are control freaks. We don’t trust anyone to do things for us, because they won’t do the task to our specification, or they don’t know as much as we do, or they will take too long, or any number of reasons. It’s important to overcome this hurdle and empower others to do things to free up our time.
Delegation might sound like one of those time management techniques that only apply to someone in a management-level position in a big company. In reality, everyone has the power (and the responsibility) to delegate all kinds of tasks to others. For example: The grass needs to be mowed at our veterinary clinic once a week most of the year. I’m quite capable of mowing it, but that is not productive use of my time. It’s much more sensible for me to pay someone else to do that, so that I can focus that 4 hours a week on things that contribute directly to my goal.
For the man who mows the grass, it’s a different situation, but the same principles apply. His daily goal is to mow X number of lawns to meet his financial goal for the year. Therefore, his time is best spent mowing and gaining new clients, and he should delegate tasks that take away from his time to do that.
We often use the excuse that we can’t afford to pay others to do things. While this might be true, it’s a temporary condition that can be overcome with diligence. If you can save enough money to start paying someone to do something for you, then you have the opportunity to be more productive with that block of time that you’ve freed up. By being more productive and efficient with that block of time, your revenue should increase more than the cost of delegating whirlwind tasks. If you do it right, it’s ultimately cheaper to pay others than it is to do it all yourself.
Know Thyself, and to Thine Own Self Be True
Once you have delegated everything you can delegate, then it’s time to work on Effective Time Management. This requires you to know yourself, and how your body and brain tend to function on a daily basis.
I’m a morning person. I do my very best thinking, both creatively and analytically, between 5 am and 11 am. I have a semi-crash period around lunch, a second wind, and then a hard crash around 4 pm. I get a third wind around 7 pm, but it doesn’t last more than an hour.
So, because I know this about myself, I can make a list of things I need to work on each day, and schedule them according to when I will be most effective. The best way for me to do this is to write my To-Do List, and then rate each item by how much brain power I need to do my best at that task.
Here’s an example, and the rating scale is 1 – 10, with 1 being “I can do that in my sleep” and 10 being “Maximum Focus.”
To Do List, and Focus Rating
Write 3 emails to new clients – 9
Write 2 emails to vendors – 5
Phone Call with client to discuss project – 10
Enter last week’s credit card charges into Quickbooks – 8
Finish website job for M. Jones – 8
Create invoice for M. Jones – 4
Make bank deposit – 2
Run website updates on Client List C – 2
I have my Time Optimizer Template below, which tells me what time I should do each task. Green is my best time, blue is okay time, red is my worst time.
5 am 1 pm
6 am 2 pm
7 am 3 pm
8 am 4 pm
9 am 5 pm
10 am 6 pm
11 am 7 pm
12 pm 8 pm
So, effective time management for my day would be to schedule the things that require the most focus in the morning when I am at my best. I can write my client emails early in the morning, finish building the website, and still be fresh for the client phone call during morning business hours. I know not to schedule that call during any of the red times on the schedule, because it’s really important that I am at my best for that conversation. I can do the vendor emails, invoicing, updates, and run to the bank in the afternoon when I’m not on my A game.
Not everything has to happen between 8 am and 5 pm. Of course, the details depend on your job, and if you work for yourself vs someone else, and so on. However, if you work for yourself, or you have a side hustle that you are trying to grow, then you can use all the hours of the day to their best potential and get a lot more accomplished than you can by doing the hardest tasks at bad times.
I know that data entry into QuickBooks takes me twice as long in the afternoon as it does in the morning, so I always try to do that in the mornings. It’s the most effective time management for me. The same goes for writing. If I’m working on writing a book, I schedule my writing time in the mornings.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Create your own Time Optimizer Template based on your peak and trough times and develop a routine where you schedule your activities using the template every day. After a while, this will become second nature to you.
The more you understand what you are trying to do, what you need to do to make that happen, and how to practice effective time management, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. You will surprise yourself at what you are capable of, and your goals will get bigger as you start achieving new levels of success. You are your own biggest inhibitor, and once you learn how to manage yourself, then there are no limits to what you can do. What are you waiting for? Go do something great!
Justin B. Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com.