What an excellent article you’re about to read, about Time Management, from an amazing source: Convene. Their slogan is Business Performance, Eternal Perspective. www.convenenow.com
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The Myth of Time Management
Time Won’t Change But You Can
You can’t manage time. No one can. Time just is. It flows like a river and you can’t stop it – or save it. Our dreams of better time management are just that – dreams. So why is there so much talk about it? It’s because we all need it; every executive struggles with using time effectively and dreams of being able to manage time. We buy PDAs, cell phones, and systems to help us. We think there’s some elusive secret.
Here’s the hard truth: you cannot manage time. You can only manage yourself. Once we embrace that reality, we can start making the changes and finding the patterns that help us use time most effectively.
“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.”
Thomas J. Watson, IBM
Following are seven best practices for making the most of our limited time:
Gain Perspective from God’s Word
Proverbs 21:5 states:
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Scripture says the one who plans his time and his life, AND who follows that with diligence, is more likely to enjoy abundance than the one who’s too busy.
Peter Drucker tells us: “The effective executive is the one who gets the right things done.”
A quick word about diligence: Diligence means the right effort at the right time. It conveys a concept of appropriateness, not haste or hurry. When we’re diligent, we don’t delay, but there’s no wasted motion either. We do what needs to be done at the right time. Importantly, diligence is not industriousness, which implies working all the time.
Are you prepared to become one of the few who both plans and is diligent? Time won’t change but you can.
Focus on Your Long Term “Destinations”
We want to keep our perspective of the finish line. What’s the prize for which we run the race? What’s the stewardship that’s been given to you? When you stand before Jesus one day and give an account, what will you be most proud of? What are the things you most need to accomplish? Which items on your task lists create the most value for the business or for the Kingdom of Christ? You cannot chart a course without knowing the destination. Working without a destination is just a pastime.
Managing yourself requires continually referring back to where you’re seeking to go. In the best case, you have a purpose, a mission and have done intelligent goal setting for a particular time period, with prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit. These “destinations” are vital to how you use time, because you always want to start with the end in mind.
A hasty choice, made on the fly, can often be the wrong one. Imagine there’s a spreadsheet of potential uses of your time in your mind, each continually sorted by different criteria:
- What creates the most value for my purpose, mission and highest goals?
- What catches my attention at the moment?
- What makes me comfortable right now?
Of course, the optimal use of time is answer #1. But if you allow yourself to make time decisions on the fly, you’ll often choose to gratify your attention span or short-term comfort. You’ll be busy, sometimes very busy, but at the end of the day, you may not have gotten the right things done. Can you relate?
The time when you’re most likely to make a good decision is when you’re thinking about your purpose, your goals and the demands of life in balance. The most thoughtful disciplined time to plan the week is at the beginning. The most thoughtful disciplined time to plan the day is the night before.
Make Rules When You Don’t Want to Make Decisions
If you wait till the alarm goes off on a cold morning to decide if you want to spend time with your Heavenly Father, you may decide the bed is too warm and you’re too sleepy. But if the decision’s already made, already part of your morning routine, you’ll get up and find God waiting for you. A quiet time of prayer, listening, study and devotion are a foundation for every day. God may rearrange your day or He may give you just one or two new things to do, but they’ll be the most important, the most valuable and the most eternal things you’ll consider all day long.
Routine can be your friend, as it keeps you from the demands of the moment and allows you to do daily those things which are the foundation of long-term success and profit.
Don’t evaluate whether or not you want to exercise, to have a quiet time, or complete other important routines. Just do it. If you can’t get those healthy habits started on your own, ask for encouragement and accountability from people you respect. God wired us to need each other and you may need a safe place to process the obstacles that hold you back from living the life you really want to live.
Take Time Each Week for a Sabbath
Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”(Mark 2:27).
Taking a stop day, a break from work, isn’t something God needs; it’s something you need! You need a time away, a time to press meaning into your life, a time to gain perspective and a time for extended conversations with your Heavenly Father.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Give God time to teach you to number your days. Interrupt the frenetic pace of life each week to let Him teach you and to gain vital perspective on this life and the next. If you don’t, no amount of tricks, skills or processes will make any ultimate difference.
Drive Your Priorities into Your Calendar
One high performing executive did an outstanding job of driving his priorities into his calendar. At the beginning of each quarter, he and his Administrative Assistant would look at the next eight quarters to put his most important priorities into his calendar. Things like family vacations, special time with his boys, getaways with his wife, time to think and plan all went into the calendar far in advance of the date. He looked at the vital priorities in his life and made sure that there was time in his calendar allocated to those items.
For many of us, the calendar is where things actually get done. Our to-do list may be carried over from day-to-day or week-to-week, but we always keep our calendar.
When you put your most important priorities into your calendar far in advance, you force the day-to-day emergencies and opportunities into the remaining spaces. They assume their rightful priority because you put first things first.
Could you take the time right now to work out your important priorities and sit down with your calendar for the rest of the year and drive your most important priorities into your schedule?
Life is not a series of artificially divided 40- or 50-hour work weeks. Think about seasons of life – like planting and harvest. There are times for intense, focused hard work and times for recreation or with family. Be sensitive to seasons in work, ministry and family. Priorities may be different in some seasons of life than others. In all cases, getting your priorities into your calendar will make you more effective with your use of time.
Leverage a Proven Planning Cycle
The next few paragraphs outline the basic cycle of weekly and daily planning that drives the most effective executives in America. These steps are connected and, when repeated day-after-day, year-after-year, they result in more effective use of your most valuable resource.
Don’t let the tasks drop
When a potential task comes up, write it down, either on today’s task list or on your master list, which is a running list of everything you need to do next week or next month. Otherwise, we may forget things, which if done when due wouldn’t have been a problem, become time-consuming emergencies. This master list of tasks is vital.
Use the Basic Planning Unit
The week is the basic planning unit because we may or may not have control over our days. We’ve all had the priorities of a day turned upside down as things break, people fail or customers have a new demand. However, the week, as a whole, is the first unit of time over which most of us have substantial discretion (remember that control is an illusion).
Each week (many prefer Sunday night), sit down and plan your week. Look at your destinations and goals to see what most important things deserve your attention. Carve out the time for these items in your calendar and your whole week will be much more effective.
Look at your master task list and move items into each day’s calendar as needed. Don’t plan every moment of your day. Leave time for returned messages, impromptu meetings and for the margin that keeps us sane.
Consider when you do your best work. If it’s in the morning, don’t waste that time doing emails or expense reports. Look at your time. Are you spending enough time with customers, planning, with your direct reports? Now’s the time to push something off and to focus on what’s most important.
Plan Tonight for Tomorrow
Each evening, take about a half-hour (it’s often less) to look at the next day. Consider today and what went well and poorly. If there are leftover tasks from today, move them to tomorrow or back to the master task list. Look at the items on your calendar and to-do list. Decide how important each item really is. Allocate a specific time in your calendar for each item. If you don’t allocate time to a task, you won’t have time to do it. Be honest with yourself about how much time each task will really take. You’ll have to do some items that are trivial. None of us ever gets away from the business and personal equivalent of taking out the trash. Get used to it and get it done.
Be on Purpose
Your plan for the day is the result of prayer and your best thinking, being available to God and considering your purpose and your goals. Now it’s time to follow your plan. Will emergencies come up? Of course! Most of the time, you’ll see false emergencies that arise from what you want to do, or from someone else’s priorities. Most of the time, sticking to the plan is the path of highest effectiveness, but you have to be the judge, and you should be available for God to change your day to suit His priorities.
Plan time morning and afternoon for email. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your job is to respond to email. It’s not. Clear voice mail a couple of times a day too. Being constantly available will keep you from being able to focus on any longer term project.
You can’t find more time. You can’t manage the time you have. All you can do is manage yourself. Choose the right things to work on at the right time and stay focused. Don’t buy into the myth of managing time. Face up to the hard work of managing yourself and get the help and support you need to live the abundant life God created you to live.
Time Won’t Change But You Can