People often ask me “How do you do it all Tom!?” How do you oversee a large company? How do you find time to write books? How do you manage to have a successful online community? How do you fit in speaking and consulting engagements? And how in the world do you find it in your schedule to spend time with family and friends? Well...it’s not easy and at times I have struggled keeping everything successfully together. Truthfully it wasn’t until I made the intentional decision to get organized that I became organized. It wasn’t until I realized that being organized helped me achieve my goals, that I really saw the value in becoming organized.
Many of us don’t realize that the altitude we reach in all areas of our lives is directly linked to how organized we are. I know as a young man I certainly struggled seeing the correlation between good organization and high levels of productivity. I believe this is more often than not true of the smartest, most energetic, people in the world. Many of us are smart, creative, energetic and have huge potential. Usually that potential is never truly realized until we become better planned – more organized and efficient. Once we grow our time management skills we quickly we realize that there are new highs to aspire to.
I’d like to share my thoughts on what I feel the essentials of mastering time management are. Enjoy the read and feel free to chime in with additional thoughts you may have that have helped you become more successful.
Tom’s Time Management Essentials
1. Less Is More!
I was one of those people who used to over commit myself all the time and in every aspect of my life. I’d agree to meetings, I’d agree to lunches, I’d agree to new work, to volunteering to extended family and friend outings, and so on. Frankly, I would over commit myself. The majority of the things I’d commit to were worthy activities, but many times I would have needed two of me to successfully complete all of my commitments. Without even knowing it I got the reputation among my peers at work, my friends and my family as the “good intentions guy.” The guy that would agree to help with everything but struggle to complete anything. When I finally got tired of letting myself and others down I realized that I could not be everything to everyone and so I had to choose much more wisely what it was that I needed to be involved in to be personally successful. The fact is a person is better to commit to less and do it very well than he or she is to commit to more and not be successful. Great success comes to those who involve themselves in things in which they can invest great energy and time. And so the lesson I had to come to grips with was “less is actually more!” In committing to less activities I could focus with greater intention and energy and be far more successful at the things I was doing. As so as I figured the “Less Is More” rule out, success followed and much of the stress I felt washed away. There is nothing worse than not being able to give your best to an initiative and there is nothing more positive and exciting than reaping the rewards of a job well done. Less really is more!
2. Plan, Plan, Plan, Implement!
Life without a planning tool is a life that is misguided. If you haven't sat down to chart the course, you’ll likely end up somewhere you don’t want to be! Although I have taken my planning to a level I never thought I would, often planning six months to a year in advance, I started with planning the night before the next day. In sitting down for a few minutes at the end of a day to logically plan out my tomorrow I found that not only could I anticipate my day better and get stronger results, but I could also flush out options for things that may go wrong and have plan Bs in place to keep my day on track and bring about best results for myself and those around me. Over the years I have expanded my planning in all areas of my life to the point that I have weeks and months soft planned out and I can see my life unfolding before it actually does. The Plan, Plan, Plan, Implement approach has really allowed me to expand my capacity and effectiveness. Knowing the road you are going to travel helps you get where you want to go faster!
3. Fuel Yourself With Rocket Fuel!
The sayings “The early bird gets the worm” and “Early to bed makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” are pretty darn close to the truth. Research shows that people who exercise, get to bed at a good time, sleep well, rise and eat healthy meals are far more successful than people who don’t exercise, stay up late, rise late, and eat poorly. The better we take care of our bodies, minds and souls, the better we perform. By fuelling our bodies with rocket fuel we can expect to go farther, faster.
4. Be A Realist! Plan For The Unexpected.
In a perfect world everything would go as planned! Realizing that we don’t live in a perfect world helps us realistically approach our lives and reduce our frustrations when things just don’t go as planned. Knowing that something could go wrong, a friend may let you down, equipment may break down, a disgruntled customer may call, an employee may need additional help and so on, helps to set the tone of realism to your day. Rarely will a day pass without some unexpected challenge arising. Being a realist planning some time in your day for the unexpected helps keep your attitude positive and strong and your day moving along on time.
5. Avoid Being Robbed!
In a world of social media and “now” expectations we are often robbed of productive time. Whether it’s a 25-minute unexpected phone call, the drop-in salesman you weren’t expecting, or the never ending call to engage on social media, by the end of a day most North Americans are being robbed of valuable time that they should be using to advance their efforts and most personal relationships and businesses are paying the price for our unfocused efforts. Stay focused and don’t rob yourself or allow others to rob you of your best efforts!
6. Winners Take Pee Breaks!
Sometimes our days, even if we have made our best efforts to plan, don’t work out the way we want. I often tell clients I am mentoring to build in bathroom breaks to their schedule. More than once I’ve been asked why and my answer is that when everything else goes to “hell in a hand basket” the one thing most of us can do is go to the bathroom and have a little pee! In doing so we not only take a break from regular life, but after we’ve finished we can successfully check the bathroom break off of our “to do” list. In feeling like we’ve accomplished something we can reboot our day and hopefully get back on a positive “get ‘er done” track.
7. Know When To End Your Day!
Often people push their days too long, whether at work or personally. Tired people tend to spin their wheels, make mistakes and live with regrets. Most poor decisions are made because people are tired and frustrated. There will always be one more phone call to answer, one more email to respond to, one more Facebook comment to make. Knowing when to shut your day down will often lead to a healthier, happier, more productive you.
8. Review You!
Assess yourself, your planning and time management tools weekly. It takes time to refine what works for you. It takes constant evaluation of how your day and week have gone to learn how to do better and be better in your career and personal lives. Take time to evaluate and improve on you!
Mastering the time management style that works best for you will take time and effort. It’s not something that will evolve over night. Some 30 years after I realized I needed to get my professional and personal lives more productive I am still working at and refining my personal time management processes. What I can tell you is that 30 years ago I took ownership of how well I lived my life – how high I soared. I became the author of my life rather than letting others create my story. I know that I am far more successful today and have achieved greater things in my life than I ever could have had I not realized the need to be more intentional about the things I spend my time on. You can fly higher and go further in your lives as well! Take control of your lives, master your time management, and see how far you can take your lives.