By Tamara Martfeld
Time management is an important skill for a quality life. If we are not careful, our time is used up doing things for everyone except ourselves. The result is a life of drudgery.
I am not suggesting that you never do anything for anyone else. However, you need to take care of yourself before you can effectively help others.
The first step to time management is deciding what is important to you. Decide what you want out of your life. Do you want to travel? Do you want to be the best parent possible? Do you want to be rested or tired all the time? Do you want to work 24 hour a day or would you prefer some leisure time? Define what each important item means to you. You can do it all if you manage your time effectively.
The second step is to get and maintain a calendar. If your life is very busy you will need a larger calendar. Two calendars I have used and like are the Franklin Planner which separates each day by hours and the Flylady calendar (at flylady.net) which has large boxes and is great for families. There are other options out there – I am just providing these suggestions in case you are having trouble finding something useful in your community.
The third step is to fill in your calendar with the important things in your life. Leave nothing out. For example, I read about one person who put his sleep time on his calendar as an appointment. When someone asked him to do something in that time frame, he was honestly able to say “I’m sorry. That time is already scheduled”. In step one you defined what each important item meant to you. Use that information as you complete your calendar. For example, if being a good parent means eating dinner as a family around the dinner table or spending a given amount of time with your child, put that on the calendar. If travel is important to you, decide when you want to go and put it on your calendar. The further out you can plan the more likely you will be able to do what you want when you want. For example, my family takes an annual trip through scenic mountains near where we live. My vacation request for the time is submitted 5-6 months in advance. In my office, this means I have a bit of priority for that time frame because I submitted the request before anyone else.
The fourth step is actually part of the third step in many instances – co-ordinate your calendar with other people who are involved. To use being a good parent as the example again, you would need to co-ordinate your calendar with any significant other in your life as well as your child(ren). As you are the parent, you can direct the calendars of your off-spring to some extent. You can decide how many extra-curricular activities with which they are involved, especially if they are grade-school age. If the calendars of others cannot be immediately be co-ordinated with yours, start looking to the long-term. Start scheduling the important activities a week or month in advance. Eventually you will have a calendar with the activities important to you scheduled.
The fifth step is to strongly protect your schedule within reason. When someone asks you to use your precious time to serve their purpose, take a good look at whether it is a good use of your time. Sometimes it is worth shifting your schedule to take part in whatever activity to which you have been invited to participate – your schedule is not set in stone. Other times it is just one more obligation to do something you really don’t want to do which is essentially a waste of your time – as far as the other person is concerned, your schedule is set in stone. Only you can decide what is important. However, learn to say “NO” and stick to it when that is the appropriate response. With your calendar completed you can honestly state that you are already scheduled for that time, even if that time is scheduled to read a book, eat a meal, or get a good night’s rest.
This solution may take some time to be effective for you, but the effort is worth the benefit. It gives you a fuller life and it enables you to give your time to those who are important to you instead of mere acquaintances.