My Time Management 101

I’ve often been asked how I get all that I get done and my gut reaction is to respond with something funny (yet honest):

Um, I’m not exactly sure.

Well, the exact truth is that I haven’t always known how I’ve done it but I’ve learned over time the patterns that have become more obvious. But let it be known that I’ve never been an incredible time manager; I’ve just gotten better slowly and have intentionally worked on it over time.

Partly this has to do with a feeling that you simply can become too grossly involvement with the art, science, and practice of time management to actually be useful and I know that much of how successful we are with time management is related to who I am, and you are, as a person – to each his own and to each their madness of method!

And let’s not forget that I’ve been doing some significant pruning recently which has helped me become an even better manager of time (or will become) and I’m excited about this new lifestyle that’s going to allow me to breath even more deeply the things that I love while providing lots of headspace for the future.

The point of all that is to say simply this: Time management is just as much a process of “becoming” as it is a legitimate daily practice of being optimal today. You’ll never completely land on the perfect time management “solution” (I personally dislike that word because it assumes that there is one) but you’ll get closer over time.

Regardless, here are some patterns and bucketing that have helped me become a better time manager – try them out and see if it can work for you.

The Typical 4 with Flavor and Personality

Generally there are four main buckets of issues that crop up in any given day and ways of dealing with them. I was trained early on to recognize these and then sift through them piece by piece.

What I wasn’t trained on was how to customize them to my own personality and to an even less extent find the right tools that suit my personality as I bumped up against them.

If you’ve done any time management training or any course on it you’ve most likely encountered these four buckets:

  1. Urgent & Important – This is typically associated with crisis management, like literally fighting fires.
  2. Urgent & Not Important – This has to do with the perception of feeling urgent (a felt need) but is not important in light of the other issues at hand.
  3. Not Urgent But Important – This typically is associated with short term goals and long term goals. Creating things like “Life Plans” or long-term financial goals is a great example of this. You don’t have to do it this very moment but you will want to get to it as soon as you can.
  4. Not Urgent & Not Important – I only have to give a few examples and you get the picture: Reading random blogs, updating Facebook and Twitter are examples of this. Enough said.

This is all very good but what do you do with these? Just bucketing issues, things to do, and your daily challenges isn’t enough – what you have to learn are five very important ingredients that help you bucket well:

  1. Borrow heavily from your personality and temperament – This requires a lot of self-awareness and will grow over time but what you’ll begin to realize (or have already realized) is that why you bucket the way that you do is just important as how you bucket. If you can understand the former you will optimize the latter. For example, my personality and temperament wants me to do the Urgent/Not Important all the time because I “feel” deeply issues. But I burn a lot of time and have learned to manage this emotional challenge better over time.
  2. Become proactive instead of reactive – The more you can stay ahead of the issues and challenges the better a time manager you will be come. Shifting focus on Not Urgent/Important will help you do that. Avoiding Not Urgent/Not Important at all costs if you can (well, perhaps except Twitter and Facebook for business/marketing reasons).
  3. Say “No,” a lot – Learning to say no is your most important weapon that will help every single scenario that you face (except for Urgent/Important). It will clarify if you will need to bucket any at all when the issues comes up. You can save yourself tons of time, tons of resources if you learn to do this well.
  4. Plan & Prioritize – Lots of us completely stink at planning and I know this very, very well. I have only begun to learn to plan my day and week in an understandable manner and it has made all the different. Prioritizing the “big rocks” (a’la Stephen Covey) is very very important.
  5. Delegate – This skill cannot be over-stated or over-rated. It’s an incredible tool that will help you bucket your own time and resources better as well as those you manage. This requires humility and a lot of self-awareness as well and is a tough pill to swallow for many to admit that they aren’t as good as others in certain areas and operations.

I hope this helps and can inspire you to become a better time manager. It makes a world of difference not only for yourself but for those that you influence and impact.

And, the result of better time management is nearly always positive – so why wouldn’t you want to become better at it?