As I write this message, we are about at the mid-year mark of 2016. I’m tempted to say something like, “Time really does fly” or “Can you believe half of 2016 has already passed?”
Yet, if I heard those statements made by anyone else to me, I’d immediately get an insight into how well they plan and focus on the top priorities of their lives.
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not judging anyone here. As I wrote about recently, time is the scarcest resource we have.
Why would it surprise you to be at this point (or any other point) of the year. We knew it was coming; we know there are the exact same number of hours each week. When the 168th hour is completed, we begin a new week. It has been happening this way for hundreds of centuries and will continue to happen this way until our Creator decides time is up.
If we are surprised, it means we are allowing distractions and the crises of the day or week interrupt our focus on what we have planned to do. If we aren’t exactly where we said we’d be with a goal or priority, do we take ownership of that fact or do we look to blame circumstances or people outside of us?
Don’t get me wrong – as I look at what I’ve accomplished in the first half of this year compared to what my plan was, I’ve missed the mark on some items as I’m sure you have. The question to ask, as I have asked myself, is what caused the results I actually did experience?
Of course, I caused the results I experienced and I take full ownership of the outcomes. Some of my days or weeks didn’t go as planned. In those cases, how could the result be what was planned if I didn’t follow my own plan to get there?
Are you working your plan, or are you allowing outside circumstances to take greater control of where you put your focus?
Here are some things I have discovered over the years to help me plan my work and work my plan. I hope they will be helpful to you:
- I must begin each Monday morning by reviewing my yearly and quarterly goals and allow them to inform me of where I need to focus. These goals encompass my entire life: business, personal, physical, spiritual and relational. Then, I look at my calendar for scheduled appointments and other deliverables. I use a one page template to plan out my week. Then, each day, I take 5 minutes to plan that particular day. On those Monday’s where I do this and make a plan for the week, it is remarkable how likely I am to accomplish what I have planned!
- I don’t begin each day’s work until I finish the day on paper. This is advice from a wise man named Jim Rohn. Using the old style paper calendar (yes, I know this is old school, and it works exceptionally well for me, so I keep doing it) I identify the things in my plan I need to focus on that day. I write them in certain time slots during the day on my paper calendar, keeping in mind my best times for being creative vs. the times of the day where less brain taxing work is preferred. Each time I finish a task or meeting, I look at the calendar to see what is next on my list.
- I finish the work day with 3-5 items that must be my areas of focus for the following day. This allows my subconscious brain to begin working on these items and potentially serve up some solutions while I am doing other things, such as sleeping.
These steps help position me to accomplish what I set out to accomplish and maintain focus on what I have pre-determined are my top priorities.
What I have also realized is no system will help you get better at accomplishing things unless you have the discipline to apply the system. Once you have the discipline, just about any system will work. It is the system that assists you, rather than defines you.
This is precisely why there really is no such thing as “time management”. It is not about managing time better – it is about making better decisions on what to spend your scarcest resource doing.
I’d be most interested in your thoughts on this, so please offer me some feedback.