Time management is about managing ourselves. It means examining our daily routine and changing habits and activities that cause us to waste time. And as a bonus... we can reduce stress and anxiety in the process!

Chances are that at some time in our lives, we've taken a time management class, read about it, or used a day planner to prioritize and schedule the day. With all of this knowledge, why are we still unable to get everything we need to get done in a timely fashion?

The answer is simple. We are trying to manage the clock, rather than ourselves.

There are two types of time: clock time and real time. In clock time, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. But we live in real time, where all time is relative. It's a world in which time flies when we are having fun with friends and family or it drags when we are doing something we don't like to do (cough... income taxes... cough).

Good news! Real time is mental. It exists in our minds. We create real time, and like anything that we create, we can manage it. Now is the time to remove any doubt, self-sabotage, and self-limitations of "not having enough time" or today not being "the right time."

Here are six tips to help manage yourself as it relates to time.

  1. Plan effectively.Never start your day or week without an overview of the task(s) that you need to accomplish. If you take ten minutes to plan your day, you can save up to an hour of execution (I've found this best to do every night so I have a game plan first thing in the morning). Begin working on the most important activities first and move sequentially down the list. Complete pending tasks one by one. Do not begin fresh work unless you have finished your previous task. Give yourself a time frame for each task, and then add some extra time to that for a buffer. Try to finish your tasks within the specified time frame.
  2. Prioritize tasks.Prioritize your tasks according to their importance and urgency. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete, and do those first. Once you're done, the day has already been a success. You can move on to other things, or you can let the rest wait until tomorrow. You've finished the essential.
  3. Set goals, objectives and deadlines.Most of us have a vague idea of what we want, but never commit it to writing, much less get specific. Write your goals down and create a step-by-step action plan to achieve them. Set deadlines for yourself and work hard to complete tasks by (or... gasp... even ahead of) those deadlines.
  4. Delegate responsibilities.Don't try to do everything on your own. Utilize the skills and talents of others around you when possible. Remember, when delegating to others, determine what instructions are necessary and communicate them clearly and accurately. Ensure you specify the conditions for satisfactory performance at the beginning and the deadline for completion of the assignment you have delegated.
  5. Spend the right time on the right activity.Develop the habit of doing the right things at the right times. Work done at the wrong time is not of much use (like that financials spreadsheet you're working on at 8 p.m. on a Friday night). We are human beings, not machines, and personal time is important too. Remember to allot some time throughout the day for personal phone calls or checking updates on Facebook and Twitter.
  6. Learn to say "no."Don't take on more than you can handle. Don't say yes to undertakings that aren't important or that will take away your focus from more imperative ones. Learn to prioritize your tasks and learn when to say yes and, more importantly, when to say no. Making a lot of commitments can teach you how to juggle various engagements. However, you can easily take it too far. At some point, you need to learn to decline opportunities. Your objective should be to take on only those commitments that you know you have time for and that you truly care about.

Bonus tip! Don't forget to have a little fun! We get so caught up in busyness that we forget to enjoy what we're doing. Even when we focus on working smarter, we're still often too focused on getting things done. Ask yourself: What can I do to spend more time enjoying what I'm doing? The goal should be to arrange your commitments in a way that you're happy living out the details of your daily life, even while you're working.

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