How to Finally Take Control of Your Time

Jan 24, 2019

By Brian Tracy 

Why Time Management Is Important

The starting point of excelling in time management is desire. Almost everyone feels that his or her time management skills could be vastly better than they are. People resolve, over and over again, to get serious about time management by focusing, setting better priorities, and overcoming procrastination. They intend to get serious about time management sometime, but unfortunately, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

The key to motivation is motive. You must be intensely motivated by the benefits you feel you will enjoy. You must want the results badly enough to overcome the natural inertia that keeps you doing things the same old way. Here are four good reasons for practicing the time management concepts outlined in Time Power. You will:

  1. Gain two extra hours each day.
  2. Improve your productivity and performance.
  3. Increase your sense of control.
  4. Have more time for your family.

1. Gaining Two Extra Hours Each Day
When you become the master of your own time, and recapture two extra hours per day, you can use that extra time to run a marathon, complete a college degree, write a book, build a business, and create an outstanding life. With two extra hours a day, you can put your life and career onto the fast track and begin moving ahead at a more rapid rate than you ever thought possible. You can achieve all your goals, vastly increase your income over the next two to three years, and eventually achieve financial independence, if not become rich.

2. Improving Your Productivity and Performance
Your productivity, performance, and income will increase by at least 25% over the next year. Two more productive hours, out of the eight hours that you spend at work each day, is the equivalent of at least a 25% increase.
What you are earning today is a result of what you are producing today. If you increase your productivity by 25% or more, you must eventually earn and be paid 25% more. And if your current boss won't pay you for improved performance, some other boss will come along and gladly give you more money for your ability to produce greater results.

3. Increasing Your Sense of Control
When you leverage the power of time, you will have a greater sense of control over your work and your personal life. You will feel like the master of your own destiny, and a power in your own life. You will feel more positive and powerful in every part of your life.

 4. Having More Time for Your Family
You will have more time for your family and your personal life as you get your time and your life under control. You will have more time for your friends, for relaxation, for personal and professional development, and for anything else you want to do.

You Are Free to Choose

Time management behaviors are very much a matter of choice. You choose to be efficient or you choose to be disorganized. You choose to focus and concentrate on your highest-value tasks, or you choose to spend your time on activities that contribute little value to your life. And you are always free to choose.

The starting point of overcoming your previous programming and eliminating the mental blocks to time management is for you to make a clear, unequivocal decision to become absolutely excellent at the way you use your time, minute by minute and hour by hour. You must decide, right here and now, that you are going to become an expert in time management. Your aim should be to manage your time so well that people look up to you and use you as a role model for their own work habits.

The First Step: Overcoming Procrastination

It takes courage, self-discipline, and hard work to break the habit of procrastination. But the rewards are great. You will experience greater self-esteem, self-confidence, and personal pride, and achieve lifelong success. Here’s what to do:

  1. Select one major task where procrastination is holding you back. Resolve to starting and finishing that one project.
  2. Make out a detailed list of every single thing you will have to do to complete that task; think on paper.
  3. Select the single most important item on your list, and gather everything you will need to start and complete that item.
  4. Set a specific time when you are going to start and work single-mindedly on that task until it is finished.
  5. Break your largest tasks and goals down into bite-size chunks, and concentrate on starting and completing one part of the job at a time.
  6. Accept 100% responsibility for starting and finishing your major task; refuse to make excuses or rationalize putting it off.
  7.  Visualize yourself working with a sense of urgency; program your mind by repeating the words "Do it now!" over and over.

Five Indispensable Time Management Tools

  1. Use a time planner. The best time planners, whether loose-leaf or electronic, enable you to plan for the year, month, week, and each day. To be effective, a time planner must contain a master list where you can capture every task, goal, and required action as it comes up, as well as a calendar and a daily "actions" list.
  2. Always work from a list. You can bring order out of chaos faster with a list than with any other time management tool. Begin by writing down every single task you intend to complete over the course of the day. If you feel overwhelmed by too many tasks, write down every single thing you have to do in the foreseeable future. The very act of making a list allows you to exert control over your time and your life.
  3. Organize your daily list by priority. Each day, organize your list of tasks in order of priority. Rank each task according to its potential consequences, starting with what you must do and working down to what would be nice, but certainly not essential, to get done. Once your list is organized, it becomes a map to guide you from morning to evening in the most effective and efficient way. Refuse to do anything until you have written it down on the list and organized by its value in comparison to the other things you have to do.
  4. Commit to using any time management system you like. It doesn’t matter whether you select one from the variety of wonderful PDAs and computer-based systems, or one from the countless systems that offer an array of forms for writing everything out by hand. What does matter is that you master your preferred time management system and use it regularly-until it becomes a natural habit.
  5. Set up a 45-file system. A "45-file system" is a tickler file that lets you plan and organize your time and responsibilities for up to two years in advance. First, clear a desk drawer or get a stand-alone file with room for 14 hanging files, then get a box of 45 cardboard files to put in them. Number 31 of the files for days of the month. Designate 12 of the files for the months of the year, January through December. Mark the last two files for the next two years. When you have a responsibility for six months from now, simply drop it into that monthly file. At the beginning of each month, take out all of your responsibilities for that month and sort them into your daily files, numbered 1 through 31. Start each day’s time management planning by taking out the file for that day. Better yet, prepare your "actions" list for the following day the night before.

A Win/Win: Raise Your Self-Esteem and Serve as a Role Model for Others

If you manage others, understand that you are a role model for your employees. If you see yourself as an example of excellent performance, you will always do better and accomplish more than if you just thought of yourself as personally trying to be more efficient. The more you think about yourself as an excellent time manager, the more excellent you become. The more you see yourself as a role model for others, the better you become in organizing your own time and life.

And the better you do at something, the more you like yourself. Self-esteem and self-efficacy feed on and reinforce each other. This finding is what makes time management so important for every part of your life. The better you use your time, the more you get done and the higher is your sense of self-efficacy. As a result, you like yourself more, do even higher-quality work, and get even more done. Your whole life improves.

© 2004 Brian Tracy. Adapted from TIME POWER: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible (AMACOM, March 2004). All rights reserved.