Six Steps for Taking Control of Your Time
Jun 08, 2020
By AMA Staff
Your time is valuable but also finite—and even in the best of circumstances, managing your work and your life so that everything gets done without excessive stress is a big challenge. In fact, most of us spend the better part of our lives trying to find better ways to do just that.
In the wake of momentous events that are causing upheaval in both the business world and our personal lives, it can seem almost impossible—particularly if you happen to be working and living in the same space. All bets are off in terms of balance.
That’s why you need to take a firm, yet reasonable, stance. You have to set boundaries and make sure you have the time and the mental energy to find the right balance that works for you.
Here are some helpful tips on how to start taking control of your time:
- Establish your goals. Know where you are today and where you want to be in the future. While that might sound overly simplistic, the good news is that you get to pick the scale of the goal, whether it’s what you’re going to accomplish today, this week, or this month. Rather than thinking beyond that, try to keep the timeframe to something that’s manageable and accommodates emergencies.
- Create and follow a time management plan. Again, it’s your plan, and you get to choose one that suits both your capabilities and capacity. Of course, it has to include all your business obligations in addition to personal time, especially those hard-and-fast deadlines, but when you carve out time slots to achieve all your tasks, they start to become more manageable. The key is having the discipline to stick to the plan. Say no when you have to, and if necessary, try to renegotiate new demands for your time.
- Do the right things right by prioritizing your activities. The goal is not to just get things done, but to accomplish what’s most important to you in your work and your life. Prioritizing your tasks, at least in theory, should be comparatively easy once you have your time management plan. Just remember you’re going for a balance—life can’t be all about work.
- Improve productivity by sharpening your concentration and focus. Avoid distractions like emails, phone calls, social media, etc., for periods of time that you define. Keep devices out of easy reach during the time you’ve specifically designated for tasks. Unless you’re waiting for an urgent message or phone call, do not respond during these periods.
- Structure your work environment to support your goals. Remove clutter, create a filing system, and systematically manage your messages and electronic files. This also falls into the “easier said than done” category, so be sure to include time for this in your time management plan. Even devoting ten minutes a day to this effort will quickly begin to make your life a little easier.
- Establish boundaries. Learn to say YES to your own priorities and goals by saying NO to others. Value your own time, and others will learn to respect your time. This, of course, is one of the hardest things to do in both our professional and personal lives. But practice makes perfect—so revisit your time management plan and commit to saying no (or renegotiating) any non-priority item that eats up too much time you’ve already designated for a priority.
Get a handy visual reference to the 6 Steps by downloading our complimentary infographic.