When you ask somebody to do something for you and you get the usual “I don’t have time” reply, you should acknowledge that it’s not really a problem or a matter of time.
When we don’t have time, we’re basically saying that we have different priorities. Time never disappears, and as a human being, you can never obey the laws of time. Therefore, if you agree to that, then “time management” could also be perceived as “management of priorities”.
There are many individuals who believe that “time management” is simply a combination of knowledge and skills that you learn from a few personal development/self-help books.
The brutal truth is that there are so few professionals out there who are fully in charge of their lives. To be in control of your entire day is impossible, especially if you have a family, friends, work, etc.
However, controlling 80% of the day is absolutely achievable. Is it simple? No. Is it possible? Definitely yes.
The benefits of managing your time properly are very obvious, and often subjective. For that reason, I will skip them and move right on to the main topic of today’s post.
In today’s article, I’m presenting 8 ways to improve your time management (priority management) and boost your performance in every possible area of your life.
Find the Real Meaning of Your Goals
Before you start any personal or professional project, you must dig deep down and find the “WHY” behind it all. For example – why do you go to work? Some of the common answers are:
- To make the ends meet
- To win my financial freedom
- To become a rich person
What do these “reasons” symbolize?
To me, they look like the person is after money in order to satisfy his individual needs. However, some uncommon answers will be:
- To improve both my personal and professional skills
- To gather knowledge and skills and use them to create better work for the community
- To gather resources in order to start contributing (nonprofits, etc.)
When I talk about “real meaning”, I’m referring to aspects that make your heart race. For example, my purpose is to focus on improving the basic education of young students from my country. Before I was fighting for something I call “real”, nothing could prompt me to work responsibly and consistently towards my goals.
I found that real purpose is something you carry in your heart. It is your destination, while the strategies and work that you put up each day are the tools or the vehicles that get you there.
Therefore, time management can be simply solved if you find your true “why” behind everything you do. If you procrastinate, ask yourself why you’re doing that job in the first place. If it leads to a higher purpose, then it should be worth your time and attention!
Learn to Focus
Everyone tells us to focus, but nobody teaches us how. Our parents, teachers, and whatever instructors we had in our lives have all suggested the fact that concentration is key.
Meditation is the art of concentration. When you meditate, you simply focus your entire attention towards something and you keep it there until you enter a state of trance.
It works exactly the same way when you work, when you talk to your spouse, or when you perform random tasks such as eating or watching a movie.
Here’s how you can learn to focus:
Every time you talk to your spouse, give him/her your full attention. Simply try to stay focused and understand the real message behind everything he/she says.
Every time you work, try to clear your mind and make some mental space. Then simply imagine the task in front of your face as the only thing that exists, and that you have to get it done. There is nothing else besides it, so you’d better embrace it and get involved in it.
Focusing is a skill that requires constant practice!
Learn to Plan
If you plan, you save resources such as time, money, effort, and energy. Brian Tracy said that “ten minutes in planning saves one hour of action”. It’s quite obvious – after all, our mind is the one true generator of everything.
If you spend time planning your next week, you’ll save so much time throughout that same week because you’ll always know where to go, what to do, and how to do it.
When I start planning, I have a 10-minutes brainstorming session, followed by a 15-minutes “organizing and structuring” session. At the end of the planning session, I simply go through everything I wrote and focus on them for a few minutes just for my subconscious to “get” my intention.
Learn to Balance
To improve your time management, you need to understand what “balance” is. The law of polarity, one of the laws that govern everything we do, suggests that there are two extreme poles in everything.
Yin and yang, plus and minus, black and white, day and night, hate and love, fear and courage, personal and professional…you get the point.
The entire idea of balance is to aim for the middle. The first step starts when you create balance between your personal and professional life.
Then, you can balance your feelings. When you feel angry, simply acknowledge the opposite pole (calmness/peacefulness) and shift your perception towards it.
Try to avoid living extremes, and your entire life will work smoothly. Crises will arise, but they will always be temporary. The more you learn to balance your life the more you’ll live happily and satisfied with everything you do. When you’re fulfilled, the quality of your work increases and your results will slowly improve.
Fight Distractions and Learn to Say “NO”
If you want to be a true professional, you’ll have to learn to say “NO”. That goes even if you don’t have high professional aspirations, as it will change everything.
Most people expect things from you. Every single close friend of yours has a different perception and different expectations. When some ask you for help, they will immediately expect your assistance no matter what.
Well, if you want to manage your time, as I said, you have to manage your priorities. When someone comes to you with a request that you truly don’t feel like doing because you have other priorities, simply say NO.
No apologizing, no justifications, just simply “NO, I cannot do that, I am sorry, I have other priorities right now”. Of course, some people will feel hurt, but that is absolutely necessary both for you and for them. The moment you establish your boundaries and standards and start respecting your time, people around you will eventually respect you even more next time.
Work Hard, but Always Smart
Working hard is necessary if you want to succeed in any area of your life. However, hard work takes a lot of time unless that work is also smart.
Smart work is often impossible without effective planning. If you work two hours, make sure that your strategy helps you achieve the results you’d normally get in five hours.
Smart work is about figuring out the simplest, quickest, and most effective solutions to your problems and needs. If you work smart, you’ll be saving a lot of time and energy along the way and you’ll eventually learn to delegate, outsource, and make others do the work for you!
Procrastination can be diminished if you understand this simple principle: every human being seeks to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. When you have to do something, it’s one of the two triggers that intervenes and says either “Let’s do this now” or “Let’s do this later”.
When you procrastinate, it means that you are unconsciously avoiding the incoming pain. For example, if you have an important academic assignment that needs to be delivered next week, you may procrastinate until the deadline day is very close.
Most students panic (I used to do that too) and seek essay writers to do the work for them. However, before that happens, the procrastinator will feel great amounts of stress. In the end, he’ll have to sacrifice his money because he wasn’t able to leverage his time!
Diminish procrastination by understanding the principle of pain and pleasure, and also by finishing your most important tasks as early as possible!
Finding real reasons to pursue your goals is probably the most difficult part of all. It takes some courage to spend time with yourself, to disconnect from the opinions of others, and to allow silence to surround your mind.
It is hard to judge yourself for your mistakes, and it’s hard to admit when you’ve gone terribly wrong. It’s hard to balance things, as well as focus effectively at all times. Procrastination is a killer of dreams, while distractions are the delayers.
If you focus on the aspects presented today, you will slowly gain momentum and everything will start running smoothly in your life.
The secret to success? Applied knowledge.