“When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” – The Bible
Wow! Can you imagine? What if it were like that today? Such a scenario would definitely put a new spin on the words “time management”. No doubt we could afford to waste a few hundred years to procrastination, indecision, and downright laziness, and still have plenty of time to accomplish great goals, establish and nurture strong relationships, and to even put several generations of children through college.
Unfortunately, medical science has yet to figure out how to extend our natural lifespan much past threescore years and ten, and if you think about it, that’s not much time to accomplish all that we want to do during our short stint on this planet. Motivator Glenn Bland states that “from the moment we draw our first breath, we begin a personal race against time.” He’s right. The clock is ticking.
Regardless of who we are, what we do, or how successful or unsuccessful we feel ourselves to be, each one of us is gifted with the same number of hours each day in which to act. Ultimately, it is our decisions concerning what actions (or inactions) we are going to take during those twenty-four hour blocks of time we call days that determine the levels of success or failure in all areas of our lives.
So what are some of the ways we can effectively make the most of our time? How do we achieve what we want out of life, yet still maintain a balance? Here are fifteen time management secrets that have been used by some of the most successful people in history; from politicians to Hollywood entertainers; from Fortune 500 corporate executives to Olympic athletes; from entrepreneurs to soccer moms. These secrets worked for them, and they’ll work for you too, if you’ll TAKE THE TIME to learn and apply them.
Secret #1: Set Balanced Goals
“Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” – Susan Ertz
Goals represent the ultimate in time management tools. They allow us to be proactive and not reactive, to steer through life, arriving at destinations of our own choosing within timetables we ourselves set. Without goals, all activities we undertake take on equal value. In addition, if we don’t set our own goals, the world will set them for us! Think about it. You divvy up your time between specific decisions to make and actions to take all day long. The question is: Whose goals are these decisions and actions directed towards, yours or someone else’s?
If you haven’t put your goals down in writing and devised a plan of action to achieve each one, set a goal to do so today. Only then you will have taken that important first step towards ultimate time mastery.
Secret #2: Master Your Attitude
“You’re nothing if you aren’t excited by what you are doing.” – Frank Sinatra
Next to goal setting, your general attitude towards life and events in life will have the greatest influence on your personal time management. Attitude can spur us on to action and achievement, or it can paralyze us with procrastination and indecision.
A winning attitude is what keeps us excited about taking action to reach our goals and maximizing our time along the way. A losing attitude, on the other hand, says “What’s the use!” and keeps us sedated on the couch in front of the boob tube.
Secret #3: Compartmentalize Your Thinking
“I’ve got at least five lives to lead. I’ve got so many lives to lead, there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I’ve got so much to do I can’t believe it. But damn, it’s all so much fun!” – Ted Turner
“Mental compartmentalization” is another strategy used by great time managers. Compartmentalizing your thinking is nothing more than learning to “be in the moment”; learning to concentrate fully on the task at hand and to ignore distractions.
Realize that our only point of power is in the present moment, not ten seconds ahead nor ten seconds behind. By learning to compartmentalize your thinking, you will be able to pursue several goals at once with maximum efficiency and minimum distraction.
Secret #4: Overcome Procrastination
“A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life” – Charles Darwin
John F. Kennedy said it best when he declared, “We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” Because procrastination is one of the greatest enemies of time management, learning to overcome it is truly the ultimate secret to goal achievement. For more on this, scroll down to my blog post on “The Power of Action”.
Secret #5: Be Decisive
“When in doubt, attack!” – Ulysses S. Grant
The spawn of procrastination, indecision is a huge time waster caused by a lack of knowledge, which in turn breeds an attitude that fears failure. When faced with an important decision, consider following the lead of a famous guy who had to make some pretty tough decisions in his day: Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s method for making decisions was as follows:
• Do your research and understand the facts.
• Consider a variety of possible solutions and the consequences, both positive and negative.
• Be certain that your decision supports your intended goals; then
• Decide and implement!
Did Lincoln make poor decisions during his tenure? Sure he did. Did he achieve his ultimate goal? Sure he did. He did so because he refused to waste time (and, during wartime, human lives) due to indecision. Refuse to waste yours too.
Secret #6: Compress Time
“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Mark Twain
Compressing time is the art of turning otherwise idle or transition time into productive time. How is this done? By keeping a book or audio program with you at all times, specifically ones that will help you achieve the goals you set for yourself.
For example: Want to learn how to start a business? Purchase or check out a book or audio program on “Starting a Business” and get after it. You can read or listen to it when exercising, waiting in the doctor’s office, when you’re stuck in traffic..you get the picture. Compressing time. Remember, learning from another’s experience (and mistakes) through books offers a proven shortcut to goal achievement.
Secret #7: Plan Tomorrow Today
“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” – Daniel H. Burnham
Take ten minutes at the end of your workday and ten more just prior to hitting the pillow at night to review the day’s events and accomplishments, and to plan out tomorrow’s activities.
By planning your tomorrow today and writing that plan down, you’ll be able to wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. As an added benefit, you’ll sleep more soundly at night because your subconscious won’t be working overtime while you sleep to make sure you don’t forget important upcoming activities and events.
Secret #8: Delegate
“Your quality of life is a reflection of the quality of people you associate with.” – Anon
The busiest, most successful people throughout history achieved their greatness only through effective delegation. How many times has it been hammered into our brains, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself!” Unfortunately, harboring such a paradigm is a sure-fire prescription for burnout and goal dissatisfaction.
Just keep this in mind: When the delegation process fails, nine times out of ten it is due to poor communication. And the good news is that such a failure can be prevented by being certain to communicate a particular task clearly to the other person.
How is this accomplished? It’s an easy three step process: 1) Give specific directives and desired outcomes; 2) Set deadlines and rewards for their accomplishment; and 3)Schedule timely follow-ups to track progress.
So start delegating and recapture that precious time.
Secret #9: Leverage Your Time
“I’ve wasted an enormous amount of time, and time is life. Time is all there is.” Gloria Steinem
Gain leverage on your personal time by hiring others to do time-consuming activities such as housework, yard work, auto repairs and maintenance, etc. By doing so, you’ll free up tremendous amounts of time that can instead be applied towards your goals.
But you may ask yourself, “I’m supposed to pay money to someone to do these jobs when I can save money doing them myself?” The answer: Yes! If you have ambitious goals in your life, you can’t afford not to hire out at least some of this type of work.
Have you ever really sat down and figured out how much your time is actually worth? If not, do so now. What would it be worth to you to achieve a goal sooner than expected? It could be worth a fortune. So does it pay to hire out? You bet it does. Don’t look at it as an expense, but as an investment in your future.
Secret #10: Learn To Say “No”
“If someone approaches you and starts to say, ‘What you need to do is…’ run like mad in the opposite direction.” – Sharon Steen
You can exert incredibly tight control over your time by mastering one simple communication skill: Learn how to say “No”.
Why is this so hard? As human beings, we not only fear being on the receiving end of rejection, but we also hate rejecting others. Yet when you refuse to say “No”, your life will be ruled by other people’s agendas and not your own. And life is too short for that.
Saying “No” is not being selfish either, so never let anyone lay a guilt trip on you for doing so. This is a skill that will help you allocate your precious time towards those areas of your life that count the most.
Secret #11: Ask And You Will Receive
“If you don’t ask, the answer is always no” – Anon
How much time would you save if you would conquer your fear and just learn how to ask for what you want? Certainly if you want to achieve your goals as fast as possible, you can’t be afraid to “ask”.
As mentioned earlier, the fear of rejection is a powerful force that is capable of derailing your dream train. Again, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen if I ask for this?” You might get told “no”. So what. Ask again. Or ask a different person.
Keep asking until you get a “Yes”. John Grisham had to ask fifteen publishers before he got his “Yes”. What might have happened if he stopped asking at fourteen? The moral of the story is this…keep asking.
Secret #12: Live Below Your Means
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” – Henry David Thoreau
Where do most of us spend the majority of our waking hours? With our family? Enjoying our hobby? Helping a friend in need?
You know the answer. We spend most of our waking hours earning a living. And for many Americans, earning a living gobbles up a large part of their sleeping hours as well. Why is that? No doubt for some, they truly enjoy working eighteen hours a day. But for most of us, we have to spend lots of our time working because we live at or above our means. Either we are living paycheck to paycheck to keep up with our monthly obligations, or else we are living paycheck to paycheck to pay the interest on the debt we’ve accumulated to enable us to keep up with our monthly obligations. Either way, our time has become a slave to money.
Take a good hard look at your finances and your monthly expenditures, then cut, cut, cut! Keep cutting until your income exceeds your expenses by at least 20%. Then cut back on your working hours until your income exceeds your expenses by 10%. For some, this could free up an extra two weeks per year. For others, even more. Plus, you’ll still be making more than you’re spending. Now you’re really living.
Do the math. It works.
Secret #13: Don’t Be A Slave To This
“He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice.” – John Stuart Mill
Have you ever been spending quality time with your spouse, children, or significant other when your mobile device suddenly goes off?
If you’re like most people, you’ll climb over mountains to answer it, even if it means interrupting your conversation, not realizing that by doing so, you have allowed some unknown third party to control your time and your actions. Not only that, such behavior on your part does nothing but tell that special person of yours that this unknown caller is much more important than him/her. It’s just not right.
Don’t be a slave to your phone. Unless you are expecting a very important call, let voice mail get it, then establish specific times throughout the day to return phone calls.
Along these same lines, don’t become a slave to e-mails, texts, apps, or to the Internet. These are wonderful tools for sure, but they can vaporize valuable time if you’re not careful. Use them wisely. Avoid addictions (you know what I’m talking about). Be very selective as to who gets your e-mail address and make maximum use of your e-mail filters. In other words, don’t allow your “virtual” world to govern your “real” world.
Secret #14: Take A Nap
“For every purpose of business or pleasure, mental or physical, we ought to break our days and our marches into two…Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imagination.” – Winston Churchill
Why is it that it is so socially unacceptable in our society to take naps during the day? Good question, because this is one proven strategy that has been used by highly successful people throughout the ages to effectively leverage their time, expand their workdays, and to maintain peak performance.
When an American executive told Winston Churchill about the typical American eight to five work schedule, Churchill replied, “My dear man, you don’t mean it! That is the most perfect prescription for a short life that I’ve ever heard”. Churchill rarely missed his afternoon nap. He felt productivity increased when the day was broken up into two parts by the afternoon nap. And judging by his own productivity, he was on to something!
Remember when you were in school and you put your head down on your desk for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time? Believe it or not, the technique still works. Some of you may be mumbling, “What if I don’t have a desk to put my head on?” or “If my boss finds me napping, she’ll fire me.”
Fine. Just hop into your car at lunch break, put the seat back, and catch fifteen minutes of sleep. Just try it. It will energize the remainder of your day, allowing you to accomplish more before you finally hit that pillow at night.
Secret #15: Get Fit and Stay Fit
“You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you can’t even climb into the saddle.” – Anon
Physical fitness is a vital time management tool, since lack of it leads to lethargy, a lack of ambition, and perpetuates the bad attitude that led to a lack of fitness in the first place. How can you run hard after your goals in the most time efficient manner if you’re gasping for air after the first few steps.
Forget about fancy diets. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar behemoth in this country, built around the premises of “quick-fixes” and lack of personal accountability.
To lose weight, get fit, and remain that way, you need to first “exorcise” the demons in your head that consistently cause you to mount that all-out frontal assault on the refrigerator, while at the same time keeping you fastened to your recliner watching sitcoms.
What is bothering you? Something is, and you’re using food and your recliner to try to forget about it. Find out what it is and send it packing. Once you’ve done this, you’re 90% of the way there.
Next, you need to start exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced, healthy diet, and counting your calories along the way. Period! As for the latter recommendation, ask your doctor what your daily caloric intake should be in order for you to reach your ideal body weight. Then formulate a balanced diet plan based upon that number and follow it. Don’t expect to reach your ideal weight within a week. After all, how many months or years of spooning, forking, and inactivity did it take for you to sculpt your current physical masterpiece? It’s that simple.
Well, that’s it – Fifteen of the most effective time management secrets known to man. No doubt there are dozens of other ways to free up more time in your life. And since “time is indeed life”, be sure to take the time to read up on this subject (see Secret #6) and become an expert at it. Just remember: We are all given twenty-four hours in a day with which to work.
How you choose to spend yours will ultimately determine your destiny.