Blog: Simplify Your Life
Eliminating Time Wasters
If you ask a group of people to define "time management", they will probably talk about getting it all done, crossing items off of a list, and being productive. However, good time management is not the ability to cram more and more into your day. It's a mindset that helps focus your time on those activities that are most valuable and meaningful to you.
Efficient Versus Effective
Efficiency means getting a lot done in a short time -- effectiveness happens when you also invest your energies in projects that matter to you. Think back to a time (maybe yesterday) when chunk of your day was eaten up by a menial task, like checking email. You may have gotten through hundreds of messages, even emptied your in-box, yet still felt vaguely dissatisfied with your effort. It didn't seem as though you actually accomplished much -- because it wasn't a task near and dear to your heart. As the old saying goes, you can run as fast as you want, but if you're going in the wrong direction, you still won't end up where you intended.
Good time management helps you find your way. I'm a caver, and I really enjoy crawling around in dark holes underground (the photo is of my friend Mary, the one and only time I ever talked her into "spelunking" with me). I don't know if you've ever been in a real cave before, but it is PITCH black -- you can't see a thing. And without my caving light, it wouldn't matter how fast I went -- I still wouldn't have a clue where I was headed. I might be going in circles, I might be going backward. However, as soon as I turn on my light, I can see where I am, the passage ahead of me, and any obstacles I'll need to go over or around. And most importantly, I'll be able to recognize it when I'm nearing the end of my journey -- getting close to accomplishing my goal. That's what good time management is all about.
Where Does Your Time Go?
How much of your life is spent on "time wasters" -- activities that do nothing to enhance your quality of life, and actually prevent you from accomplishing more important goals? Facebook has become my major time-waster these days. While I get a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction from staying connected to all the people in my life, if I get distracted into playing Mafia Wars or taking any of their stupid "what kind of tree would you be" quizzes, I'm in trouble!
Each person has his or her own "time traps" -- but you know you've been seduced by a time waster when you find yourself:
- watching TV shows you don't really care about
- checking email over and over throughout the day
- surfing the internet or cruising chat rooms with no purpose in mind
- endlessly checking status updates on social networking sites
- wandering around stores, just looking for bargains
- spending a few hours every day running errands
- shuffling the same papers back and forth on your desk
Drawing The Line
Some days it can feel as though, despite your best efforts, you haven't accomplished a dadgum thing. Quitting time rolls around and all you have to show for it is hours and hours down the drain, blown on activities that gave you little or no payoff -- not to mention the fact that your to-do list is still sitting there staring at you, waiting to be tackled tomorrow!
It can be very hard to curtail these time-wasting behaviors (isn't it always hard to break a bad habit?) Sure, it's fun to goof off on the internet when you have a few minutes and your brain needs a break -- but how good are you at drawing the line and saying, "Okay, time to get back to work?" Do you automatically turn on the television when you get up in the morning or come home in the afternoon? Maybe it's time to give your remote control a rest!
The good news is, it's easy to change these mindless habits -- all it takes is a conscious choice to spend your time differently, and set a little advance planning:
- when you come home, leave the TV off and find a more meaningful way to decompress (go for a walk, read a book, play with your kids) -- review the TV schedule once a week, find those shows you really care about, and record them to watch later without commercials
- get into a routine of checking email no more than 3 times a day (morning, noon, and end of the day) -- turn off the "you've got mail" alarm and program your system to only download emails on command
- if you lose track of the world while web-surfing, set a timer to go off in 15 or 20 minutes -- then make yourself get up and turn off the computer when it dings
- for 30 days, shop only from a list -- only go to stores that carry the item you need, and if you don't actually need anything, don't go to the mall in the first place
- set aside a single "errand day" each week and sit down with your family to plan your list -- put everything you need in one basket by the door, and plot your route in advance to avoid backtracking -- if someone forgets an errand, either insist that it wait until the next errand day, or let them do it themselves
- take 5 minutes to sort through incoming papers every day -- put "to-do" papers into a tickler/action file, and set aside time once a week to file and handle to-do's -- set up a spot for papers you're currently working on, and take 5 minutes to clear your desk before you leave each day
Time For Your Priorities
Look around your life and see what other daily routines and chores eat up your day. You may even want to keep a log for a week or so, recording how you spent your time and what sort of value you received from each activity (just don't let keeping your log become a time-waster!) You'll discover your own personal time "issues" (spending 2 hours trying on outfits before deciding what to wear that day, taking forever to make up your mind about the brand of orange juice to buy at the store, whatever) and find ways of dealing with each.
See if you can't trim some fat from your schedule -- just a few simple changes will free up hours each week. But don't waste this bounty -- be sure to put that bonus free time to good use. Block off room in your calendar for those important projects you've been neglecting -- and don't allow anything to interrupt you. If someone asks for your time during that slot, let them know you can't because you already have another appointment (you do -- with yourself!) And enjoy the satisfaction you get from spending your time effectively!
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posted on: 11/17/2009 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips
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Simplify Your Life
by Ramona Creel
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I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!
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