When I was a little girl, Mom and I were always close. She would stretch out on her lawn chair to soak up the sun’s rays while I played on the patio in the shade. Dad always kept our yard perfect – no weeds, bright green, gorgeous flowers and edged. The grand invention known as a “weed eater” didn’t exist yet, so he kept a little trench dug around all the flower beds, the concrete driveway and patio.
The trench was magnificent!
I would often drag the long green water hose over to the trench and fill it up with water after I drank a little that would inevitably go up my nose first. Then after gathering small leaves, I would place the leaves into the water. Immediately, the floating leaves became boats for the ants and the trench was a mote, river or canal in my wild childhood imagination. The ants would run around and around on the leaves, but never jump in the water and the leaves didn’t sink. This often kept me entertained for hours.
Of course, I was a child and did not have any other responsibilities, so spending time floating boats was fun.
Now, I’m woman and my “boats” of responsibility often are vitally important because it keeps a roof over my head, my family safe or my body working properly. How do I float the boats? It is called time management and is of utmost importance to being a successful woman aging with style – WAWS.
What is time management?
Time management is using the skills, tools and techniques necessary to manage one’s time in an efficient manner in order to obtain the most quality of the time spent in any activity. Just in case you are wondering, yes, I do have “skills” which are very different than “skillz” according to my daughter.
What is needed for effective time management?
Let’s keep this simple. In order to have effective time management, you need:
- decision-making skills
- ability to prioritize
- knowing when to delegate
- high coping ability
- being responsible
- keeping a perspective on the big picture
Tips for successful time management
Floating boats of responsibilities is actually one of my strong points. There is a certain amount of thrill obtained when I have been successful at completing a multitude of tasks at one time. I can equate it to the excitement my daughter feels while riding a roller coaster – exhilaration!
Let me give you some tips on successfully managing your time so that none of your boats sink.
- Be organized/clean. This is absolutely necessary in obtaining balance between tasks. The funny little ditty, “A clean desk is a sign of sickness,” is not true. The simple fact is that clutter is distracting.
- Make wise, well thought out decisions/plan. For example: If you want to paint a wall would you:
- Drive to the store. Buy the paint. Drive home. Open the paint. Drive back to the store. Buy a paint stick. Drive back home. Open the paint. Stir the paint. Put the lid back on the paint can. Drive back to the store. Buy a paint brush. Drive home. Open the paint. Stir the paint again. Paint.
- Drive to the store. Buy the paint, paint stick and paint brush. Drive home. Paint.
Although the same task would be completed in the end, the second choice is definitely more time efficient.
- Prioritize. What is most important? That is the underlying question during any task prioritization. For example: If the house suddenly became engulfed with flames, would you:
- Go into the kitchen. Make a bowl of cereal. Call 9-1-1 emergency to report the fire and then leave the house.
- Quickly leave the house. Call 9-1-1 emergency to report the fire. Forget the cereal because your house is burning down!!!!
Obviously, that was a silly and somewhat stupid example, but it blaringly shows the importance of properly prioritizing tasks. Always ask, “What is the most important tasks that needs to be completed?” and then begin with that one. Re-prioritize as needed reassessing the “urgent” versus the “important” tasks.
- Avoid procrastination. The adage, “Don’t do today what you can do tomorrow,” is just a time waster and definitely will sink all your responsibility boats. Another word for procrastination is quite simply, laziness.
- Write it down with a time/date. Whether you make a list on the computer, piece of paper, in a planner, on your Blackberry, PDA (personal digital assistant), on a calendar or in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, it is mandatory to write down all the things that need to be accomplished and a due date.
- Do not over commit. There is only so much that one person can do alone or with a team. Be sure to stay real and avoid not only over committing, but making impossible deadlines that are completely unattainable. This one action will cause too much stress especially since it is unnecessary.
- Delegate. The ability to delegate tasks because it is impossible to accomplish everything on time makes you…human. No, you are not a failure if you asks for help or delegate the things that need to get done. Being able to delegate before the last minute which may cause delays and missed deadlines is a sign of great time management.
- Analyze. As you work through the tasks, analyze the successful completion of each and the time needed for the completion of the the other responsibilities. Tweak the plans as necessary.
- Save and toss. In this day of technological wonders, people still have the tendency to save too much stuff. Not only should you streamline your papers and files in the cabinet/desk, likewise, avoid filling your hard drive with things you won’t ever look at again.
- Body and mood. Plan tasks according to your body’s energy level cycles and mood flow. Face it – some people are early birds while others are night owls. Early birds can not accomplish as much late in the night and night owls are often grouchy in the morning. When you are not at your peak energy level, it is like trying to run in the ocean. Everything is v-e-r-y—s-l-o-w. Schedule important, energy demanding responsibilities during your peak energy flow.
- Pareto principle or 80-20 rule. The rule states that 20% of your tasks/items/duties account for 80% of the value/end result/inventory valuation. For example: I’m having a party and still need to:
- put the roasting pan in the oven (It holds carrots, potatoes, roast beef – all seasoned)
- make myself a milk shake
- take a shower and wash my hair
Obviously, if I put the roasting pan in the oven (takes 10 seconds) first, in two hours I will have dinner finished and be able to feed everyone at the party. Quenching my sweet tooth with a milk shake and beautifying myself not only can be accomplished while the roast cooks, but the end value will not feed my hungry dinner party.
- Stop. Know when to take time out to relax in order to maintain great physical health, mental acuity and avoid burnout. Learning to relax is definitely under rated.
What are the advantages of effective time management?
Continually exhibiting effective time management is a priceless skill. Some of the advantages are:
- increased productivity
- increase in time
- reduced frustration/stress
- greater sense of accomplishment and fulfillment
- increased self-control
- more control over your life
- increased self-confidence
- less worry because of deadlines
- more relaxation and down time
- increased energy level
- increased relationship harmony
Acquiring the skill of effective time management is worth the effort. Like all things worth having or obtaining, it will take effort to learn how to consistently succeed in keeping all those boats floating in the sea of life. Watching them all float along in a relaxing flow is truly a thrill that is equaled only by the ants that floated across the world in their little boats made of leaves.