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The late Bob Proctor (1934-2022) used to tell the following story about ‘time management’.
When he was working for the Nightingale-Conant seminar company, Bob asked the founder, Earl Nightingale, how he managed his time.
Nightingale replied with the following:
“I never mastered time management. No one manages time; time cannot be managed. I merely manage activities.”
There are a lot of people who are simply obsessed with time. Yet Nightingale was right. We need to manage our activities within a time frame, not time itself.
In this article we're going to discuss the things you both should do to manage your activities (NOT your time), and also what you should NOT do.
Just remember, time is constant. It passes at a fixed rate, although our perceptions of time flow vary greatly.
"Time Management" Part 1: The Do’s - The Ivy Lee Method
What is the Ivy Lee Method?
(No, not the 'Ivy League...!) The Ivy Lee Method goes back to 1918, when Charles Schwab, president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, sought help with making his team more efficient.
He scheduled a chat with Ivy Lee, who was a respected businessman and productivity consultant.
Lee agreed to help, free of charge if he could spend 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s executives.
He said if the method worked within 3 months, Schwab could send him a check for whatever he thought the method was worth.
Fast forward three months, and the method, although simple, was worth $25,000 in Schwab’s eyes.
In today’s world, that’s the equivalent of $400,000.
- At the end of the day, every workday, write down 6 tasks that you think are important to accomplish tomorrow. By important, I mean they 'must' be done.
- Decide priorities for each of those tasks, ranking them in order accordingly.
- First thing tomorrow, get started on the first task.
Work on it until you finish.
Then, begin the second task, and so on and so forth.
- When you finish your day at work, look at your list.
Any unfinished items should be moved to tomorrow’s list of 6 tasks for the day.
Repeat this method every day of the working week.
Why it Works
This method is simple, which is exactly why it works so well.
With cell phones, social media, and all other forms of advanced technology, we’ve become activity addicts.
As a society, we’re often restless and antsy and try to do a million things at once.
This practice is known as multi-tasking. Sound familiar?
We used to believe that multi-tasking was the most effective way to work.
But neuroscience has now proven that it is the exact opposite. We get less done in more time and end up frazzled at the end of the day.
It can take our brains up to 25 minutes to get back into a work rhythm when we’ve been interrupted.
When we multi-task, we never allow ourselves to get into a rhythm, which kills our productivity and stresses us out needlessly.
The Ivy Lee Method is straightforward and goal-oriented. It keeps you on track so that multi-tasking and distractions don’t interfere with the important stuff.
It provides you will the kind of laser-focus that will help you get through your work tasks without breaking a sweat.
"Time Management" Part 2: The Don'ts!
The art of time activity management is an involved practice. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it often comes with roadblocks that deter people from optimally using their time.
If you want to manage your time activities well, you need to be able to spot these traps and learn how to get out of them.
It’s not rocket science. Most of these snares are intuitively spotted as red flags to productivity.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves as expert time activity managers, let’s learn five time activity management traps that we should avoid at all costs.
1. Focusing on the Small Things
Some people take the quote, “It’s the little things in life that matter most” a bit too seriously.
Possessing gratitude is one thing, but fixating on trivial matters is where it gets a bit out of hand.
Don’t put all your energy into the small stuff when you have more important things to focus on.
2. Lacking a Clear Vision
To set goals for yourself, you need to have a sense of aim.
What big goals do you have for your life?
How large is the gap between where you are and where you want to be?
What would you like to achieve?
This is part of defining your vision, which you need to set in order to budget your time well.
3. Perfectionism Gone Wrong
There is such a thing as being too perfect.
I know it’s hard to believe, but perfectionism can take a toll on you, and it can negatively impact your performance.
If you’re too caught up in making something flawless, you may lose sight of the big picture.
4. Prioritising the Wrong Things
Have you ever found yourself spending hours on one project and only devoting 30 minutes to another?
If you feel unbalanced with the way you distribute your time, you should check in with yourself.
This can be an indicator that you’ve fallen into the time management trap of prioritising the wrong things.
5. Forgetting to Review Your Skills
It’s great to review your performance, but we’re talking about reviewing your time management skills.
It’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, so you may need to try different strategies in order to find one that works best for you.
We can assure you that you’ll find your own way of managing your time, but it may not come to you right off the bat.
The next time you find yourself falling into a trap, try not to panic.
None of these snares have quicksand foundations, so you’re not doomed if you fall into a pit every once and a while.
The important thing is how you deal with it and how quickly you manage to get out!
"Time Management": Summary
To reiterate Earl Nightingale: Time cannot be managed - only activities can be managed.
Combine your skills and visions.
Focus on the bigger things.
Deciding your priorities will enhance your work efficiency to get more done in the same time.
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