Year-end time management

Not too long ago I had a lesson in patience. As a time management addict spending a long afternoon in a hospital waiting room while a friend awaited treatment, it became very clear to me that patience is not one of my strong suits. In talking with with other business folks I’ve discovered that I’m not alone.

Because there are always so many things to get done, including projects that take us away from our place of business, many businesspeople have come to depend on their smartphone calendars or daily to-do lists to help them be in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law sometimes creeps into a well-planned day with an unexpected urgent situation that changes everything. In times like these, patience suddenly becomes the virtue we all need; when time-management mania strikes and frantic, harried people find themselves in situations they have no control over.

Time is a most important resource because all others can be replaced. We can replace workers, money, and materials, but we can’t replace time. You may feel stretched for time as the year comes to a close and year-end tasks need to be completed without delay. Some folks have the added responsibility of making holiday plans for family and friends.

I turned to one of my time management “guru” friends for some advice on how to feel more in control as the end of the year draws near. Here are some of her tips:

  • Learn to say “NO.” Opt out of the extra tasks and invitations that play havoc with our days. Give special priority to the word “NO.”
  • Schedule paperwork time. Don’t waste important daily work time doing routine paperwork.
  • Don’t open junk mail. Use time more effectively by scanning and responding only to the mail and email that nobody else but you can deal with.
  • Do one thing at a time. This can be very hard for those who are used to multitasking, however the guru says work will be more enjoyable when this becomes a new habit.
  • Use a good calendar system, one that will give alerts on smartphones and tablets. You can use them to keep track of all your professional and personal obligations in one handy place.
  • Know how you spend your days. Keep track of what wastes times. If you want to control your time, you first need to know where you waste it.
  • Take time at the beginning of each week and each morning to plan weekly and daily to-do lists. Consider what needs to be accomplished and what can be eliminated — not only for business but also in your personal endeavors.
  • Define the value of your time investments. Set a value, either in emotional value, percentages, or dollars that will help define the importance of a project.
  • Always be prepared for a waiting-room experience with tools for writing, reading, visiting, reflecting, and planning.

Experts suggest time management is nothing more than focusing on investing your time wisely, not wasting it frivolously. They tell us that writing out our highest priorities, and planning goals, activities, and events that support those priorities, will change our lives, so that ultimately we can be in charge. They also suggest being in charge will lower stress, reduce anxiety, and increase happiness and productivity — not to mention improve our patience. I’m ready for that!

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