Time management step 2: Planning for success
In the first article in this series, Time management step 1: Having time to manage, we acknowledged the fixed amount of time each of us have to work with in a day, month, or year. We then took inventory of how that time was being used and explored ways to cut costly, less profitable activities from the list to make room for other things that can bring us closer to our goals.
In this article, we will discuss ways to reallocate this newly found time in ways that align with a happier, healthier, and successful life.
Identify your long-term goals
No one has ever reached their destination without deciding at some point where that destination is, and moving in that direction. That’s not to say that without an intended goal, someone can’t accomplish things, but those accomplishments are far from purposeful, and as a result, less satisfying.
Napolean Hill once said, “Goals are dreams with a deadline.” When defining these long-term goals give them a clock. “Someday” and “it’s on my bucket list” are not sufficient. But be realistic in the expectations. For those working on a thesis or dissertation, your college or university may have set the maximum deadline for you already, but that doesn’t mean your goal can’t be closer than their maximum allowance.
SMART goal setting is a common way for ensuring that your goal is something that your time can be used to meet. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific. Be sure to set a deadline that is both achievable and realistic.
Build profitable habits
Once you have identified the long-term goal, consider the skills and processes required to meet that goal. Do you need to learn something new? Do you need to complete a certain number of hours of research? Do you need to write a specific number of pages of manuscript?
Whatever is required to meet the goal requires time. And often, large amounts of time that need to be divided over days, months, or even years. In order to meet the demands of the larger goal, small steps every day need to be taken in the direction of the goal. Those incremental steps are accomplished through strategically planned habits.
Habits are formed through deliberate and consistent action. In the places where you have found time by examining what can be removed from your current routine, where can you substitute a new, positive, habit that will bring you closer to your long-term goal?
Even 10 minutes of an activity done daily is over an hour of progress each week. Remember too that some of the extra time may come from reducing time on activities that aren’t eliminated completely. For example, what could you do if you woke up 30 minutes earlier each day?
There is still a finite amount of time that each of us has. 525,600 minutes in a year to be precise. By completing these first two steps – taking inventory and cutting costly activities to make time for more profitable activities, and planning for success through long-term goal setting and productive habit development – we’ve taken control over the time available, but sometimes that’s still not enough.
In the next article in this series, Time management: Making the most of your time, we discuss ways to make the most of the time you have. Specifically, we’ll examine ways that you can adjust routines to improve efficiency, to increase satisfaction, and to find balance in your life.