I was recently asked how in the world I manage to do everything I have to do on any given day. I have multiple companies, at least seven independent brands, and of course, personal responsibilities and commitments to my family and friends. I’ve heard people describe me like the old “Energizer bunny.” My ability to do so much in a day has often impressed people. The reality is much more straightforward. I prioritize my time to ensure that I’m spending it well. I know I can’t do everything.
I get the same seven hours of sleep as most people, but I prescribe to the reality of early to bed and early to rise. I’m awake most days around 3 am or 4 am EST, and while everyone is sleeping, I have the opportunity to quietly catch up and plan everything I need to get done that day. I also have the time to get in exercise or even a message and take a look at what’s happening in the news.
I think it’s fair to say that if I didn’t know how to manage my time well, there’s no possible way I would be able to have everything. One of the most often asked questions I get from people who are looking to begin something new is what tips and ideas I have for time management. In case you find yourself in a situation that you don’t seem to have any time to get done what you want to do, here are some thoughts for you to improve your time management.
- Time Audit: A great thing to do so you can see how you spend your time is to do an audit, and if you have a smartphone, there are plenty of apps that will help you keep track. Make a notation of the time you spend daily on each activity, and you’ll begin to gain the necessary insight to see how you’re spending it. You may realize how you’re spending a lot of time on an activity that doesn’t serve you well. Remember, how you spend your time is a reflection of your priorities. After you have done an audit, reallocate your time according to your real preferences.
- Adaptation: An essential skill that I think is often taken for granted is the ability to adapt. People are creatures of habit, and so you have to work with that idea. And in a world that is continually changing rapidly, one of the best things you can do for yourself is learning to live outside of your comfort zone and be flexible. If, for example, you see in your audit that you are spending way too much time processing each situation, then you have to begin to give yourself deadlines, even if those self-imposed goals are not comfortable, so you don’t end up in a case of paralysis of analysis.
- Time Limit: Sometimes you have projects or tasks that you have to do, but they may take a lot of your time. For instance, let’s say you want to start a new business and you want to get some research done. Instead of spending hours and descending into the rabbit hole, give yourself a time limit for each research session helps with time management. Perhaps you spend an hour a day doing the research. Setting time limits will allow you to do more because you’re not “over-spending” your time on specific tasks.
- Forget Multi-Tasking: The brain is not made to multi-task, and studies have shown that although we like to think we are so productive by multi-tasking, the reality is that the mind should be focusing on one task at a time. Multi-tasking decreases your efficiency and slows you down because your brain has to shift gears between tasks. If you focus intently for a specified period one activity and then move onto the next goal, you will get what you need to get done more quickly, thus giving yourself more time to do other things.
- Plan in Advance: I often spend my quiet Sunday time planning for the week ahead. Planning instead of doing things on the fly helps you refine your focus and priorities, thus saving you time. Any planning you can get done for a meeting or scheduling will help you save time. And, once you’re in the thick of things for the week, if you planned only one hour for a meeting or task, stick to that period. Once you begin to go over in the allotted time, everything else you have planned will start to suffer.
- Pareto’s Principle: Pareto’s Principle is the 80/20 Rule, which is that 80 percent of your results are going to come from 20 percent of your actions. Think about it. The majority of your success and time efficiency will come from 20 percent of your efforts. Each day you’re planning your time, think about the 20 percent of activities that will provide you with the most significant results. Then focus on spending the most time on those activities and limiting the extraneous and wasteful time spenders.
- Do Not Disturb: Again, we live in a world of constant distractions and interference. For you to be able to succeed in achieving what you want, you have to minimize distractions. For some, that may mean switching their smartphones to “Do Not Disturb” so they can get a good night’s restful sleep. For others, that will mean placing a sign in the office or via email that you will respond to emails within 24 hours. Whatever it is, protect your time since it’s precious.
Time management is one of the essential life and professional skills necessary. To “find” time, it’s a matter of prioritizing what you think is critical (and understanding it before-hand), eliminating wasteful distractions, and focusing when you are in the process of doing an activity that’s essential to your success. And, on the rare occasion you find yourself waiting for your turn, say at the office or when traveling, take the opportunity to use the time to catch up on emails or answer telephone calls. Finally, make sure that you get relaxation each day since it will keep your mind from getting burned out.