Each day, we are faced with a dilemma of how to successfully manage our time. With only twenty-four hours in a day, how can we complete our work, spend time with our families, finish all the little tasks that come up each day while saving some time for us? Successful people have agreed that effective time management is the key to their success. Much research has been done on the topic of time management both formally and informally, leading to many myths, methods, and techniques. However, there are three fundamental building blocks that make up an effective time management program: organization, motivation, and progress evaluation. Though time scheduling will not make you a perfectly efficient person, it will assist you in making better decisions and help organize your daily activities.

Organization is arguably the most important aspect to time management; conversely, the lack of organization can lead to the downfall of the process. Organization is more than just a pencil holder on your desk is or a file drawer in order is. It is establishing realistic goals, planning your tasks, and building flexibility into your every day agenda. Just as physical organization is vital to keeping track of physical items such as reports, keys, and important papers, mental organization helps keep the mind sharp and clear. This allows one to focus on the task at hand rather than other tasks that may be cluttering the mind.

The first step in organization is to establish realistic goals. These include long-term goals and short-term goals. Long-term goals include tasks such as buying a house or switching jobs. Short-term goals can include completing a certain project by lunch, or even deciding to have lunch. Set goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and achievable. Optimum goals are those that cause one to "stretch" but not "break" as they strive for achievement. These goals can give creative people a much-needed sense of direction.

Planning can be considered an investment in efficiency and success; it is the process by which the goals that are set early in the time-management program are put into action. This process involves breaking down each goal into who, what, when, where, when, why and how of achieving that goal in the most effective way possible. If this process is completed correctly, it can ensure that one focuses on the tasks that will move them towards their goal, while reducing distractions to a minimum. In addition, the process can reveal areas that could be delegated to increase productivity.

One way to balance a project or a person’s daily tasks, can be achieved by creating a time management plan. Divide the time available into comfortable portions. This can be accomplished through the use of a time log. This log is a schedule template that visually diagrams the daily, weekly and monthly schedule. For example, one could create a long-term schedule of fixed commitments only. These would include job hours, classes, church, etc. Next would come an intermediate schedule of major events and the amount of work to be accomplished in each subject that week. This schedule would change from week to week necessitating the starting of a new list for each week. Finally, a short-term schedule completed on a nightly basis would be completed specifying exactly what is to be accomplished with a timeline for accomplishment. This log can become a framework for tasks, allowing control, perspective and a baseline for decisions. It is also significant that one’s own personal energy cycles be taken into account in this schedule.

When evaluating the time management process, it is vital that flexibility is not left out of the equation, as it is also an ingredient for success. Organization and a schedule are significant; however, time must be factored in to allow for unexpected events. These blocks of free time can be used to shift tasks to make room for critical issues without impacting the schedule as a whole. They can also be used for personal needs so that all critical tasks are completed. Obstacles are guaranteed in any schedule, and the ability to handle these unexpected changes is essential. Understanding that roadblocks are sometimes a normal part of a project will allow one to stay calm and focus on completing the task instead of focusing on the roadblock itself. Scheduling personal time is also a worthwhile effort, as it will allow time to reflect on the tasks that have been completed and those yet to come.

Having completed the major steps of organization, establishing goals, planning, and flexibility, one could feel confident in their time management skills. However, organization is one of the three building blocks to time management. Having an organized, well thought-out plan is vital to being successful. Without the motivation to execute, a plan can fail. Discipline, stress management, success and self-confidence are four distinctive elements to the motivation behind a well-executed time management plan. These four elements contribute to the overall feeling of accomplishment at completed tasks while helping pull the plan through difficult segments.

When one is faced with a large project, it is often difficult to visualize the final outcome due to the sheer magnitude of the many tasks that must be performed. In many instances, the root cause of stress is attempting to complete the project as a whole without addressing the individual steps it takes to move towards the final goal. Discipline is the process of prioritizing tasks in order to manage time and complete the project or task. Procrastination, caused by a lack of discipline, can be a major obstacle in achieving success. By staying disciplined and implementing organizational items such as a manageable task-oriented calendar, one can complete the task or project without being overwhelmed.

The successful completion of these tasks leads to increased self-confidence in both individuals and team units. Generally, motivated teams are more likely to stay on-track, while searching for additional methods to reduce the time to complete the project. These shortcuts can boost motivation and self-confidence by allowing more tasks to be completed than normal. While failures can sometimes lead to even greater failures the converse, motivation leads to self-confidence, is very much true. In addition, by having more time to allocate, one can find a greater sense of purpose while reducing stress.

Even if all the above methods are employed, there will be instances when a project becomes overwhelming for an individual. There may also be outside variables that may disrupt the project or a personal schedule. At these times, stress levels rise, and motivation can be decreased. It is vital to use stress management techniques. These techniques work on the theory that an individual functions best when stress levels are kept to a minimum. One method involves visualizing future successes. Using this method, the individual visualizes how their life will be different when a task or a goal is complete while comparing that visualization to their current or past situation. By picturing the rewards that hard work will bring, motivation levels can rise, and stress levels can be reduced. A second technique involves personal time. This technique explicitly sets apart time to eat, exercise, and not focus on the project. This technique can be extremely difficult to employ during highly stressful projects. By giving the mind a chance to settle, these techniques can make up for the lost time by increasing overall productivity.

The final stress-reduction technique is one that should be incorporated into any project or task, no matter the size. This involves working on the individual self-esteem by having the individual replace negative thoughts with positive ones. In addition, reminders of the accomplishments achieved to date can help an individual realize how much work they have already completed. Even if an accomplishment was not finished the way the individual set out to, they should still feel a sense of completion. Evaluating the previous situation will enable improvements in the future. Self depreciation for not accomplishing a task is counter-productive and can cause stress, which is the exact opposite of the entire time-management process.

Progress evaluation completes the circle of time management by reviewing the established goals, evaluating overall progress, and making modifications where needed to accomplish the desired results. For example, it is not uncommon for an individual to set a realistic goal with an unrealistic time frame. When the task is not completed in this time frame, the individual can feel a sense of failure. Without a process to evaluate this situation and offer the ability to change it, and individual could easily give up on the entire process. It is of considerable importance that the individual be honest with themselves during this process in order to set realistic goals, and to evaluate the goals that had been set previously.

Practicing an effective time management process begins with organization skills, continues by maintaining motivation, and is completed by reevaluating the progress made. Setting long-term and short-term goals in addition to creating daily logs, leads to effective time management and are a few tools one needs in order to be successful.


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