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Saturday, January 06, 2007

You Can’t Manage Time

Trying to manage time is like trying to hold water in your hand. It can’t be done. I don’t know who coined the term “time management” but it is misleading. You cannot control time.
What you can control is your actions. You control how you spend your time. You are in complete control of what you do and when you do it.

Good time management begins with examining your personal efficiency. Ask your self the question: What do you do each day and how can it be done with less effort and in less time?
Let’s look at three of the time-related choices you make each and every day and see if there are opportunities to improve them. I call these three areas “foundational activities” because they are building blocks of your day. If you get off to a bad (slow or inefficient) start in one of these areas, it will have an impact on the rest of your day.


How much time do you spend asleep? Each person has individual needs when it comes to sleep. I know that I personally can function with as little as four hours each night but I am at my best when I get between six and eight hours of good quality sleep. Generally, it is difficult to reset your body to need less sleep. You can do it, but it takes time and it can really wreak havoc on your system so I don’t advise it. Instead you should surrender to the need for quality sleep time.

Accept that you need X hours each night (in my case I shoot for seven hours). Adjust the time you go to bed to make certain that you have the proper number of hours from the time your head hits the pillow to the time you need to get up. Don’t cheat yourself on sleep time. Manage your actions properly.

Daily Routine

How much time do you spend doing necessary repetitive things each day? Can you make them more efficient? Let me give you an example: Each morning I have one cup of coffee at home as I read the news. It takes about ten minutes for the coffee to brew. Instead of waiting for the coffee maker to finish and then starting my routine (I can’t function, let alone read, until I have had a couple of sips of coffee) I set the coffee pot to a timer so the coffee is waiting for me when I get up.

How long does it take you to get dressed and ready for work each day? Is there any wasted effort in this process? Each of us has our own ritual that we follow as we prepare for work. Generally, if you are organized you can save yourself a significant amount of time doing what I call “search and match”. Search and match is the time it takes to match shirt and tie, pants and jacket or make-up with your “look” for the day. Organize your closet. Put suits in one section and shirts in another. Separate your make-up by color. Put matching items together (Note: I’m not an expert on make-up but my wife has a huge tackle box that is segmented and easily accessible and she gets ready quickly so I know this system works).


How long does it take you to get to work? Can you take a quicker route? Does it make a difference if you leave at a different time? In New York City I take the subway to work. If I get on the train before 7:30AM I have no problems and it generally takes me about twenty minutes to commute to my office. If I get to the subway station after 7:30 I usually need to let a couple of trains pass before I can even fit into one of the subway cars. Once I get on the train (after 7:30) it takes an extra five to ten minutes to get to my stop because people are pushing and shoving at each station and it takes a couple of minutes for the conductor to get the door closed at each station. Generally, leaving my house after 7:30AM will cost me an additional twenty to thirty minutes on my morning commute. That’s a big difference.

Does it make a difference when you leave your house to get to work? Is there more traffic at a certain time? Can you adjust your schedule?

I’m willing to bet that if you look at some of the things you do each and every day you can find at least a few minutes of extra time. What is even more valuable than the time that you find is the habit of looking for new and more efficient ways of getting things done. If you constantly examine your activities you will find ways to become more efficient. Controlling your activities– and how much time you spend on them – is the essence of time management.

Information and creativity is what keeps the traffic moving... so keep up the quality and enjoy great traffic.
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