“If you spend fifteen minutes planning your day, you’ll be able to accomplish twice as much.” I remember a professor telling my class this when I was a freshman in college. At the time, I was neck-deep in my first semester with mid-terms fast approaching and doing everything I could to simply stay afloat. “I don’t even have fifteen minutes to spare,” I remember thinking to myself. I wonder how much less stress I would have had (not to mention better grades) if I had simply listened to my professor. Since then, I’ve become much more disciplined at time management and have actually managed to have success at work and still have a life with family and friends outside of the school. Here are five time management tips can help you reclaim some time for yourself.
1. Create a “Steak List” – In his book, EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches, author and money guru Dave Ramsey shares his process of making a to-do list.
First begin by making a list of all activities that you feel need to be done today. Once you have your list, go back through and put an “A” beside everything that must be completed today. Examine the remaining items and place a “B” beside the items that may not need to be done today, but definitely soon. Anything else on the list receives a “C” and will be moved up in priority when “B” or “A” when priorities allow. Finally, go back through the each letter of the list and prioritize those items by number, meaning item A1 (where the steak list gets its name!) is the most important thing to do that day, A2 is next, and so on. Complete this list in order and don’t deviate! When A’s are all complete, move on to B’s, and finally C’s. This really sounds more complicated that it is…in fact, it probably took you longer to read this paragraph that it will to make your “Steak List.” The first time I made a list, I actually completed everything on it in one day! It’s amazing how this little exercise can increase productivity so much!
2. Create an Ideal Calendar and Stick To It! – I have an abundance of demands on my time between my regular school responsibilities, weekend contest events, family gatherings, church functions, and other life events…life is truly crazy at times, but keeping an accurate calendar really helps keep me sane. Parkinson’s Law states, “Work will fill up whatever time you have allotted for it.” If we’re not intentional with our time, we’ll inadvertently waste much of it.
Michael Hyatt recently published a podcast entitled “How to Create More Margin in Your Crazy-Busy Life,” where he mentioned he had created a mock calendar of his ideal week. In this calendar he intentionally set up time to spend on himself, his work, and his family, and vowed to stick to that calendar outline when scheduling future events. This is an exercise that admittedly both Hyatt and I have done in the past, and have gotten away from. I’m finalizing my ideal week and will begin scheduling accordingly soon. I’ll let you know how it goes!
3. Delegate – This is an item that I have found easier to do the longer I’ve taught. When I first started, I wanted to do everything myself so I knew it was done right. After spending endless hours at the school (as late as midnight several times) and still not getting everything done, I realized I simply couldn’t do it all.
Let’s face it…there are simply some things that only you can do! That’s why you have a job! You are a uniquely qualified individual that fits a very specific need in your workplace. There are simply some things that can’t be done by other people, and those are the things you need to stick with! If it can be done by someone else, then delegate that responsibility to your assistant, or a student leader/volunteer. You shouldn’t spend your time stacking chairs when work remains unfinished that only you can do. Say it with me…”Delegate.”
4. It’s OK to say NO! – For some reason our society views “No” as some sort of a new two letter swear word that should never be said by anyone that wants to be successful. But saying “No” is the only way we can eliminate a lot of distractions from our life.
What is your primary goal – as a music educator, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or a human being? What are you ultimately trying to achieve with your life? Remember that “Steak List” from earlier? Well, if something comes up that isn’t an “A” or “B” on your list of life, then it’s a “C” that needs to hear the word “No.” Sometimes really good things are in actuality really big distractions that keep us from reaching our life’s goals. Saying no to something, even if it’s a really cool opportunity, will actually benefit your career, and your life, in the long run.
5. Plan Ahead – We talked about starting your day with fifteen minutes of planning. Try ending your day in a similar fashion, but with a further look into the future. At some point in the evening, perhaps just before you begin your bedtime routine, take a few minutes with your calendar and look for any upcoming events that may be on the horizon. With those forthcoming events in mind, I’ll usually jot down a few items that need to be prepared ahead of time to place on tomorrow’s “Steak List.” I find when I take these few minutes in the evening to plan ahead, I am much more prepared for the next day, which for me eliminates a lot of stress.
What tips do you have for managing time well?