Raise your hand if you’ve kicked yourself for your lack of time management skills or felt desperate for new time management strategies that would finally help your life resemble success (like me).
We would have ideally learned self management skills as kids, but let’s be honest, most of us didn’t.
Most of us operate waaay more by default than anything else, certainly more than we realize.
Living by default means that how you spend your time is decided by circumstances and other people.
- It’s being stuck in a vicious cycle of scrambling to keep up with others’ expectations (including crappy ones we put on ourselves).
- It’s failing to plan ahead, and subsequently being forced to constantly exhaust yourself putting out fires.
- It’s feeling so stressed and hopeless that you seek an escape in mindless entertainment – you deserve that much at least, right?!
The old-school mindset of putting all your hopes and dreams into retirement is certainly dying out, but too many of us are still putting off what we really want to do and who we want to be until “someday” when this or that lines up.
The truth is that you can start taking back your time now, today!
It starts by recognizing that you’re not a victim and you do have a say in how you spend your time.
This isn’t just about making the most of the weekends or even taking a trip here and there – it’s about “building a life you don’t need a vacation from”.
That concept still feels very pie-in-the-sky to many people, but I’m a big fan of breaking things down to their most simple form because they stick with me better that way.
The secret to effective time management (and success) is in 2 very simple time management skills.
- Learn to recognize what fits where on the productivity matrix.
- Learn to eliminate, delegate, or streamline things that don’t serve your true goals.
I’ve seen many variations of the time management quadrant graphic (productivity matrix) based on books by Stephen Covey, but none of them felt complete to me, so I created this one combining various aspects with some of my own thoughts.
Take a step back and consider in which quadrant the majority of your time is spent.
Some things might not initially feel like they fit into one of the quadrants, but these just need a deeper look or possibly a different perspective.
Take food, for example – we all have to eat, that’s a necessity. However, it can fit into different quadrants depending on the perspective we approach it with.
- When it’s 7:00pm, we failed to plan anything for dinner, and our family is hangry – that’s a quadrant 1.
- When we putter around the kitchen opening and closing the fridge and pantry doors in search of something to reward ourselves for making it through a hard day or to de-stress even though we’re not hungry – that’s a quadrant 4.
- Going out to eat with friends could fit into quadrant 3 or 2, depending on the people and why we’re doing it… Do we actually like them and really want to build a better relationship? Do we have good conversations that are encouraging and helpful to our growth? Do we want to stretch ourselves and maybe grow in how we relate to people?
- When we approach eating as a way to nourish our bodies and improve our health, as opposed to merely satisfying a craving, that would fit into quadrant 2.
It always comes down to the “why”.
Some things might still feel like you don’t have a choice in the matter, but I challenge you to consider your perspective.
Sometimes recognizing the why behind the choice is the night-and-day difference in empowering vs oppressing.
I’m stuck at this deadend job I hate because I have bills to pay!
I feel you, really.
But telling yourself you’re stuck is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It’s a downward spiral that doesn’t allow you to see or make any opportunities for yourself.
I’m thankful this job is providing for me while I work towards something better.
It may be hard to believe at first, but it will become true as you work on placing your perspective in quadrant 2.
If it’s not serving your goals in some way, it’s not worth doing.
Don’t get me wrong here and think I mean you should go on some selfish, self-serving tangent.
If your goals don’t include good relationships and you don’t recognize how some of the less-than-pleasant stuff affects your personal growth and learning, well, you’re not going to get very far.
The point is, once again, to simply recognize the why behind what you’re doing. I really don’t think I can over-emphasize this 😉
Learning to filter your activities and decisions through these quadrants is very much a habit worth making. Soon it will be second-nature.
If you’d like to dive deeper into how to improve time management, some of these books might be a good place to start.
We’d also love to hear any time management tips you’ve found especially helpful in your own life!