Read an Excerpt
A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT TIME MANAGEMENT
So what makes time management so difficult? It is my observation that the single most common obstacle people face in managing their days lies in the way they view time. Therefore, the very first step in taking control of time is to challenge your very perception of it.
MAKING TIME TANGIBLE
Most people think of time as intangible, In the journey from chaos to order, it is often easier to organize space than time, because space is something you can actually see. Time, on the other hand, is completely invisible. You can't see it or hold it in your hands. It's not something that piles up or that you can physically move around.
Time is something you feel, and it feels ... utterly amorphous. Some days go whizzing by, others crawl painfully along, liven your tasks seem hard to measureinfinite and endless in both quantity and duration.
As long as time remains slippery, elusive, and hard to conceptualize, you will have difficulty managing your days. You need to change your perception of time and develop a more tangible view of it. You need to learn to see time in more visual, measurable terms,
In my own journey to getting organized, my biggest breakthrough came when I realized that organizing time really is no different than organizing space. Let's compare a cluttered closet to a cluttered schedule to see the similarities.
|ClutteredCloset || ||Cluttered Schedule|
|· Limited amount of space ||· Limited amount of hours|
|· Crammed with more stuff than storage ||· Crammed with more tasks than time|
|· Items jammed into any available pocket of space in no particular order ||· Tasks jammed into any available pocket of time in no particular order|
|· Haphazard arrangement makes it difficult to see what you have ||· Haphazard arrangement makes it difficult to see what you have to do|
|· Inefficient in its use of organizing tools ||· Inefficient in its use of time management tools|
In other words, just as a closet is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of objects, a schedule is a limited space into which you must fit a certain number of tasks. Your days are not infinite and endless. When you think of it this way, time is not so intangible and elusive. In fact, each day is simply a container, a storage unit that has a definite capacity you can reach.
Once you understand that time has boundaries, you begin to look at your to-dos much differently. Tasks are the objects that you must fit into your space. Each one has a size, and arranging them in your day becomes a mathematical equation. As you evaluate what you need to do you begin to calculate the size of each task and whether you can fit it into the space.
When you start seeing time as having borders, just as a space does, you will become much more realistic about what you can accomplish, and much more motivated to master various time-management tools and techniques to help you make the most of your time.
If a cluttered closet and a cluttered schedule are the same, then organizing each is a very similar process. My first book, Organizing from the Inside Out, taught that whether you are organizing a closet, kitchen, office, or schedule, designing a system that lasts lies in always following the same three steps: ANALYZESTRATEGIZEATTACK.
This book is a thorough examination of how the three steps of the organizing process apply to the particularities of time. Throughout, we will build upon this more tangible view of time, and show you how to arrange your schedule just as you would a beautifully organized room, one that reflects what's important to you. It will be easy to figure out where your time goes, and to find time for the important things in your life, because every activity and task will have a "home."
DEFINING TIME MANAGEMENT FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Time management from the inside out is about designing a schedule that is a custom fit for you. It's about identifying what's important to you and giving those activities a place in your schedule based on your unique personality needs and goals. And it's about feeling deeply satisfied at the end of each day.
Time Management from the Inside Out honors and celebrates the fact that everybody is different. And each of us has different needs at different points in our lives. There is no "right" way to live your life. I am not here to tell you to live a simple, calm life, nor to convince you to fill every waking moment with highly productive activity. Nowhere in this book will you read "truisms" such as "the early bird catches the worm," or that you must work less, or play less, or be anything other than who you are.
Instead, this book will help you tune in to who you are and what you want, and then give you the tools to build your life around that. You can learn new skills and modify some behaviors, but you can't really change your essenceand you shouldn't. This book will take you through a process of self-discovery of your likes and dislikes, natural habits, needs, and desires. These become the foundation of your time-management system. My system offers you a process, not a prescription.
The following two profiles illustrate how completely different one person's life can look from the next, and yet both can successfully manage their time from the inside out.
Patrice: Structured, Predictable, and Calm
Patrice is a thirty-eight-year-old married mother of a four-year-old-boy. She works full-time as a senior staff writer for a woman's fashion magazine. She thrives on routine, enjoys a sense of calm, and hates to feel rushed or pressured. Her family and personal time are just as important as her work time, and keeping a balance between them all is extremely important to her.
Patrice is very clear on her goals: she wants her son to feel loved and important, she wants to keep her marriage well nurtured, and she wants to maintain her reputation as a highly dependable, talented writer.
She wakes her son every morning at 6:45 and they go through a delightful morning routine, which includes singing songs while he gets dressed, having breakfast, and playing a game before they walk to his school. After dropping him off, she knows she needs a little transition time to go from "mom-head" to "work-head." So each morning she goes down into the subway and lets four trains pass while she reads The New York Times. She hops on the fifth train and arrives at work focused and ready to go.
Her workday also is filled with routines. She writes in the mornings, and researches, interviews, and attends staff meetings in the afternoons. She checks her planner to see exactly what she needs to do and gets right to it, without hesitation. She has never missed a deadline.
She works 9:30 to 5:30 five days per week. She picks her son up from school three days per week, but has her mother or her husband pick him up on Mondays and Thursdays. This frees her up to work late every Monday night, and see a friend for a movie on Thursdays. Patrice delegates well. She believes strongly that including others in the care of her son not only keeps her life in balance, but also enriches his life by surrounding him with many people who love him.
Weekends have a predictable pattern, too. Friday nights are family video night. Saturday mornings she takes Kyle to a music class, and in the afternoon they eat lunch at a local restaurant and then go to the playground or a museum. Every Sunday Patrice's husband and Kyle have their own father-son outing, while Patrice stays home to prepare for her upcoming workweek.
Patrice pays astute attention to how long tasks take to do and pares back her schedule so that she has ample time for each activity. She's calculated how long it takes her son to get dressed every morning, and wakes him up in time for him to get ready at his pace. Patrice's life is built solidly around her priorities, and is delightfully predictable, calm, and gratifying to her. It's a life that fits her personality and priorities, is rich and rewarding, and is built for her from the inside out.
Andrew: Work-Centered, Fast-Paced and Unpredictable
Andrew is fifty-six and the CEO of one of the world's largest resort chains. He thrives on variety, loves interacting with lots of people, and is a highly creative problem solver. He doesn't need much time to "stew" on things. He is quick on his feet, confident in his opinions, and focused. He can shift gears easily, handling interruptions well.
Andrew is passionately committed to his work and his goal is to keep his company on the leading edge. His mission is to set an example of extraordinary customer service every day, pursue all significant opportunities for growth, and study as much as he can about his industry.
Andrew's time is structured to support and celebrate his personality and goals. His days are structured to allow for a lot of spontancity and variety. He is at his desk every morning at seven and spends the first hour reading industry journals, then spends one hour handling e-mail and phone calls. From nine o'clock on, his time is left open to handle all of the needs, urgencies, and requests that come up all day long in running a large corporation. Andrew keeps a very short to-do list. He knows his job is to respond to the needs of others and having a long to-do list would only frustrate him. In between meetings he keeps going back to his desk to answer calls and e-mails. His mission for the past thirty years has been to answer every phone call (and now e-mail) the day it comes in. He has met that goal. At the end of each day (which ends somewhere between six and eight P.M.), he spends one more hour at his desk, responding to the last of the phone calls and e-mails that came in.
Andrew delegates extremely effectively. He finds and hires the best talent to run the various departments of his organization. He works very closely with his secretary and they have many tools to support a fast-paced teamwork. They have designed checklists and forms for speeding up communication between them regarding travel arrangements, setting appointments, planning meetings, and adding "contacts" to one of his sixteen mailing lists. Their computers are networked so that both Andrew and Dorothy can easily access his online calendar, which Dorothy keeps for him.
All day long, Andrew responds immediately to the needs of the people who work for him. He rapidly works down the stack of papers in his in-box, dispatching each of them in seconds, jotting notes directly onto the paper or using one of his preprinted forms. He makes quick decisions.
Andrew works long hoursusually twelve-hour daysbut he reserves evenings for dinners with his family and friends. He gets the bulk of his pleasure from his workit is a source of tremendous energy for him. However, as much fun as he has at work, he knows the value of relationships outside work and time off. Weekends are his leisure time, and he enjoys taking regular vacations.
Andrew's life is rich and rewarding, and he too has built it from the inside out.
* * *
As you can see, Patrice and Andrew are very different people with very different ways of doing things. Patrice sticks closely to her highly determined framework each week, while Andrew's bare-bones framework allows for a lot of spontaneity. Yet they both feel great about how they are spending their time, attack each day with vigor and excitement, and feel satisfied at the end of each day.
Everyone would like to have as much control over their days as Patrice and Andrew do, but for many people, something is standing in the way. As you will see in the next chapter, it's important to know what is preventing you from being able to manage your time. Once you know what's holding you back, you can pinpoint the solution.