Best Practice Leadership

Time: Friend or Foe? Just Something to Manage

This is my favorite time of the year, when the sun stays up a little longer each day, March Madness begins its journey to one college basketball champion, and children start making plans for the summer. Do you remember when you used to count down the days until you were free from the school bell? I often now find myself saying, “If I just had two more hours in the day…”

How do we manage time today in a world that is so fast-paced and demanding? Here are some ways I’ve learned to make the most of each day’s hours:

Get up an hour earlier.

I don’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse, but I’m able to get up extremely early. I believe this is a key to step one of managing time. You do not have to be a morning person to be able to get up early. Some people need more time to get motivated or to get the mind to start ticking. I get so much done from 6 to 8 a.m. Why? Because there are fewer interruptions at that time of day. It’s a new start, and you can frame the activities in a more concentrated effort. These two hours set the tone for the day. The more productive I am in these two hours, the more productive day I will have all the way around.

Look three days ahead.

It helps to plan three days out by writing down day by day what you absolutely must complete. Include what you want to finish and what you want to start. I use a Franklin Planner, and I know others who use a calendar or just a notebook. I am a firm believer that what is written is what gets done. There is something rewarding about checking off a task from your list.

Don’t procrastinate.

Remember, don’t put off what you can complete today. It’s so easy to say, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” but it’s worth the effort to complete that task today. The key here is prioritization for the three days ahead of you.

Ask for help when you need it.

This is probably my weakest area. Whether it’s family, friends or people at work, think about opportunities to get help with some of the items on your list. This can make you much more efficient. Chances are, people have been asking you how they can help. I recently started to ask for help from a good friend. I didn’t realize it, but this has turned out to be a win-win situation. The person who helps me feels really good, too. It made me think back to when I lent a helping hand and how good I felt. The key here is knowing what to ask for help with and when, being careful not to make too many demands of the same individual.

Recognize your accomplishments.

When you finish some items on your list, or one particularly daunting task, take a break and reward yourself with something special — maybe a smoothie or a cappuccino. During the week at work, this is a little more difficult. All you want to do is to keep pushing yourself until the project, spreadsheet or evaluation gets completed. If it’s a long project or task, make milestones and recognize them as you accomplish them. For example, I had 26 employee evaluations to complete in one week as I transitioned into a new position at work. I organized my days into sections to complete the reviews and go over them with each person. Once I completed a section, I would have a coffee with my favorite marshmallows that would float and eventually melt. The taste and smell of my reward made the work worth completing on schedule.

My most enjoyable lists and rewards are on the weekends. There is a school of thought that we’re supposed to have a day of rest. On some Sundays after Mass, I typically have a shorter list of items — usually chores, bills and maybe even packing for travel. Although they are not the most exciting items to check off, sitting and admiring a nice clean kitchen is so fulfilling. And the reward is a sip of a nice Chardonnay. It really is possible to make doing chores and paying bills part of a pleasant weekend.Oh, how I like to think back to my younger years, when it seemed like forever for two days to go by, and I couldn’t wait to run through the halls and celebrate school being out for the summer. Now I just ask for two more hours in a day and smile that I can master the simple art of time management.

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About the author

Romaine Seguin

Romaine Seguin is president of UPS Global Freight Forwarding, based in Atlanta. She can be reached at rseguin@ups.com.

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