Time management matters today more than ever. Gaining greater control over your career, as well as your life, comes down to how you use your time. Simply learning how to be better organized will allow you to get more done. A good time management system is, therefore, a genuine must-have.
Lee Cockerell is the founder of his own management and customer service consulting company, as well as the former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney world. During his time with Disney, he led a team of 40,000 employees and was responsible for the operations of 20 resort hotels, four theme parks, two water parks and a shopping and entertainment village. In his book Time Management Magic – How to Get More Done Every Day, Move From Surviving to Thriving, Cockerell shares the time management secrets that have become one of his most requested corporate training lectures.
“Most people are not overworked…they are under-organized,” writes Cockerell. “I believe the average person can do 50 percent more than they are doing now, including all the right things, if they have an effective system for keeping their lives under control.”
While there is an abundance of technology available to help with time management, the best systems still tend to be the simplest and easiest to use. Pairing a classic day-timer with a smartphone can create a robust working system for planning your goals and achieving them. When it comes to time management, the magic lies in what you do, not merely in what you know.
Let’s take a look at the six components of Lee Cockerell’s Time Management System.
Think About How You Use Time
There isn’t a single person on the planet able to fit more than 24 hours into a day. Successful people manage to achieve more by being better organized than the average person. The goal of your time management system should be to make you simultaneously more efficient and more effective.
Time management is the act of controlling the events in your life. You become the director of your life by proactively filling it with good events and avoiding those events which have little or no value. To gain a high level of control in your life, there are several practical actions you must get in the habit of doing.
Find ways to surround yourself with great people, get into the habit of training and educating, and always be crystal clear about your expectations. When you make sure your team knows your values, philosophies, priorities and values, you remove any doubt or ambiguity that might lead to poor decisions. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have skilled people on your team with a can-do attitude.
Get in the habit of doing things now. Write everything you have to do in your planner, repeat the phrase “DO IT NOW!”, and go out and make positive things happen. Try your best to anticipate what may arise, but unanticipated events are inevitable. Therefore, it is best to not overcrowd your schedule. Making the best use of the time in your day will ensure your to-do list gets completed.
Have a System
In order to organize your life, you must have a system in place that is constantly working for you day-in and day-out. You must take time for planning every single day of your life. Having a written system for managing your time is vital for a multitude of reasons. It will help you to balance various demands on your time, to develop a systematic way of working productively and to feel confident about taking on more work assignments.
Trying to place artificial barriers between your work and home life by using separate planners simply won’t work. A much better approach is to think about your life in its entirety every day and put everything into a single daily planner. Plan your holidays just as carefully as you plan your work days. Your daily mantra related to using your daily planner should be: “If you fail to plan, you’re really just planning to fail.”
When it comes to planning your time, the more you have to do, the more time you should spend on planning. This will pay dividends in the long run. If you fail to plan, you will end up spending more time spinning your wheels than moving forward. Bottom line, you should spend between five and thirty minutes every day planning what you need to get done in a day to be effective and efficient.
Work Your System
To have a world-class time management system, three essential components are needed: an advance planner, a monthly planner and a telephone directory. To begin with, having an advance planner in place where you schedule events coming up in the next 18 months will allow you to record everything in writing. Your mind will then be able to relax, rather than worrying you might be forgetting something.
You will also need a monthly planner, where you can plan your day-to-day activities for the next month. Here, you can write down your daily appointments, run a to-do checklist, and keep track of your phone calls and expenses. To use this effectively, you should fill up your daily task list at your planning meeting every morning. Also, take full advantage of the notes section to commit to paper anything and everything you will need later on. Your monthly planner should act as a diary, and should run the full spectrum from business to personal.
The third part of our time management system is a telephone directory. Instead of differentiating between business and personal, have one place where you keep track of all your various phone numbers. You may choose to use your smart phone to keep track of phone numbers, events and your daily schedule, but keeping a written copy as backup is always a good idea. Getting into the habit of putting everything into your system will free your mind to focus on more productive ideas and projects.
Get Your Priorities Right
Once you get your basic system working, the key to achieving more is to become better at setting priorities. Your daily task list is where the rubber meets the road for your time management system. The real key to getting more done is to get better at assigning the right priorities to tasks. Assigning priorities transforms your to-do list into a genuine action plan.
“Doing things in the right order is very important,” writes Cockerell. “Having the ability to focus on and accomplish your priorities in the right order is the name of the game for effectiveness.”
In order to do this, you must go through your task list and put an asterisk next to any items which are absolutely URGENT. From there you can put an “A” next to all VITAL items, a “B” next to IMPORTANT items and a “C” next to items which have limited value. If you have multiple items in each category, you can also rank each item from most important to least important to keep your priorities clear as you work through your list.
With this kind of system, it is important that you mark items off in your planner as they are accomplished. This not only makes it official, but also generates a sense of momentum. You can also use your planning system as an incubator of sorts. Every year, identify a few VITAL items you would love to accomplish and schedule them. If you do this year after year, you’ll have a solid track record of wins to be proud of.
Eliminate All Time Wasters
Procrastination is the ultimate career killer and ambition destroyer. You want to be obsessive about building a reputation as the opposite of a procrastinator. If you become known as someone who is proactive and who seizes-the-day, time wasters will become irrelevant. Once you start planning your days more systematically, you will quickly notice how much of your days have been used up by time wasters.
Self-imposed time wasters include sleeping in, taking on too much, not delegating effectively, underestimating the time needed to complete a task, failing to anticipate potential complications and living too far from where you work. Spending large amounts of time commuting or getting a late start to the day will eat away at your productivity and won’t give you sufficient time to plan your day. Also, learning to say “no” and scheduling enough time to complete quality work will help you streamline productivity.
Additional time wasters may be imposed on you by others. Poorly run meetings, lack of decision making, ambiguous job descriptions, minimal feedback and shifting priorities in the middle of a project can all lead to a lack of productivity. Once you are aware of these time wasters, you can figure out what to do about eliminating them. In every planning session, you should devote some of your time to identifying those time wasters and addressing them.
Get Started Today
Nowadays, it’s easy to tune out and become preoccupied with other things when you’re talking with people. In a world of smartphones, web streaming, background television, tablets and other devices, it’s easy to get distracted. This can impact your productivity whether you are talking with your boss or the people you delegate to.
Preoccupation has the potential to be a huge time waster. To avoid the potential for distractions when you’re talking with someone, you should always take notes, never look at texts or emails and get out from behind your desk to remove potential barriers. Getting into the habit of focusing on one thing at a time, working on your communication skills and tracking delegated tasks in your daily planner will keep you focused and save you time in the long run.
In addition to preoccupation, another area with the potential to save you significant time is meetings. Both the meetings you run and the meetings you are required to attend have the potential to boost personal productivity if they are run well. Before you schedule a meeting, seriously consider whether or not you can achieve everything you need by phone or email instead. If a meeting is necessary, prepare before hand, get right to the point and write every future activity discussed in your day planner to ensure you follow up.
Your time is your life. When it comes to time management, what you do far outweighs what you know. Spend at least five to thirty minutes every day to plan how best to use your time, and focus your attention on the vital tasks which will give you the best return on your time and effort.
Take the time every so often to reassess how you’re spending your time and remind yourself of what you should be doing. By remaining diligent with your time management, you can yield great results and achieve the success you desire. So, get a planner today and start managing your time.
Lee Cockerell leaves us with this final message: “Think about what you must do now to ensure that you will not just prevail but thrive. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. Get started today. Yes, today! Good luck managing your time and your life! I hope all your dreams come true!”