One of the key ingredients for successfully managing your time is identifying your goals. Goals are what will keep you motivated and focused – both essential to being productive.
What do goals have to do with time management?
When you have determined where you want your life to be in one year – or five – or even 20, it will have an impact on what you do TODAY. A person who dreams of being a lawyer will not have much success obtaining that goal if they don’t first make the time to fit studying and school into their schedule today.
Many long term goals will have short term goals that lead to them. Not only does this make practical sense (i.e.: getting accepted to University is a shorter term goal than becoming a partner in a law firm) but it also helps you from becoming overwhelmed or losing sight of your goals.
If you are trying to manage your time it is because you recognize that there is a limited supply and it is all valuable. While responsibilities at work and home may be what dictates how you plan your day, shouldn’t all (or most) of this time work in harmony with your goals? This may mean some big changes, or it may just mean adjusting some things in your routine.
When you start planning your time with a goal in mind it is easier to appreciate the benefits of what you are doing and prevents you from getting caught up in time wasters – activities that use up your time but are ultimately unprofitable either in money or your personal life.
Choosing Goals Wisely
If you are currently making $5/hour and can’t cover your bills you may decide that your goal needs to be making more money. Take some time to figure out exactly what you’d like to be doing with your life. Acknowledge that this may mean spending time getting an education rather than taking on another low paying job which will fill your financial needs but keep you in a cycle of working endless hours to make the money you need.
Or maybe you find your work time is eating into the time you want to spend with your family. That family will grow and move away so what you do to make more time for them is important NOW. Identifying these goals will help you make decisions to make better use of your time.
Setting Long Term Goals
Before you say “my goal is to retire to the Caribbean” it is important to take stock and analyze your situation from a different perspective. While you may truly be able to retire to the Caribbean, HOW will you do that? A new job? A higher income? Less responsibilities?
Long term goals are excellent motivators. They help you see beyond today’s work and remind you that there is a greater purpose for the time you are spending today. If you find a task tedious you should think about how doing it fits into your goals. Making your daily tasks become choices can ease some of the burden because we are in control of our day rather than having it control us.
On the other hand, if we realize many of the time consuming activities we do have no bearing on reaching our goals perhaps we have to take them out or at least reduce the time we spend on them.
Your long term goal may be to spend more time with your family. Make your goal specific and give it a date to be accomplished. Perhaps you determine to work part time. Write down the date this will take effect and put it on your calendar. It may be that you anticipate it will take two years to achieve this goal. Pick a date and put it where you can see it every day.
Now you must set short term goals…
Setting Short Term Goals
Your short term goals will relate to your long term goal.
Continuing with our illustration of working part time you may decide that you must first complete certain projects you have already committed to. You will also need to be more selective about what assignments you can handle or need to ask for an assistant so you can focus on the main business and get help with minor tasks.
You may set a date to stop working overtime. You may set a date to ask for contract work instead of salary. You should plan activities that are spent with family and no work interruptions. Whatever your goals they should be clear steps to achieving your long term goal: spending more time with family.
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These short term goals will help you measure your progress towards your long term goal. They will shape how you plan your time and clarify the VALUE of your time. Make your goals specific and give them a date to be completed.
6 Steps to Creating Achievable Goals:
|Prioritize:||You may have several goals. Prioritize them on your list.|
|Positive:||Use positive language. “I will …”, “I’ll be…”, “I’ll have…”|
|Precise:||Be precise. “I will have supper with my family three nights a week” rather than “I will be home earlier”|
|Performance:||Measure your performance. Set time for starting and completing your goal. “May 1 – I will be home at 5:30 three nights this week”|
|Practical:||Make your goals practical. Do you have the control to make this work or do you rely on other people to meet your goal?|
|Personal:||Is this goal a personal goal or someone else’s desire for you?|
Time management is easier when you can motivate yourself and judge the value of your time. If your goals are based on someone else’s desires (if your mate wants you to work in a steady job but you want to be self-employed) you will find it difficult to manage your time due to lack of motivation.
Creating an Action Plan
Your action plan will have a great deal to do with your day to day scheduling.
Now that you have made yourself conscious of where you are headed (long term goal) and have set up guide posts (short term goals) it will merely mean implementing an action plan to get your time on track.
Use your short term goals to implement your action plan. If you are not making radical changes but are just trying to take the stress out of your day you will find the time you took to think about your goals may be enough to keep your priorities in order.
If you find that you need to refocus on your goals you will need to give each short term goal a date to start or complete – write it down.
Within the time frame of the goal write down the actions that need to be taken to realize the goal. If you have discovered from the exercises above that you need to hire an assistant this may mean putting out an ad, reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, hiring and training. Each task must be assigned a time to complete.
The action plan combined with a focus on goals will help you appreciate the overall effects of valuing your time. In this example you will realize that even though you may need to use MORE time this month by interviewing and training an assistant – your GOAL to spend less time on minor tasks is being accomplished. At this point your time is valued comparative to your goal. In a month you will be spending less time with minor matters even if it requires more work at the early stage.
Part of your Action Plan should include a summary of the resources you need to meet your goals. An assistant is a resource, more education is a resource, and a supportive mate is a resource. List the resources you need to obtain and include them in your action plan – when will you get them and how will they be obtained?
Review and Update
While writing goals down is an effective tool for managing your time you will still need to review and update them occasionally.
Perhaps you encounter an unexpected obstacle on your way to meeting your long term goal. Reassess and determine if you can adapt your action plan. If you cannot adapt your plan you will need to consider why the plan went off course – did you have less power to control the situation than you thought? Were you unaware of some of the resources you would need and their cost or time obligations?
Use this new information to reconsider your goal. Is it still attainable or do you need to adjust it – either by lengthening the time or changing the outcome – and devising a new action plan?