"Time is the stuff of which life is made" - Benjamin Franklin. Learning to manage the limited time we have each day is a common theme in many peoples life. Don't we all want to be able to squeeze more productivity and efficiency into our days so that we can accomplish more of what we want.
A wise person once said, "A millionaire and a beggar both have 24 hours in a day. It's what they do in these 24 hours that make the difference."
So why is it that some people seem to accomplish so much in their allotted day and some people seem to get no where, stressed and pulling their hair out. The secret lies in their time management skills.
More...A popular analogy that illustrates time management at work is the one about the rocks and the jar. The story goes, A professor wanting to instill the virtues of time management placed out onto the table a 'wide-mouth' mason jar in front of his students. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one by one, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?"
He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks.
Then he asked the group once more. "Is this jar full?" By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered.
"Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.
Once more he asked the question. "Is this jar full?" "No!" the class shouted. Once again, he said, "Good!". Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.
The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.
What are the big rocks in your life?
Here are some simple tips to help you put the big rocks first in your life:
1. Crisis Management. Management guru Peter Drucker says that "crisis management is actually the form of management preferred by most managers" The thing to bear in mind is that if you spend your life filled with crisis and the small stuff which is represented by the gravel and the sand then you'll never have room to fit in the big rocks in your life. The irony is that actions taken prior to the crisis could have prevented the fire in the first place. So the best way to prevent crisis from occurring is to schedule your big rocks first into your life. The big rocks are your dreams, relationships, life goals, the things that are most important to you that will lead to fulfillment in life.
2. Dont mistake action with productivity. Imagine witnessing a hamster running its heart out on one of those spinning wheels. The hamster may be giving its all and running as fast as he can but it's spinning in the one place. It never really gets anywhere and so it is with many people. They run from crisis to crisis, meeting to meeting, event to event without really making any real progress from one year to the next on where they want to go. Today starts to look a lot like yesterday and you begin to dread tomorrow because you know it's going to look like today. So instead of going around in circle, stop once in a while and reflect on what your goals are and whether you are making any progress with them. There is no point burning yourself out if you aren't getting any closer to your goals or outcomes that you are looking for.
3. Take time out for regular reviews. At the end of each day, you should take a few minutes to sit down and review the day. Write down in a journal all the things that went well and all the things that didn't go to plan. Write them without judgment and decide to take one of the things that didn't go to plan and come up with an idea to either prevent it in the future or solve it in the present. Then with the things that did go well, figure out what actions or decisions preceded it and see how they can be implemented more frequently into your life. The idea is you will encourage yourself to make consistent small positive changes in your life which won't seem drastic when seen from day to day but the benefits in the long term can be enormous. The Japanese even have a name for this concept of continuous improvement, they call it 'Kaizen' and it was instrumental in them becoming an industrial powerhouse. The great thing about small continuous improvement in your life is that anyone can do it. Jim Rohn once said 'Life asks us to make measurable progress in reasonable time. That's why they make those fourth grade chairs so small so you won't fit in them at age twenty-five!'
4. Change your focus. So often people focus on the work and being seen to be doing something instead of the fruits of the harvest which comes from the outcomes and results of the action. Jim Rohn says 'There are some things you don't have to know how it works - only that it works. While some people are studying the roots, others are picking the fruit. It just depends on which end of this you want to get in on.' So if you have a task which can be better performed by someone else, then learn to delegate. It is more important to measure your day by the end result then to be focused on the unimportant stuff of doing.