Friday, February 13, 2009

Don't Manage Time - Manage Your Priorities

Shortly after writing my blog yesterday, I got an email from a very dear friend of mine that occasionally comes to me for advice. It's a pretty common struggle that both business owners and non-business owners face - how do I juggle everything that I need to get done? How do I better manage my time?

Before I answer those questions, let me share a little bit of the email and see if you find any connection to the author.

JJ, I could really use some tips on how to manage my day better. Every night I try to think of what I could have done differently but now I am at a lost. On Wednesday morning I did get up earlier as did my son!! So my morning plan went out the window, especially because now he is sick and all he wants is to be held all day. Not to mention I have my niece all day, and the majority of the time that she is here, they are all fighting every half hour. And I have been waiting to write in my log and to email u until the evening; because I figured I could still get some more things done. However, I read to the kids, and then lay with them till they fall asleep. And since I have been getting up @ 6:00 I have been falling asleep with the kids. I just am at a lost on how to accomplish things for the business and take care of the kids and house all day and night. I really am on my own with taking care of the them during the day, cleaning, making dinner, cleaning up, bath time and then putting them to bed.

Now, on to answering the question, How do I better manage my time? To be completely frank - YOU DON'T! Time management is a misnomer. The more you try to manage time, the more it slips through your fingers. Because life will always throw struggles at you that frustrate your time management problem – kids being sick, weather turning bad, a car accident, or just an unexpected phone call from a long lost friend. Instead, you need to manage your priorities – meaning you focus on what's important to you, each and every day.

But that is easier said than done. Because it isn't that we don't have priorities – we all do. The difficulty in life is recognizing what those priorities are and adjusting them consciously, when we want or need to.

One thing that I drive home to my clients regularly is that our Goals drive our Actions. Everything we do, is being done to fulfill some sort of goal – some sort of desire in our life. The difficulty in life is that we are rarely conscious of what we really want long term – what we are trying to create with our life or our business. So we spend most of our time fulfilling our short terms needs and desires and the most crippling need of all – the subconscious need to maintain the status quo.

That's right, in the absence of any strong long term goals or vision, our actions every day are driven by our subconscious' inputs to basically do the same thing – over and over again. In the case of my friend, she wanted to spend more time working on her business, but every time she tried to schedule time for it – her life was getting in the way. And that was / is frustrating her, because she hasn't been able to get done what she wants to get done.

My advice to her was to first and foremost, stop fighting her life. Her long term goal is first and foremost the health and well being of her children – this is “overall” priority number one for her. Don't judge it – just see it for what it is. And recognize that when stress builds, or you aren't concentrating on something else, you subconscious mind will steer you to focusing on that.

Next I told her to stop focusing so much on day-to-day planning and start moving to week-to-week planning. From one day to the next, it's very difficult to make sure to you are going to have time to focus on your priorities – in and amongst your daily life. Life will create problems and you will get frustrated because you feel like you have little or no control (especially with little children – or a business for that matter). But when you shift the focus to week-to-week, setting weekly goals, instead of daily goals, you give yourself more opportunities to correct for unforeseen circumstances and still meet your goals.

This all sounds simple, but it is very difficult to implement. It hard work to re-focus your thought processes and habits. It takes time. Recognize that you are going to have struggles, but the more you shift your life from a “time management” perspective to a “priority / goal” perspective, the more you will actually be able to influence your natural actions, instead of fighting them. And the more you will take control of your actions today to reach your goals of tomorrow.

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