How To Tame The Time-Management Beast

Making the best use of your time is not easy, but it's a worthy challenge.

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Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter
Every day is filled with the same number of hours: 24. So why is it that some people think that magically, another two to three hours will somehow materialize?

While you can find ways to make your life more efficient—to think more quickly and to get more to-dos checked off your list in a limited amount of time—the reality is, you can only move so fast and get so much completed.

When you try to squeeze just one more thing into an already bulging schedule, the result often is that something gets lost in the shuffle, or quality of results suffer. The longer-term loss is that your reputation takes a beating and the level of trust in your word plummets.

Making the best use of your time is not easy, but it is a worthy challenge. If you're ready to tame the time-management beast, check out these three suggestions:

1. Stop saying, "Let's get together." Before tweeting, Facebooking, or emailing your enthusiasm to meet up, chat, Skype, or phone another person, consider the realities. Is your schedule so jam-packed through the next six months that there is no way you would feasibly make time to meet with that other person? Then stop saying those three words, because when you fail to follow-up, your sincerity is put into question.

Instead, do this. Show you value the other person in other ways. Read and comment on their blog posts. Be thoughtful. A quick, thoughtless, "You're a rock star," will not suffice. Instead, identify something specific in the post that resonated, or add value, by extending the conversation.

Mail them a handwritten card, thanking them for something they did in the past year that made an impression on you. If you're compelled, include a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. You get the drift—show you appreciate the person in a meaningful, specific way.

2. Quit over-committing. You know you only have 24 hours in a day. Quite frankly, of those 24 hours, a certain number already are assigned to sleeping, eating, spending time with family, exercising, completing work projects, attending scheduled meetings, and more. While it may feel magnanimous to say, "Yes," to every request that presents itself, resist the temptation.

It's true that sometimes we must stretch to tackle an audacious goal, and we can then work a few more hours for a few days or figure out a more efficient path to achieve the task, but that is not always the case. Be realistic about what extra projects you want to wedge into an already bulging schedule and nix the rest.

Instead, do this. If someone reaches out to you to do something for them or with them—and you're sincerely interested—but you don't see any light imminent in your schedule, then negotiate. Timelines and deadlines are not always set in stone. If you feel you can add value, and/or you have a sense that it is something you should do for them (returning a favor, for example, or simply because you care about them), or that you really desire to do it because it fulfills your own goals, then try to make it work.

3. Stop wasting your time. Deep-six the non-value-add, soul-sucking components of your life. This may mean disentangling yourself from relationships that add no value to your head or your heart. Notice, we're not using the word, "career" here. In other words, not everything you do has to personally benefit YOU (your career, your personal life).

However, on those occasions when you DO give of yourself—make sure you feel the heart for it (otherwise, you will feel regret, resentment, and/or anger).

Instead, do this. Filter all other time-investing activities in which you plug your energy through the "so-what" filter, as in, so what if I didn't do this? So what if I never did this again? If the answer is, "It really adds no value to my life or career," then kick it to the curb. Ferret out who and what is best for you, and liberate yourself from the rest.

Stop wasting your valuable time. Life is too short. You will be amazed at how much more content your soul is and how much better of a human being, colleague, and employee you become. Your crankiness will dissipate and your joy and value will materialize.

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog at http://careertrend.net/blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user (@ValueIntoWords), listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.