Embarking on self-management:
Planning your time
Use your time!
In order to have the freedom you need to reach your goals, you have to be the master of the way you use your time. Becoming an adult means having control of your time independently. Being independent does not mean living from day to day, but rather making responsible decisions about how you use your time.
Of course, all of us live in dependencies on other people. The consequence of doing this is that we do have to adhere to non-selfdetermined times, for instance, working hours, opening hours or timetables.
Your first step in timing self-management needs to be clear about how you currently spend your time. What do you do all day? Write it down! Don’t skip a single day. Don’t let anyone keep you from doing it. No one has the right to disturb you as you embark on your selfmanagement.
Develop your own time-management system!
To track the way you spend your time, you need a calendar. A wide variety of calendars is available at office supply stores and online, ranging from simple pocket calendars to wall calendars with spectacular photos and even sophisticated calendar books with all kinds of information. You need an easy system that you can put together using a yearly overview, monthly planning pages, weekly planning pages and daily planning pages.
Some calendars are available as free downloads on the internet that you can assemble and print out and use as a working tool. For instance, you can hang up the yearly overview on your bulletin board.
You can use a ring binder filled with lined sheets to combine these time descriptions. Use the time description and the ring binder to develop your time recording system, in which you enter appointments, keywords, remarks, notes, reference points, etc.
Keep in mind: For everything that you do in your life, you need time – even for not doing anything. You can only ever use your time once. You will never be able to bring back a single second of your life. You alone are responsible for what you make out of your lifetime.
Your lifetime is for the most part predetermined. You cannot set the date for the day you were born or the day you will die. Your lifetime runs like an hourglass. You can’t bribe it or manipulate it. But you can decide what you will make out of each and every next day. And the faster you develop your self-management, the more you can decide.
Take a hard look at your daily routine!
In order to analyze your daily routine, use the lined paper contained in your ring binder. Start by writing down the date. Then, in the evening, write down all of your daily activities, dividing them into “planned” and “executed”. Then evaluate how your day has gone.
- Was it a normal, a special, or even an extraordinary day?
- What was good? What was bad?
- What insights did I gain?
- What information have I taken on board or procured?
- What ideas occurred to me?
- What have I planned for the next day?
If you write down what you have done from morning until evening every day for a certain period of time – two or three months – you will pave the way for the next step on the way to self-determined time management. This next step involves becoming aware of how you use your time. Over the course of the year, the months, weeks and days:
- What are the activities that you determine yourself?
- What are the activities that you can neither plan nor perform on your own?
- With what activities do you spend the 24 hours of a normalworking day, a day off and those of a holiday?
For the first two questions, you can use different colors to mark the activities in your list of daily activities. For the third question, you can write down a list of activities.
If you record the way you use your time in this manner and have marked the activities accordingly and now know exactly – not just based on your assumptions – how you use your time, the next step then follows: becoming aware of how you deal with your lifetime.
Create documentation for how you use your time!
Time is more important than money! Keep a record of how you use your time. Write down the starting and stopping time for each activity and then calculate how much time you spent.
Some people think that this work is monotonous and, besides, they already know how much time they use. And when it comes down to it, they have more important things to do than write down all these numbers and activities.
This may in fact be true, but: In my decades of working with people in executive positions, I always had the experience that what you think you do and what you actually do with your time, i.e., your subjective assessment and the objective description are often miles apart. For this reason, write it down!
Otherwise, you’ll never get out of your rut. And without knowing exactly how you consume your time, you will not know what to address in order to improve the way you organize your daily routine or what opportunities you have to save time.
Moreover, if you don’t write things down – at least for a few months – you will not reach your goal of “moving away from external determination and moving toward self-determination.” The risk is too great that you will not move beyond your good intentions. So once more for good measure: Write it down!
Do this until you can say, Yes, now I know where my time goes. If after a while you still don’t really know where your time goes, then start documenting your time again in writing.
Over the course of a day, you can accomplish a great deal. But there are people who put off accomplishing endless to-do lists. They are always stressed out and feel guilty because of the jobs they haven’t accomplished. They have to constantly apologize to others. If they are reminded about what they have promised to do, they have to put them off. They live in time chaos because they don’t set priorities. Set flexible priorities!
There are people who can work quickly and precisely for hours on end with only five hours of sleep. This kind of person needs priorities, because they tend to overestimate their work capacity and end up biting off more than they can chew. They don’t notice that in the long term they are exploiting their health. These are the so-called workaholics.
All activities are related to something: to other people, to objective requirements or to personal life circumstances. This is where the priorities are set: What is absolutely necessary? What has to be done every day? What daily obligations do I have to other people? What responsibilities do I have to perform around the house? What job-related responsibilities? Go through all of the activities on your list and assign them a value on a scale of 1 to 5 along with a time reference: daily, weekly, monthly, annually.
Assign a 1 to all activities that help you maintain and further develop your talents, skills and your performance capacity. Also assign a 1 to the attention you pay to all people for whom you are responsible.
When you are finished, assign all of your activities to the categories “set time” or “variable time.” In so doing, you will obtain a flexible priority list, which is the basis for realistically planning your day.
This priority list is also an excellent decision-making tool for times when unexpected events throw a monkey wrench in the works. You can then quickly use your priority list to postpone, cancel or move up activities and combine them in a new way. This is autonomous time management!
How to get moving
You need to have analyzed the way you use your time and have assigned a flexible priority list in order to reach the starting position for beginning with your time management. To this end, you will need your calendar again, with its division into daily, weekly, monthly and yearly overviews.
For every weekend, you should include a quiet hour during which you review the past week and look ahead to the next week. Enter all of the projects and events that have already been set for the coming months or the year into the calendar system you have put together. Examples include your vacation, your participation in events, excursions, trade fairs, exhibitions, visits and continuing education courses.
Then, write down your ideas and concepts on how to use your time more wisely.
Some people get a suffocating feeling if they are booking up every minute of the day and that they are depriving themselves of the freedom to do things on the spur of the moment. That is a trick of our inner demons play on us! They delude us into thinking that freedom means not planning our time.
But think about it: If you don’t plan your time yourself, then other people will do it for you, or you will fritter away your time. Instead of falling for this trick, include some times for not doing anything and time for spontaneous action, for instance, one weekend per month! In addition, now and then, if you feel like it and can afford to do so, throw all of your plans for the day overboard. You aren’t a slave to your time but rather the master of it, as long as the right self-management is in place!
Time for what?
In order to motivate yourself to start your self-management, take a minute to imagine what you would like to have more time for:
What would you like to occupy yourself with?
What skills would you like to learn?
What languages would you like to speak?
Who would you like to have more time for?
The more you develop your ideas, dreams and plans on these questions, the more intensively you will look at the way you use your time.
Many people live in a partnership or in a family. If you include your partner or your family members in your time management, you can substantially improve your life together. You should coordinate your dates and appointments at least once a week.
Time management in a partnership or in a family fosters togetherness and the feeling of belonging. It helps avoid misunderstandings, prevents boredom, keeps the family home from deteriorating into a “Hotel Mama” and stimulates the sharing of information and experiences. The up-and-coming generation will not have a pure life of its own but will develop its independence from within the family.
The family council
Parents with children should have a family council once a month. It should be a relaxed and cheerful event that everyone looks forward to. Use a piece of music that everyone more or less likes to call the family members together. Over time, it can become something like your “family anthem”. When the music has finished, ring a bell.
It’s time to start!
Begin the meeting with a funny story. And allow the others to tell something entertaining as well. To prepare for the meeting, everyone should have performed their personal time analysis and should have made a list of the things they have observed about the way the others use their time. After everyone has shared their funny stories, everyone should share the results of their time analysis and their list of observations, followed by a discussion.
Then everyone shares their time management for the coming days, which should be coordinated with the others. Afterward, you should make plans for things you want to do together.
Be careful, however. The council must not be abused for monitoring the individual family members. If someone doesn’t want to share information about certain times, this has to be respected. This has to be one of the rules of the game that the group uses for the council.
Furthermore, the family council should only take place if everyone is present. If the atmosphere for discussion is not “open and honest,” this has to be addressed and discussed as a question. The atmosphere should be as pleasant as possible.
Don’t let your time be stolen!
In our professions, we should all be our own managers. The alternative involves being a cog in a machine, bound to authority, at the mercy of others and lacking of independence. If you want to be up to the task of being a manager, you need tools for optimum time management. Otherwise, you will constantly be under time pressure.
The only way to liberate yourself from time pressure is through self-management. For this reason, make it clear to your employer that you want to perform your time management yourself. They should tell you what results they expect from you. How you get to these results, however, should be up to you and the group you work with.
Unfortunately, there are a number of businesses that do not trust their employees to develop themselves and that require their executives to perform their leadership by means of instructions and check-ups. Working hours continue to be rigid. There is no flexibility that would allow workers to accommodate the amount of work that crops up.
Instead, there is overwork or underwork. Work flows are prescribed by standard operating procedures. In these types of businesses, you are most likely underappreciated. If that is the case, then you are out of place.
The most important thing is
the right time management
As an employee of this type of business, you should ask yourself whether your scarce resource of “time” is being wasted here. If this is the case, and if your employer does not value your selfmanagement, let alone encourage it, then you should resign-not just internally but for real. Look for a boss who requires selfdevelopment from you.
Self-determined time management also allows the feeling for the right timing to develop, i.e., doing the right thing at the right time.
Whether they are speed skaters, track and field athletes or Formula 1 racing car drivers, they all have to ideally plan the timing of their race and their competition. On top of that, they have to master their skill and the timing so autonomously, that they can react to unexpected events spontaneously. That’s the mark of a champion.
Everyone who manages to properly manage their time in line with their priorities, correctly assess the time they need to perform an activity or perfectly predict the point in time for successfully undertaking something will experience feelings of happiness.
Get out of the rut from time to time!
Some people reach their golden years and are aware that they never had the chance to do what they really wanted to do, whether because fate dealt them a poor hand, or because they lacked the strength to liberate themselves from habits and adverse influences.
Is there anything worse than realizing at the end of your life that you didn’t use the time you had properly?
You should prevent this from happening to yourself. Early on. Here is what you need to do: From time to time, get out of the “rut”, take a deep breath and check whether the direction, the speed and what you are taking with you are still in line with the meaning you have assigned to your life.
If you fail to do this and do not take the necessary consequences, you will most likely gamble away your golden years. After all, a “fulfilled life” doesn’t just happen by chance.
Scientists have provided data for astronomical or geological facts that are beyond our imagination. In terms of light years the quantum of time assigned to us for a normal life expectancy disappears. When we are young, it may appear to be huge, but at the end of our lives it is tiny.
In the context of our time frame, whose beginning and end we are unable to determine ourselves, we are responsible for our thoughts, speech and actions. Our life-time is a commodity for whose use we are accountable. A happy life is a life in self-determined harmony with the time given to us.