Since his beginning, man has measured events in a framework of time. Though no man knows exactly what time is, it is reckoned among the most valuable things of which man is aware. A segment of time that has passed by can never be retrieved.
Everyone has the same amount of time at his disposal each day. Time is valuable, however, only when it is used for a good purpose. Many persons allow precious hours and days to slip by with little or no accomplishment. Others frantically try to keep working every moment, only to end up nervous wrecks.
What about you? Do you find that time slips away easily? Are you able to complete necessary tasks in the allotted time? Could you make better use of your time?
Solving the Problem of Wasted Time
If you were to write down, hour by hour, what you do in a typical day, you would probably be surprised at the amount of time wasted. Many exclaim: “I simply don’t know where the time goes.” What can help people to solve the problem of wasted time? R. Alec Mackenzie, a leading management consultant, answers:
“Self-discipline. Before you can master time you must first master yourself. And the rewards make it eminently worthwhile.”
Could your problem be that time is lost just in your getting started? Many waste valuable minutes lingering in bed in the morning or at the breakfast table. Then, when they arrive at work, they may socialize or care for a number of personal matters before beginning work. Is that what you do? Why not try getting up fifteen minutes earlier each day, readying your clothes or briefcase the night before, or getting down to business as soon as you reach your place of work? This small effort may have a beneficial effect on your whole day.
Interruptions in the form of telephone calls or unexpected visitors can easily foil well-laid plans for a productive day’s work. Does this happen to you regularly? If so, do not feel that it is impolite to tell people that you are busy. If you specify when you can give them more of your time, they will be assured of your interest in speaking with them, and, after a while, your acquaintances will become accustomed to periods when you are not available for conversation.
Fatigue is a great robber of time. What can you do about it? Perhaps all you need is a change of pace, switching from mental to physical work, or vice versa. Keep in mind that you have certain energy peaks each day. Though these vary with different persons, many find that their most productive hours are during the late morning or the early afternoon. What do you do during your energy peaks?
Too much emphasis on leisure may rob one of valuable time. But even those who are ambitious may waste time. How so? Some try to tackle everything at once. Instead of working systematically, completing each step before proceeding to the next one, they nervously dart back and forth among matters unrelated to one another. This results in frustration and tension, with little being accomplished.
Certain persons have the habit of taking on more responsibility than they can reasonably carry out. Are you among those who lament that they “just can’t say No” when asked to do something? How unwise to be that way! Surely you cannot make the best use of your time fretting about a pile of work that you will never get to do.
Never be afraid to let others lend a helping hand. Housewives, for instance, can delegate innumerable minor chores to their children. Even little tots can learn to put their clothes away, put dirty dishes in the sink, tidy up their rooms and run errands. You will find, too, that children are happier when kept busy, whereas long periods of inactivity are sure to breed frustration.
Goals Are Time-Savers
Have you noticed the number of people who squander years of their lives “hanging out” in taverns, on street corners, or engaging in leisurely pursuits? What is lacking in the lives of these people? Worthwhile goals. Knowing what you want to do and planning in advance to meet the goals that you set will help you to make better use of your time.
What are your goals in life? Have you given this matter much thought? When you do, remember the these wise counsel “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income. This too is vanity.” “The getting of wisdom is O how much better than gold! And the getting of understanding is to be chosen more than silver.” Making the very best use of your time, therefore, calls for “buying out the opportune time” for study, which is the only source of wisdom and understanding.
Once you have decided on your most important goals, write down the progressive steps that will lead up to each of these, including the very next step that you expect to take in the near future. Then read over what you have written. Check to see if there are any steps that can be skipped. Eliminating them in advance will enable you to reroute time for things that really need to be done.
Use the same method for your more immediate goals at work or in the family. Let us say, for example, that you want to paint the inside of your house. As a whole, this may seem like too big a job to undertake. But, if you break it down into progressive steps, say, one room at a time, it will seem much easier to achieve. And each completed step serves as an incentive to press on to finish the job.
Obviously some of your goals will be more important than others. Be sure to work at things of greater importance first. “You can do only one thing at a time. If you try to do that one thing while worrying about the other jobs . . . you’ll take longer on the job you are doing and get still further behind the 8-ball.”
Deadlines Can Be Beneficial
Professor C. Northcote Parkinson observed: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” You have probably noticed that, if you have a whole day to do something, you will most likely spend all day on it; whereas under pressure you might have completed the same task in a few hours. Many have found that making better use of their time calls for imposing reasonable deadlines upon themselves. Joseph D. Cooper writes in How to Get More Done in Less Time:
“There are advantages to performance under pressure. You get into a driving spirit that countenances fewer marginal actions, fewer interruptions . . . Your pace quickens, you become more decisive. You infect others with your own businesslike effort. You discourage them from interrupting you or otherwise tampering with your own rate of progress.”
Some might fear that they would be unable to work under the pressure of a deadline. But setting reasonable time limits for each step in a project may actually serve to lessen the intensity of pressure later by distributing it more evenly over the whole job. A person who does this challenges himself to keep within his time budget. And what a relief not to have to face frenzied cramming at the last minute!
When you set deadlines, though, avoid being overly rigid. Revise them if they prove unattainable. And do not fail to allow some time for unexpected mishaps and interruptions. Management consultant Mackenzie, quoted above, recommends that a person leave 20 percent of his day unplanned, “just to be able to cope with unanticipated developments.”
Keep in mind, too, that making the best use of one’s time does not mean working at something every minute. Eric Johnston, an adviser to executives, wrote: “Each man at some point during each day should set aside a shred of time in which to do absolutely nothing. That’s right—nothing.” Periods of relaxation are indispensable. They refresh both body and mind and enable people to return to work with heightened interest and determination.
Some Time Resources Often Overlooked
People who wish to make the best use of their time will do well to reflect on time resources that are often overlooked. Consider some of these: Many people in the industrialized world have about forty minutes from the time that they get up until they leave for work; when they arrive home from work there may be another four or five hours before retiring. That amounts to well over twenty hours a week. Two-day weekends provide about three months a year of free time.
Of course, much of this time is spent in dressing, eating, sleeping or in family activities. But could not some of it be channeled to necessary reading, mowing the lawn or doing other odds and ends that need attention?
Easily overlooked, too, is time spent in waiting. Every day thousands of people wait in lines, in waiting rooms, or for others to show up for appointments. In an article entitled “Getting the Most Out of Odd Moments,” the author remarks:
“None of us would think of throwing away the nickels and quarters and dimes that accumulate in our pockets. But almost all of us do throw away the small-change time—five minutes here, a quarter hour there—that accumulates in any ordinary day. I figure I probably threw away a full working day in the dentist’s office this past year, flicking sightlessly through old magazines.”
The writer of the aforementioned article became a “wait-watcher,” putting her waiting time to work writing letters and caring for other correspondence. She was delighted with the results.
How can you make the best use of your time? Establish worthwhile goals and work at them step by step; give yourself a push by getting started on time and setting realistic deadlines for each stage of your work. Self-discipline and good organization will help you to use your most productive hours wisely. And do not fail to dip into your resource of odd hours that may otherwise be wasted.
Enjoyed the post? Kindly use the sharing buttons on the left hand side to share the post on your favorite social networks. To make sure you stay up to date with our articles, enter your email to subscribe.