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Basic Principles of All Time Management

Are you having trouble getting started on time management? Feeling overwhelmed? You know you need to get organized to take control of your time. But when you feel swamped, you don't have time to research the best way to manage your time.

Here's a concise summary of the basics of all time management programs to help you clarify how to stop squandering your time and to leverage it to focus on what matters for your life path.

Path with oak trees

1) Values

“Decisions are easy when values are clear.” ~ Roy Disney

Know your values.

If you don't know what's important to you, you'll spend your time and energy on things that aren't. Knowing what you value is necessary to set priorities, manage your time, and decide what to keep and what to toss out. What's most important to you? Family? Financial success? Respect? Your religion? The environment?

Let yourself mull on this. Knowing yourself is an evolutionary, lifetime venture, but a worthwhile one that feeds all other decisions. Also, people change. Life situations change. Adjust over time for changes in your values. Review what you care about occasionally.

2) Long-Term Goals

“If you’re not sure where you are going, you’re liable to end up someplace else.” ~ Robert F. Mager

Imagine your life in 10, 20, or even 50 years.

Think about your lifetime goals. Project yourself far forward. When you're on your death-bed, what will you regret not having done? What you want to do with your life is closely related to your values.

This is another ongoing, ever-changing concern. Adjust your long-term plans as your values change. Occasional course-corrections in your path are inevitable.

3) Short-Term Goals

Plan your current projects.

These are the projects that contribute to your long-term goals. Short-term is relative. These could be weekly, monthly, or even yearly goals. These are what you want to make daily forward progress on.

Review short-term goals periodically. I find that reviewing progress monthly or quarterly works well for me. Monitor what's working and what needs rethinking.

4) Daily To-Dos

Do the daily tasks.

The steps you take on a daily basis to make progress on your short-term projects are the stones that build the pyramids, the bricks that build the monuments, the grains of sand that make the beach — all the little tasks that need to get done to accomplish a project. Phone calls, reading, exercising...

Each of these little tasks may feel pointless at the time, but they are crucial as long as they serve your short-term goals which serve your long-term goals which serve your values.

5) Life Maintenance

Minimize the little stuff.

Not everything you do contributes directly to your goals. We can't ignore all the stuff that needs to be done just to get by, to stay alive, to survive in our society, and to avoid crises later. This includes everything from cleaning the toilet to getting an oil change to doing taxes.

These things take over your life if you let them. Consciously minimize the time and energy you spend on these things.

6) Physical Organization

“Form ever follows function.” ~ Louis H. Sullivan

Organize your physical space — your rooms, your desk, your shelves — to serve everything above. For example, toss items that don't serve your values or your goals. Keep items related to your current short-term projects close at hand.

That's all you really need to know about time management. I call this my "oversimplified overview" and review it whenever I feel that how I'm using my time has become reactionary rather than proactive. I hope this helps you refocus your time management and find your path.