Time Management

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the February 1972 issue of the R.E. News Observer.

I’ve tried a thousand ways to get more done in a day and the following methods are the ones that work for me. Maybe they will for you. The night before when you go to bed you have chosen a time to get up. When that time comes don’t fight it. At the first sound of the alarm, throw your feet out on the floor and stand up, and MOVE toward whatever you do first. With your day started that way, nothing will be able to withstand your attack. The sleepyhead who rolls around in bed and rationalizes and procrastinates is way behind the guy who is up already doing his thing.

Get to your working place ahead of other personnel and ahead of the normal hours for other offices. Try getting to work at 6:30 or 7:00 A.M. That will give you up to two hours of good work time before people expect you to be there and thus no telephone calls or any other interruptions. Those first two hours are worth four hours later in the day. Try it and see. If you don’t want to work longer hours, then stop earlier in the day. Try stopping at 3:00 if you came to work at 7:00, and use those last few hours for a game of handball, or golf, or a spa workout.

When you come to work early you should feel good about it because you should have planned your next day’s work the day before. The last thing before leaving the office should be to plan for next day. When you plan in advance you don’t have to spend the first part of the day figuring out what you need to get done.

One of the best plans I know was advanced by Ivy Lee, one of the original management consultants. Mr. Lee said to write down the six most important tasks you have to do today and list them in order of their importance. Then start working on item number one and do not go to number two until you have thoroughly finished number one. Then go to number two and so on down the line. Do not be concerned if you only get two or three done, you are working on the most important ones and the others will wait. If you can’t finish them using this method you wouldn’t have by any other way either, and without some system you probably wouldn’t have decided which one was the most important.

Telephone calls can disrupt the best thinking and problem solving. Have your secretary or answering service cut off your calls during counseling sessions or during “think” sessions with yourself. Merely have them tell the caller that you are in conference and will return their call at 11:00 o’clock. I have found that you can make a time to return calls and talk to people just like you can make appointments, and this gives you control of your time, not letting others control when you will talk to them.

When your work day is completed and you have decided to call it quits, try these two things. Take ten minutes to plan the six most important tasks you have to do tomorrow and clear your desk of all the tasks you have completed.

Exercise – vigorous exercise, either with a group or alone will do more to allow you to proceed at full bore than anything I know. It relieves tension, replaces old air in your lungs, keeps you trim, makes you feel young, and will contribute to a long and happy life. Join a spa, or jog a few miles, or play handball, or tennis, or swim. Something that makes your heart beat fast and your breath hard to get. Work up to it slowly but in a year or so you should be able to run two miles without stopping and you will start feeling better and sleeping better, and working better.

If you do these things you will find the flag waving…because there is a breeze around there moving it. You see, a flag doesn’t wave on a still day.

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