But first, we have to see the problem clearly. Here is a thought experiment for you. It will change the way that you think about time management. Imagine that you’ve just signed on with a personal business coach. Your coach asks you to send her your schedule at the beginning of the week. You do this gladly. Then, she says that through out the week she wants you to keep notes on what you actually do, hour to hour. You do this as well, carefully tracking where your time goes each day. At the end of the week, she asks you to send her this “actual schedule”, which represents the way that you actually spent your time through the week. Then, together, you and your coach compare the two schedules.
Do you think that you would be proud of your results? Or embarrassed by how much you strayed from your intended schedule? This thought experiment can give you valuable insight into where you are in your self management.
In business and in life we work for ourselves. It doesn’t matter if there is an external boss that you report to, or if you truly are self employed, you should be practicing self management. Taking ownership over your own life and actions is a powerful step towards success.
Regardless of whether you think you usually stick to your intended schedule like glue, or if you think you deviate from your intended schedule on a regular basis, there are a few ways that you can help yourself fulfill this important managerial role.
1. Plan for the unexpected.
Some people feel that through out the day they are always “putting out fires”, and dealing with surprise, urgent tasks. Once you see this pattern, these urgent tasks should no longer be considered surprises.
Schedule time into your week for “putting out fires”. This way, you will not constantly feel behind through out the day, as though you are putting off the tasks that you “should” be doing. If you schedule in time for the unexpected, and nothing urgent surfaces, have back up tasks to work with.
2. Keep it visible.
You should always be able to look at your schedule quickly. It should be at your fingertips in every moment. For some, this means a paper and pen system is best. A journal or planner would work well. For others, a technology platform, like google calendars will be more efficient.
When you manage your self as though you were your own supervisor, it means that you have to know exactly what you should be doing at every moment. This way you can get the most productive output from each hour of the day. If you write a schedule in the morning, or the beginning of the week, but then don’t look at it again, it won’t serve you.
3. Be accountable to yourself.
When it comes to discipline, you have to care about disappointing yourself. Sometimes, we see outer sources as more worthy of impressing. If you wanted to impress your business coach, for example, you might stick to your schedule with precision. Without any eyes on you, you allow one hour-long task to leak over into the next hour, but you feel like you are getting away with something because “no one is watching”.
That is not true! You are watching. Care about what you think about yourself. One business leader, Aaron Minc, says that he stays disciplined through out the day, and performs each task according to a well thought out schedule, as if he was wearing a GoPro on his head.
He says this way, he imagines his whole team watching him perform each task. As a leader, Minc says that it is important to practice what you preach. If you don’t follow through with the tasks you have set out for yourself, how can you ask others to follow through with tasks?
Imagine that you are a leader of an organization, and you want to teach your team about discipline and productivity through leading by example. What would you be doing if you were wearing a GoPro, and an entire team of people was watching you through the day?