Managing Overwhelm: How To Become A "To-Do List" Conqueror

Do you always perform at your peak?  Do you always provide ample support and attention to the projects and people in your life?  Do you always finish your work and leave your job at the end of the day with a clean desk and an agenda for the next day?  If you have answered “yes” to all these questions, congratulate yourself and move on to the next blog post.

If for any reason you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, or you feel that life has gotten out of control, not to worry time management is a skill, a technique, a mindset and a lifestyle that can be adopted for those individuals who have a desire

  •   to feel more in control
  •   to attain more out of life
  •   to achieve success in business while having time to enjoy a personal life
  •   to reduce stress and realize more balance in their lives

Your success depends on a utilizing a time management system that works best for you as well as addressing your attitudes, feelings and habits.  If you don’t address what you value and what your goals are- any success you might achieve will be short-term.

If you think about the concept of time management, it is actually an oxymoron.  There really isn’t anything to manage.  There are a fixed number of days in a week, number of hours in each day, minutes in each hour, etc….  The only thing that changes about how we spend our time is our perception of it.  Some days we are conquerors and complete everything on our “to do list” and yet other times we can barely get through the first few items on the “to do” list.  If you were to look back to your “conquering” days you would see the projects/tasks that you completed were directly related to your goals, which put your achievement level into high gear and time speeds by. 

So, how does one become a “conqueror” of tasks and projects?    When you are able to define your purpose, establish your vision and values and develop success-oriented attitudes a direction and meaning to your life will begin to emerge.  The best way to decide what you want and set goals is to have an understanding of yourself,   by examining past accomplishments and identifying their strongest and most enjoyable skills. 

Although a person’s motivated abilities tell them the elements needed for happiness, a vision needs to be created to help shape the scope of what lies ahead.   The dreams and goals from your vision of the future are the driving forces that motivate you.

A clear vision accompanied by SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistically High Time –Bound) goals will enable each person to prioritize options and make good decisions.

By activating positive thoughts and embracing the power of visualization you bring about the necessary behavior that will help you accomplish all that you want in your life.   Successful people have a passion for what they do and have set predetermined goals that are harmonious with the vision they have created for themselves.

One of the most important concepts of time management is to understand and acknowledge the difference between spending time and investing time.  The definition of spend, according to the dictionary, is “to use up, exhaust, consume.”  However, when we invest our time we do so with the expectation of some sort of ROI, return on investment.  If we were to attach the value we put on money to the concept of time, we would be more motivated to manage it better. 

Time is like money.  You can expect returns if you invest in it wisely (current economic situation excluded) and losses it is spent without purpose.  How you use your time is a reflection of who you are.  Not only is it an indication of what you think about yourself it also reveals what you think of others.  Your focus on achieving the goals you have set for yourself is reflected in your use of time.  How you allocate your time mirrors your purpose, your vision and your values. 

Put focus on the activities that are harmonious with your personal goals and the goals of your organization.  Each day set out to achieve the highest level of performance and gratification.  By investing in your time wisely you will reap significant rewards in every aspect of your life.

Fundamentals of Time Management

1. Get organized – set aside time and organize all paper and projects- block the time in your calendar or PDA

2. Three D’s – Do it, Delegate it, Dump It- get rid of anything that is not in alignment with your personal/professional goals.  When paper comes in create a filing system not a piling system.

  •  Delegate- to the appropriate person
  •  Dump – Dispose of in nearest recycling bin
  •  Do It- decide which category it falls into (1) Immediate, (2)This Week,  (3)Next Week, and (4) When I have the time

3. Do the Right Thing Right- Management expert, Peter Drucker says “doing the right thing right (effectiveness) is more important than doing things right (efficiency)

4. Timing- Determine your most effective time of day and take advantage of your body’s natural clock to achieve your tasks.  Decide the best time of day to plan out your day (typically the night before is the better option)

5. Expand upon your To Do List- Break the tasks into either “Must Do It” on the top of the sheet and “Should Do”

6. Plan for interruptions – build in buffer time.  If necessary, take your phone off the hook, post a do not disturb sign on your cubicle wall if you don’t have an office door

7. Make the most use of waiting time

8. Make your meetings productive

  •  Provide a written agenda and include the purpose and objectives of the meeting
  •  Start and end on time
  •  Have someone take notes and send a summary with the action items to attendees
  • Determine the best way to share the information communicated in the meetings

9. Time Management at home – our professional and personal lives are intertwined – use the same time management skills at home to help maintain control

10. Learn to say “no”- taking on too much causes stress. 

Time Management is not about managing time it is about setting goals that are in align with your vision and purpose.  Time Management is a personal choice.  Time is the great equalizer; we all have the same amount.  The effective use of time depends upon your attitude, your goals and your skills.