Time Management



How to get Control of your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein

The ideas in this article are mostly taken from Alan Lakein’s book “How to get Control of Your Time and Your Life” which was published in 1973 and sold 3 million copies.  I read it over 30 years ago and still use many of its principles today.  

One area in which all people are equal is that we all have 168 hours each week to use and our use of that time will determine how we live.  No one gets more or less time so our efficient and effective use of that time can determine our success or failure or happiness or sadness. Benjamin Franklin said “ By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

Human beings make decisions out of habit, reacting to other demands, wishing, impulse, default or conscious decision.  Habits may be good like exercise or bad like smoking cigarettes.  We make decisions based upon demands by family, friends and coworkers such as where to eat or what projects to work on.  Wishing something to happen is usually not a good way to decide how to live.  Our impulses can be triggered by advertising on the internet, television or in the supermarket checkout lines.  Inaction can lead to making decisions by default.  Conscious decision making is generally the best way to decide how to spend our time and get the best result for our efforts.   

People can Plan and Control their lives using an A, B, C system of organizing their activities.  Big issues are assigned an A because they are the most important like eating and drinking every day.  Issues that are less important are assigned a B value.  Unimportant issues are assigned C values.  One way to Plan and Control your business activities is to prepare a Weekly or Daily to Do list and rank the importance of the activities.  The next step is to work on the most important issues first (As) and leave the least important activities until last (Cs). 

Do you have Lifetime Goals which many people now call a Bucket List?  A goal can be defined as a “dream with a deadline”.  All goals must be specific and measurable.  A goal such as I want to be a millionaire is not specific enough.  Goals must answer the questions (5 Ws) we were taught in English class; Who?, What?, Where?, When?,  and Why?  For example I want to have one  million dollars in the bank on January  1, 2015 by selling 100,000 copies of my Time Management book so that I can retire in Las Vegas.  That goal answers all 5 of the W questions. 

Many people prepare their Lifetime Goals lists on their birthday or New Year’s Day and review and revise the list annually.  Sit down with a piece of paper and take as long as you wish to write your Lifetime Goals. Here are 7 goals categories but you can have more or less categories and subcategories; Personal, Family, Social, Career, Financial, Community and Spiritual.   In the movie, The Bucket List, there were no categories.  When Lou Holtz was fired from a coaching job, he made a list of 109 goals.  There is no right or wrong number of categories or number of goals but setting goals may enable you to become more focused on those goals and help achieve them. 

After you have completed your Lifetime Goals list, the Three Lifetime Questions will help you prioritize your goals. Ask when you want to attain the goals.  Some may not be attainable for many years such as retirement goals.  The first question is to write down all goals you want to reach within your lifetime.  The second question is which goals I wish to attain within 5 years.  The final question is which goals I want to achieve if I only have six months to live.  This is not meant to be a morbid question but answering the third question will probably help you decide which goals really are the most important ones for you.

Planning will help you attain your Lifetime Goals. First Identify your  A , B and C goals.  Next Identify and prioritize your A goals.  Set activities for the A goals.  If your goal is to climb Mt Everest, there  are activities you must complete first before you can climb the mountain.  Schedule those activities and do your A activities first.  You may want to buy a calendar or day timer or another scheduling device to track your various goals and activities.  Do the same steps for your B and C goals. 

When is your prime time?  You need to know when you have the most energy and can handle your toughest tasks of the day.  If you are a morning person, then your morning work activities should be focused on your A activities and save your B and C tasks for the time of the day when you are tired or not at your best.  It helps to have Daily and Weekly to do lists.  Many business departments have Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly and Annual work calendars. 

The 80/20 rule also applies to Time Management.  You will probably get 80 percent of the success you want or need by doing the 20% of the Lifetime Goals that are your most important A goals. 

Sometimes you may need to make compromises to achieve family,  team or company goals.  The next day you can again work on your goals. 

It is also important to have some daily Quiet Time or “me” time.  It may be a few minutes to relax or plan but it is important to try to take that time every day.   No one can be 100% efficient every day.  

Procrastination is one of the enemies of Time Management.  Start on big issues such as filing your annual tax return by spreading out the job over several days and doing one schedule or portion of the project at a time (The Swiss Cheese Approach).  Like the Fram Oil commercial said, “You can pay me now or pay me later” and sometimes procrastination has a large expense or consequence.  Also some of you Cs may be come As over time.  For example a hole in the roof definitely needs to be fixed before rainy season and an annual air conditioner tune up before the summer is generally cheaper and easier to schedule in the spring rather than paying to fix it in the summer.  

Be Positive in goal setting.  It is generally better to have positive rather than negative goals. 

Try to avoid Time Management Mistakes such as Indulging Yourself, Socializing, Reading, Doing  it all Yourself,  Overdoing it, Running Away or Daydreaming.  It takes effort to get things done and there is time for other activities after the most important goals and tasks are handled.   

Do your best to be a good Time Manager and consider it a success.  (Trial & Success)  Successful time managers know that it is a process and you will become a better Time Manager with practice.  

Alan Lakein says he asks himself the most important Time Management Question  throughout each day or whenever he is ready to start something new.   What is the best use of my time right now? 

What is the best use of your time right now? 

Best wishes for happy goal setting and goal attainment.