Time Management from the Inside Out

I have been reading the book, Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern, again.  (Actually I have been listening to the audio book as I drive.)  She offers a number of ideas to help people organize their time just as she helped people organize their clutter in her book, Organization from the Inside Out.  I don’t have enough room in this article to recap the entire book, but I can give you some of the basics that I found useful.

Morgenstern compares time to space to help people realize how similar the two are.  She used the example of a closet which has limited space and if overfilled, becomes disorganized, haphazard and inefficient in its use of organizing tools.  The same is true of a cluttered or overfilled schedule:  you have a limited amount of time, which gets crammed with more tasks than time, jammed into any available time slot in no particular order, which makes it difficult for you to see what you have to do and causes inefficient use of time management tools.  How many of us don’t see a schedule as a container with limited space into which we must fit a certain number of tasks?  She says that when we start seeing our time as having borders, just as space does, we will become more realistic about what we can accomplish and more motivated to master time management tools and techniques.

She emphasizes the importance of discovering your “likes and dislikes, natural habits, needs, and desires.  These become the foundation of your time management system.” She offers ideas to help you accurately diagnose your time management problems so you can work on the solution.  Then she has you look at your “big picture goals” so you can see how your daily tasks fit in with these goals.  If you are having difficulty defining your goals, she helps you to zero in on one to achieve first.  You can add others later. 

She recommends writing down your goals as this has been studied and has been found to be one of the best predictors of success in achieving goals.  Review your goals often to increase your likelihood of success.  With each big picture goal, specifically list activities to do over the next year or two that will get you to your goal.  Revise your activity list every year, even if some of your goals stay the same.  Your circumstances will change so you will need to adjust your specific activity list to match.

One of the most useful tools Morgenstern offers is a “Time Map” which is “a visual diagram of your daily, weekly and monthly schedule” which helps you to achieve your ideal balance.  I haven’t done this activity for a few years so I have created my template and have begun the process of mapping out my daily activities for the next 1-2 weeks so I know exactly where my time is going.  I will label the activities by category so I can see if I am spending my time in the areas that are most important to me or not.  I can also see how much time I am spending on activities that could be reduced, eliminated or delegated. 

After I evaluate how I am currently spending my time, I will block out my schedule to accommodate all areas of my life to make sure I am keeping the balance that is right for me.  Then I can fill in the blocks with the activities that will help me to achieve my goals, both short term and long term.  I will re-evaluate it in a couple of weeks, tweak it and do it again.   I have done this activity in the past and have found it extremely useful. 

She goes on to discuss different types of planners and how to determine which one might suit you best.  Then she goes through explaining how the SPACE formula for organization can be used for time management.  On page 138 she explains the 5 step formula for organizing your daily to-do’s:

 “Sort potential tasks by category
Purge whatever tasks you can
Assign a Home to tasks you have decided to do
Containerize tasks to keep them within the time allotted
Equalize - refine, maintain, and adapt your schedule”
If you would like more details, I recommend you check out Julie Morgenstern’s book where she walks you through step by step plans, examples and explanations.  It is a useful tool, if you make the time for it.

This article was posted in the Coach's Corner of the ASTD Newsletter for September 2014. Contact us to discuss your needs and to see how we can help you and your business to manage your time more effectively.