Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How to Beat the Clock

I had a writing prompt the other day asking that I write about time not marked on clocks.  Usually this doesn’t happen but…my mind went blank.  What time is not marked on clocks when clocks will always ever be about time?  Especially in this day and age.
I’m sure the prompter knew just how difficult of a question this would be for the prompted.  So much of what we do is bound by time…it’s not very often someone can say they don’t know what time it is.  Not being a slave to the clock is one of the reasons we enjoy vacations so much.  It is why leaving behind all the time requirements of daily life is so necessary.  It helps to rejuvenate us.  We can’t always be a slave to the clock.  We must also know what it is like to be able to enjoy the day as our body, mind and spirit see fit.

But back in the real world, after vacation and relaxation, it is the clock that rules us. 
So how do we beat the clock?

With a club, of course!
Okay.  Maybe that won’t work, although I’d love to take a club to my alarm clock in the mornings.  It is very annoying.

Realistically, the clock can be a menace or it can be your ally.  I have been working on my time management skills over the past year since I began writing my book and I’ll admit the clock is usually more of a menace and not so much an ally.  I have had to work very hard at figuring out what works for me so that I am the most productive.  For the most part, I’ve done pretty well and I just have to catch myself when I realize I might be slipping back into bad habits. 
Research has taught me many things when it comes to time management and I have attempted to make use of one trick or tip after another to find what helps me the most.  Some tips work better than others but overall, together they all work very well.   

Here are some examples of the tips I’ve learned:
·         For at least a week, keep track of everything you do to see where your time is actually spent.  It can be very eye opening and it won’t be difficult to see where your down time is being wasted. 

·         Make appointments with yourself for the tasks you really wish to accomplish on a daily or weekly basis.  For me, I schedule time to write and I do my best not to break those scheduled dates with myself.

·         Set goals but do not make it so you can easily fail at reaching those goals.  If you have a long-term goal, write it down, but then make a list of the short-term goals necessary to help you reach the long-term goal. 

·         Make lists.  I adore lists.  I have them everywhere.  Whether you have a good memory or not, keeping lists helps keep track of what you need to do (or want to do) and as you are able to cross each item off your list, it gives you a sense of accomplishment.  Having a master list helps and from there you can create timeframes on when you hope to accomplish each task.

·         Figure out where your peak time for productivity actually falls.  For me, mornings are not my best.  Early afternoons when I’m home or the evenings after I’ve spent time with my family are best for me and when I’m able to accomplish the most.

·         Try to focus on one task at a time, rather than getting sidetracked partway through and ultimately only barely tackling a few of the items on your daily to-do list.  Whether the to-do item is a chore such as cleaning or an enjoyable task like checking updates on Facebook, take a shot at timing yourself.  Give yourself only a short block of time for each task, say 15 minutes or a half hour, if necessary.  If you have a competitive spirit, you could think of it as a way to beat the clock by trying to complete as much as you can in your given block of time.  You’ll be satisfied with what you are able to accomplish before you move on to the next task.

·         Probably the most important tip is not to beat yourself up if you aren’t able to reach all your goals or you aren’t able to stick with a game plan.  Most likely, the goals can still be reached; it just might take more time.  The game plan might need to be tweaked but it might also better accommodate you and your life style.  It is something you just have to learn as you go.
Each of us has our own to-do lists, our own goals and most importantly, our own dreams.  While we might not be able to beat the clock, we don’t have to be a slave to it either.  We just need to work with the clock, manage the time we’ve been given and learn how we can make the most of each day. 

What about you?  Are you a master at managing time or are you currently working on your own time management skills?  If you have any tips to share that might help others, I’d love to hear them.


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