Are you having trouble getting everything done? Are you looking for a better way to manage your time? Are you a slave to time? Here are four simple and useful rules to manage your time more efficiently and effectively.
The first three you might have heard of already and then I added one for good measure.
1) Pareto’s Principle – 80% of the outcomes result from 20% of the causes.
Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He developed this principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
You waste your time on useless activities! If you are reading this, you do! You have the plague. We each have our own black hole of time: TV, video games, the internet, social media, email, fantasy sports, telephone, socializing face to face (old school), etc. Most of it in the name of entertainment. You name it and you have a rationalization for it. Whatever it is, it’s holding you back from doing what you really need to be doing. What do you need to be doing? What is it that needs to get done and you don’t have enough time for it?
It might even be work. You have too much urgent work to get your important work done. The question is, “Are you doing the right work?” Enter Vilfredo Pareto. Look at your work like you are making a budget. Where are you spending you time how? Where do you want to spend your time? There are elements of your work which contribute to outcomes. Some elements contribute to positive outcomes and some contribute to negative outcomes. Using Pareto’s Principle, 20% of the elements you already do reap 80% of the benefit. And 80% of the elements you work on reap 20% of the benefit. Why are you wasting four-fifths of your time for 20% of the benefit? Couldn’t you spend some of that time doing more beneficial work?
Check yourself out. Do an honest assessment of how you spend your time. See if it isn’t true that you spend 80% of you time getting 20% of the results. Turn that around and do 20% of the effort and get 80% of the results. The following three rules will help with that.
2) Drucker’s Declaration – Do first things first and second things not at all.
Peter F. Drucker was a writer and management consultant. His books and articles explored how humans are organized across the business and government.
“First Things First” is attributed to Stephen Covey. Before Mr. Covey, Peter Drucker was advising his clients and readers using the above adage. But even before Mr. Drucker, a famous efficiency expert, Ivy Lee, advised Charles M. Schwab, CEO of Bethlehem Steel on improving his personal efficiency and the efficiency of his staff. Lee suggested, “At the end of each day, write down the 6 most important things to be done the next day and number them in order of importance. Do the tasks from the most important to least important. After you’ve finished a task, cross it off the list. Any unfinished tasks are rolled over to the next day.” It’s very simple and effective.
Drucker’s Declaration is a more elegant synopsis of Lee’s advice. Once the first things are taken care of, you can move onto the second thing, which is now in first place.
The power of this incredibly simple technique is doing the “To Do” list at the end of your day. Assess the priorities for the next day and put them on your list. Otherwise, you will be reacting to urgent issues that are bound to pop up during the day, instead of dealing with the important ones you already decided upon.
Doing this “To Do” list will result in doing the 20% that counts the most.
3) Parkinson’s Law – Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Cyril Parkinson was a British naval historian, an author of some sixty books and a scholar in public administration. You remember cramming. How about last minute term papers? Sometimes it worked well. That is a precise demonstration of Parkinson’s Law. You could have started and finished it sooner, but there were the inevitable delays.
Parkinson’s law is a symptom of not following Pareto and Drucker. If you are not following the two previous rules, you wait until the last minute to get your “real” work done? Your wasting 80% of your time on unimportant things is the root cause of the time mis-management disease.
The cure is making shorter and shorter deadlines. Don’t wait. Get it done and move onto the next number one item on your list. Procrastination ties these last two time management rules together. It is also a symptom of time mis-management. Procrastination is characterized as ineffective, useless delay. The delay is due to some apprehension, fear it won’t be right, or it won’t be good enough or not seeing the way clear to completion. Whatever it is, it paralyzes us to listless inactivity.
Assuming you have set a tight deadline, the cure is to ask for someone to help you over this hurdle. That’s right, ask for help. When did you get too old to ask for help? Ask someone who can encourage and support you to complete this work on time. Someone may be able to clarify the path ahead or show you the next step to take. Progress is made, very often, in small steps, but progress is required.
And one for good measure
4) Campbell’s Commandment – Done is better than perfect.
Thomas Campbell is a very successful manager at a prominent transportation company. His adage was very encouraging as well as motivating.
Many are plagued with perfectionism. Some wear it like a badge of honor. Nevertheless, perfectionism is another delay tactic. Perfection is reserved for a Deity. We mere mortals will have to settle for excellence. And even excellence takes time. You won’t get it right the first time or maybe the first ten times. All you can do is your best with the information you have available, finish it and leave it open for revision when you get better information.
This is not an opening for shoddy work. Do you best while complying with Pareto, Drucker and Parkinson and keep working on it making it better each time. If you wait for perfection, you will get perfectly nothing done . . . perfectly. Progress is always preferred over perfection and usually required.
Make some progress. Get something done. Otherwise, you are right where you are now, fretting about all the time that is being lost and nothing is being done.
Any one of the Four Time Management Rules will move you ahead to accomplish more. Pick one that will work for you and try it out. If you can do it for 21 days, it will likely become a habit. If you like that one, try another and another. Remember “do is half of done!”
1. Goal setting is a skill that can be learned and must be learned
We humans are goal oriented creatures. We seldom do something for no reason at all. And the reasons behind our behavior are usually where our goal lies. Regardless whether we realize it or not, we are setting goals and working on them day in and day out, no matter how trivial they may be. It is worthwhile to learn how to be more effective in setting and reaching goals and getting the real results we want. To achieve success in almost anything we do, we not only need to get better at goal setting, but we really must do so.
2.Goal setting is a process, not a thing done in a few hours
Many people tend to think of goal setting as a sort of session or activity that is done in a few hours time when we sit down and think, and maybe write down our goals, and perhaps make some kind of plans. But this is a poor understanding of truly effective goal setting, because it fails to realize what it involves AFTER that initial session is over. The things you do after that session is far more important than whatever you do during that session, because what you do afterwards is what’s really required for making a goal happen.
Just like taking a vacation in Hawaii. Sitting down and spending a few hours to make plans for the trip is only the very first step. We can’t expect it to be the whole vacation if we simply leave at that step and do nothing next. After we make our plans, we need to follow up and execute the plan, such as buying flight tickets, preparing for the trip, going on the plane and getting there, spending our days on the island, and coming back home. That’s the whole process. The same is true with goal setting.
3. Partial success is still better than no success at all
The number one frustrated thing that we feel about setting a goal and trying to reach it is that we fail to reach it. That’s why most people say goal setting doesn’t work. For example, we set a goal to lose 10lb. After 2 months, we find that we didn’t reach that goal, and we only lost 2lb. Or, suppose we set a goal to increase income by $2000 per month. After six months, we find that we only managed to increase it by $200 per month.
When we look closely, it’s true that it usually didn’t work in the way we wanted, but still it worked at some level, resulting in some progress, some success. It is just not exactly what we initially expected. But, to think rationally, wouldn’t you agree that it’s still better than no success and no result at all? Wouldn’t losing 2lbs, having $200 extra money per month, still be good for us, still some success?
4. Take small incremental actions to accomplish big goals
Goal setting makes sense and is worth the trouble only if we use it to achieve big goals, goals that when accomplished, can make real difference in our life. Goals that can take our entire life into whole new levels.
However, usually those kind of big hairy goals may often seem very difficult, if not impossible, to reach, especially when we look at them from where we are now. That’s when we need to find ways to put things into perspective and make sure we’re not easily discouraged. Most importantly, we must learn to not quit so fast.
The only meaningful, realistic and sustainable way to accomplish big goals is through taking small steps. How small a step should be? It depends on your goal and yourself.
What I find useful for determining this is to see if I would get discouraged or frustrated by taking this one step. If I did, then it means that step is still too big for the current me. I will need to further break it down, until after taking a small step, not only do I feel relaxed and confident, but also motivated to take another step. That’s when it’s the right step size.
Of course, after taking a few steps, we would often find it easier to take a little bigger step.
5. Build habits and adopt systems to work on goals automatically
Sticking to a worthwhile goal usually takes a lot of effort, especially the mental discipline, or willpower if you will, to stay on track. Be it willpower or mental discipline, we human beings have only so much for dealing with all the things we want to accomplish.
That’s why you see President Obama can’t quit smoking, Oprah can’t keep her weight down, even though they may have tried many times. It could be that they may have used it all up for other things that they are so successful at.
We need habits and systems to guide our actions so that we don’t have to exert so much mental energy to keep track of everything. A habit is like a powerful mental “engine” that drives us to operate many many things completely on automatic pilot. When we have it, we simply do whatever needs to be done, without giving it a single thought, which means energy. When we save energy, we will have more for handling other more challenging tasks.
6. Incorporate learning and education in your goal setting process
We seldom get to accomplish a stretching goal without having to learn something and improve ourselves first. We often need better skills in doing certain things, more knowledge, more understanding about the subjects relevant to our goals.
We often have to become a different kind of person in order to achieve certain kind of goals. If we are not that kind of person, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to reach those goals that seemingly can be easily achieved by certain people.
7. Enjoying the current step is the best way to reach your goals
Sometimes we may not know exactly what we should do, or how we should do it to reach a certain goal. But one thing for sure is that we must stick to the plan, take the next step, and find ways to actually enjoy it. Like climbing a high mountain, we don’t need to always look far and up, and keeping telling ourselves how far away we are. The best strategy is simply focusing on this single step and enjoying it. Before we know it, we are already at the peak.
If your goal is to become an account director within the next five years, where do you start your planning process? Or if your team needs to redesign the company’s organizational structure, where do you begin?
In planning, most of us would usually start building our plan from start to finish. What do you have to do first, second, third, and so on? And by what date does each step need to be completed? This is a solid form of personal goal setting that works very well.
A New Approach
However, there’s another simple but lesser-used method of goal setting that can be equally as powerful.
It’s called backward planning, backward goal-setting, or backward design, and it’s used quite often in education and training. The idea is to start with your ultimate objective, your end goal, and then work backward from there to develop your plan. By starting at the end and looking back, you can mentally prepare yourself for success, map out the specific milestones you need to reach, and identify where in your plan you have to be particularly energetic or creative to achieve the desired results.
It’s much like a good presentation, when the presenter tells you where he’s headed right at the beginning. Then, as the presentation unfolds, it’s easy for you to follow the concepts and think critically about what’s being said. If you have to figure out the main points as they come, your energy is often used up by just trying to keep up.
The Backward Planning Process
Here’s how it works:
- Write down your ultimate goal. What specifically do you want to achieve, and by what date?
Example: “By January 1, 2015, I will be the key accounts director for Crunchy Chips International.”
- Then ask yourself what milestone you need to accomplish just before that, in order to achieve your ultimate goal. What do you have to do, and by when, so that you’re in a position to reach your final objective?
Example: “By September 30, 2013, I will successfully complete the executive training program offered by Crunchy Chips International.”
- Then work backward some more. What do you need to complete before that second-to-last goal?
Example: “By March 1, 2013, I will submit my application for the executive training program, outlining my successes as a key accounts manager, and I will be accepted into the program.”
- Work back again. What do you need to do to make sure the previous goal is reached?
Example: “By January 1, 2013, I will complete my second year as a key accounts manager with Crunchy Chips International, and I will earn the prestigious Key Accounts Manager of the Year award.”
- Continue to work back, in the same way, until you identify the very first milestone that you need to accomplish.
Example: “By January 1, 2012, I will complete my first year as a key accounts manager with Crunchy Chips International, and I will be rewarded for my performance by gaining responsibility for clients purchasing over $10 million per year.”
Example: “By January 1,2010, I will be promoted to key accounts manager with Crunchy Chips International, and I will have responsibility for clients purchasing over $1 million per quarter.”
When you read a backward plan, it doesn’t look much different from a traditional forward plan. However, creating a backward plan is VERY different. You need to force yourself to think from a completely new perspective, to help you see things that you might miss if you use a traditional, forward-looking chronological process.
This can also help you avoid spending time on unnecessary or unproductive activities along the way. Furthermore, it highlights points of tension within the plan, showing where you’ll need to be particularly creative to make the next step successfully.
On the surface, backward planning doesn’t seem much different from traditional goal-setting processes. You start with a basic vision, and then you ask yourself what needs to be done to achieve that vision. You can read your plan from the beginning to the end, or from the end back to the beginning.
Backward planning, however, is more than reversing the direction of your traditional plan. It’s about adopting a different perspective and, perhaps, identifying different milestones as a result. It’s a great supplement to traditional planning, and it gives you a much fuller appreciation of what it may take to achieve success. After all, the more alternatives you have, the better your final plan will likely be.
We have launched a new feature which allows you to link habits to any goals that you are actively working on.
This feature will help you better organize your habits. You may want to arrange the order of the habits by assigning which goals they belong to. On Habits page, they will be displayed in the order of the goals they are linked to, as shown in the screenshot below.
By default, those habits that haven’t been assigned to any goals will just show under the “Habits” heading.
Once you have assigned habits goals, on the Dashboard page, you may choose to show only those habits for a particular goal category.
We’re still working on the best way to integrate the habit strength with goal progress tracking. We have a few ideas about this. If you have any suggestion or feedback regarding this function, please do let us know.
Guest Post By Mike Brooks
When I talk to people about goal setting, I’m often surprised by their reactions. A lot of people tell me that they haven’t gotten around to setting life-time goals and identifying their values and coming up with specific, measurable bench marks, etc. They tell me that goal setting takes too much time and energy, and that it will require days and weeks of work and that once they have the goals they’ll start to feel bad if they don’t reach them.
Some of the time people tell me they do have goals, but when I ask them about what they are, they come up with vague wants and “Gee, I hope I get some day” items that change with each paycheck.
While life-time goal setting does require an initial investment of time and energy, the payoff is immediate and life changing. The good news, however, is that identifying and writing down even short term goals will give you the same benefits, and setting short term goals is a quick and effective way to develop momentum, build confidence and get some meaningful things accomplished.
If you want to see your life change in just 3 to 6 months, then follow these 5 quick rules for setting short term goals. As you’ll see, accomplishing just one short term goal can change your life beyond your wildest dreams!
Secret #1: Grab a calendar.
Pick a short term, manageable 3 to 6 month period to set your goals in. Short term goals tend to get you into action right away, are easier to visualize, and because of their short term nature they encourage you to set realistic, easy to accomplish goals.
Secret #2: Pick just 2 or 3 goals to work with.
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to change every area of your life. Just pick a couple of areas that you want to begin changing in the next few months.
Secret #3: The goals you pick don’t have to be fully accomplished in the time period you’ve identified.
This is the key! Rather, what you’re looking to do in the next 3 to 6 months is to simply develop momentum, establish a pattern, and begin getting you excited about your life again.
Great areas to set short term goals in are things like:
- Beginning or resuming an exercise routine and setting a goal to be so far along in the time frame you’ve set.
- Increasing your closing percentage by a reasonable amount.
- Having read or begun listening to a couple of books.
- Joined a dating site and begun dating again.
- Taking up or resuming a favorite hobby again.
Remember at the beginning I wrote that setting even short term goals can be a life-changing event? I know of someone who had a goal of finding and developing a serious relationship, and his short term goal was simply to join a dating site and begin dating. Well, he did that, met someone in 2 weeks, and now 6 months later, they are engaged to be married! You see, even short term goals can change your life!
Secret #4: Write your goals down.
You’ve heard over and over again how much more effective goal setting is when you write your goals down. It’s totally true. Once you’ve identified your 2 or 3 goals, write down in detail what it is you want to accomplish, or what stage you want to be in at the end of the time period you’ve chosen.
Once you’ve done that, get a three by five card and write out an affirmation paragraph that describes in detail how you will feel once you’ve reached that goal. Keep it in the first person as if you’ve already accomplished that goal. Not: “I can’t wait to feel…” Rather: “Itfeels so good now that I’m…”
Secret #5: Make a list and start identify right now, today, what actions you can take to move you closer to your goals.
Can you join a gym? Buy new walking shoes? Make 10 more cold calls today? Fill out a profile on a dating site? Take your kids to the park tonight?
Make a list of actions you can take today and take them!
Do the same thing tomorrow and get in the habit of taking an action each day to move you closer to your goals. Follow this 5-Step method of setting short term goals and I guarantee you that your life WILL change 3 to 6 months from now.
Just to let you know that there is an update just released to the App Store for the GoalsOnTrack iPhone app.
If you are an existing user and would like to use iPhone app, please make sure you uninstall your existing GoalsOnTrack app (version 1.0) first, and then go to the App Store and download the most recent version. If you have any unsynced changes on your iPhone, simply tap the Settings icon and then tap “Sync Now” button to upload all changes to server.
In this update, we have fixed a bug that might have prevented certain users from syncing with their account data created before the iPhone app launch. Also we’ve redirected a few sync parameters so that it will use the new server we just recently upgrated to.
One thing about the iPhone app that some of you might be a bit confused about, is the fact that the time tracking should be done either on the iPhone app, or on the web app version, but NOT at the same time on both versions. If a task is tracked with its timer running, it only tracks on one end, not on both. However, the final total time will still be synced when you complete the task.
As always, if you find any problems in the iPhone app or have any suggestions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to let us know.