Top 20 time-management tips to live by

by Kristine Servando,

Posted at Jul 16 2009 09:16 PM | Updated as of Jul 17 2009 05:55 AM

MANILA - "Life is a never-ending series of activities. So it's not really what you're doing, but the purpose of what you are doing," said time-management expert Arthur Luis Florentin.

For him, time management is not just about doing things faster, but budgeting your time so that it gives you better results and maximum satisfaction from your life.

Florentin learned how to manage his time the hard way. After retiring from his executive position at the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) power company this year, he found himself without a secretary who would schedule his activities for him.

"After I retired in March, I miss my secretary. Now I have to learn how to plan out activities on my own," he said in an interview.

Now, he conducts time-management seminars for a variety of audiences. He said this is relevant in an economic crisis since it can increase a person's productivity.

"With time management, you can be more productive without actually spending more to achieve what you want. In a crisis, you are prevented to do certain things because of cost. But if you know how to manage time, then you can work around those costs," Florentin said in an interview at the 2009 Call Center Conference & Expo at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Here are some of the lessons he learned in managing time. You can try out any of these principles for 3 or 4 weeks and see if it works for you. If it does, practice other principles until your life is running a bit more smoothly.

Prioritize activities that matter

1. Know your goals and values. Create focus by finding out what you want to achieve in your life. "If you don't know your values, how do you know that certain activities are in accordance with your values or not?" Florentin said.

2. Write a To-Do List. You can make to-do lists for your entire year, a month, or a day. Don't write too many tasks on your list, but make clear which activities are more important to you than others. Don't be too vague when you write your tasks, so you know exactly what you need to finish. For example, instead of writing down "Finish report", you should write down what specific part of the report you want to finish. This will push you to complete the task instead of dilly-dallying.

3. Identify which activities create impact. Select the few things that you know will get you the results you want. This way, you don't waste time on doing tasks that don't have the intended effect you want in the long run. Also, Florentin advised, learn to say "No" to unimportant things and activities. Also, try to figure out what activities slow you down and minimize these distractions.

Plan things ahead of time

1. Set aside time for important, major activities. "Urgent small things will always creep into your schedule, but who makes the choices on what to do? You," he said. You can always allocate time for the important things because it's your life, and you should have control over it.

2. Schedule matters. Schedule smaller activities around bigger, more important activities because smaller activities are more felxible.

3. Take time to plan your day. Florentin said it is useful if you can take at least 15 minutes a day to plan out what you need to do. Don't over-plan such that your schedule is too rigid, and don't spend too much time planning since this will waste your time too.

4. Be flexible with your plans. "You never know when emergencies and opportunities will come knocking," he said. A rigid schedule will seem too forbidding, and sooner or later, you'll lose your interest in life. Always make time for the fun things, and make room for surprises.

5. Use time-management systems. These include organizers, planners, online calendars like Yahoo! and Google, and even your own cellphone's organizer. There are many free computer applications out there that can help you plan out your schedule, so make the most of them.

Do more with less time

1. Evaluate results. Are you accomplishing what you set out to do? Know which activities contribute to the results you want, and continue on that track. If you find that the hours you put in at work don't get you results, find out what will.

2. Continuously develop yourself. As Florentin said, there is no better time-saver than competence. Develop your skills so you can produce quality results.

3. Work smarter, not harder. Try to find out how you can simplify the work you do, while still delivering the same or better results. The best way to do this is to consult others. "Performance is valuable. There are always people who perform better than us. Learn from them, ask how they do it," Florentin said.

4. Take the time you need to do quality work. Don't rush things. Part of this is being organized and giving sufficient time to do something right the first time. You'll waste more time re-doing something that you didn't get right.

5. Complete unpleasant tasks first. "Let's face it, there are tasks that you find unpleasant. You can be overwhelmed, or you just don't like it, or you think you need more time before you start it," he said. But, if you put easier things first, then you're just pushing back that important activity, then before you know it, either you didn't get to do it, or you ran out of time.

Florentin's tip is to use the "10-minute rule." Start a task, and if you can't do it in 10 minutes, move on. The more important thing is that you convinced yourself to start that task. Chances are, you'll actually finish it.

Make big tasks easier

1. Break large tasks into smaller ones. There will always be time-consuming tasks that will come your way, like a big project for example. Don't panic if you feel like it's too big for you. Instead, identify stages of the project and schedule them accordingly. Doing them bit by bit will help you finish the task easier.

2. Decide now, don't put things off. "If you can decide things now, do it now. Don't let certain things hang. Sometimes, it's better to set definite plans now then adjust it later," Florentin explained. A good example is when we're out with friends. We make plans with them, but fail to decide on definite ones. "Just text me," we say. Why not take the opportunity of setting plans when you're face-to-face? It will save you the cost of calling or texting your friends too.

3. Always start activities on time. Florentin said that one of the biggest "time robbers" is not being punctual. "If it's a group activity, then you're wasting several people's time," he said. When you have meetings, and certain people are late coming in, start on less important agendas first. If you start the meeting on time, this sends the message to latecomers that you mean business.

4. Delegate, outsource, and automate. Big companies aren't the only ones who can do these things. You have your own network of friends whom you can tap for certain tasks, when you need help. You don't have to do everything yourself, if you can have it done by other equally competent people.

Enjoy your time

1. Slow down. "Doing things faster is not what time management is. It's about learning how to budget your time so you get the most satisfaction from it," Florentin said. This doesn't mean you have to be slow in completing tasks. This only means that you should learn how to pace yourself so you don't stress yourself too much.

2. Listen to your body. Sometimes, we want to achieve something but we do not want to give ourselves a rest. Remember that tiredness and fatigue will only slow you down. Don't shave time off sleep, or have a 15- to 20-minute power nap in between tasks. Also, identify your "prime times" or the parts of the day when you work better, and schedule critical activities at those times.

3. Create time for balance. Remember, life is about enjoyment and investing in the things that are important to you - with balance. Besides work, create time for your friends, family, hobbies, or religion. If you and your loved ones' schedules don't match, try to do small things that contribute to bonding time. Bring home special treats, or catch your kids 5 minutes earlier so you can tuck them in, or send them loving text messages.

 "In the end, managing your time is useless if you lose your friends, family, and the things that are important to you," Florentin said.--by Kristine Servando,