Time Power: The Essence of Good Time Management – Getting Yourself Organized

03/03/2023by dang tin0

The Essence of Good Time Management: Getting Yourself Organized

‘‘Make it a life rule to give your best to whatever passes through your hands. Stamp it with your manhood. Let superiority be your trademark.’’ ORISON SWETT MARDEN

The difference between average people and highly effective people is that highly effective people are much better organized when they work than others. Excellent personal and professional organization is a hallmark of highly effective and well-paid people.

Fortunately, organizing is a skill, and all skills are learnable. You can learn to be an extremely well organized, efflcient, and effective person. When you do, you will produce vastly more in the same period of time than the people around you.One of Murphy’s Laws states that before you can do any- thing, you have to do something else first.

The one thing that you have to do flrst, before you can do any productive work, is to get yourself organized completely. The core function of good time management is planning and organizing yourself, and your work, for maximum productivity. It is only possible to get the best out of yourself when you have brought together everything you need before you begin work. You must then determine a place for everything and make sure that everything is in its place.

Plan Everything in Advance

The top 3 percent of high achievers are all persistent, continuous planners. They are forever writing and rewriting their lists of goals and activities. They think on paper and are continually analyzing and reevaluating their plans.
I used to wonder why it was that so many successful people seemed to spend so much of their time planning. Over time, I learned that the more time you spend planning, the better and more foolproof your plans become. By continually reworking your plans for achieving your goals, your goals become increas- ingly believable and achievable.
As you think about and plan each step, your confldence in your ability to accomplish those goals increases. When you break down even the biggest goal into its individual parts, and then organize those parts into a step-by-step series of speciflc actions, the task seems much more manageable and under your control. The more you plan, the more you program your goal deeper and deeper into your subconscious mind, where it takes on a motivational power of its own.

Get a 1,000 Percent Return on Investment

The payoff from good planning is enormous. It is estimated that each minute spent in planning saves ten minutes in execution. To put it another way, your investment in planning pays you a 1,000 percent return on the time and energy you invest.

In life, all that we really have to sell is our time. The more productive our time usage, all things being equal, the more we will eventually be paid. Your job is to invest your time where you can get the highest ROL, or ‘‘return on life.’’ Where else can you get a 1,000 percent return on your investment?

Sometimes people say that they are too busy to sit and plan. The fact is that even if you force yourself to plan out everything in detail, you will flnd it hard to spend more than a few minutes per day in the planning process. The only way that you will ever create the time you need is by planning your activities carefully in advance. Remember, you save ten minutes for every minute that you spend planning before you begin.

The Reason for Most Failure

Peter Drucker said, ‘‘Action without planning is the reason for every failure.’’ If you look back over the major mistakes you’ve made in your life, they will almost all have one factor in common. It was that you rushed into the decision or situation without giv- ing it enough thought. You either did not get enough informa- tion, or you did not take the time to weigh and balance the pros and cons before acting. In every case, the failure to plan carefully can be very expensive.

At the same time, you will also flnd that almost every one of the most successful accomplishments of your life, from planning a business start-up or a business project, all the way through to planning a vacation, was accompanied by a good plan, worked out thoroughly in advance. The more time you took to think through what you had to do, and the likely consequences of your actions, the more efflcient you were and the more satisfying was the end result.
The fact is that the better and more complete your plans are before you begin, the greater will be your likelihood of your suc- cess once you start.
There is an old saying: ‘‘Success is tons of discipline.’’ One of the best exercises in self-discipline is for you to take the time to think through and plan out everything you do before you begin.

Four Ideas for Personal Organization

Here are four ideas you can use to help yourself get organized:

1. Neatness is a key habit. Remember that neatness is a key habit for personal productivity. You can dramatically increase your productivity and output simply by cleaning up and organiz- ing your workspace. You’ve heard it said that ‘‘Order is heaven’s flrst law.’’ Order is earth’s flrst law as well. You need a sense of order to feel relaxed and in control of your environment and your life. You actually get a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction each time you put some part of your life or work in order.

When you clean up your desk or offlce, you feel more on top of your work. When you clean out your car, you feel more in charge of your personal life. When you organize your purse or briefcase, or even your home and your closets, you feel like a more effective human being. Your self-esteem goes up. Your self- confldence and self-respect increase. You feel more powerful as a person. You generate more energy and feel an increased deter- mination to get on with the job.

2. Stand back and evaluate yourself. Here is a good exer- cise for you: Stand back from your desk or work area and ask, ‘‘What kind of person works at that desk?’’
Look in your purse or briefcase and ask, ‘‘What kind of a person would have a purse or briefcase like that?’’ Look at and in your car. Look in your closet. Look in your house, your yard, and your garage and ask, ‘‘What kind of a person would live that way?’’
Would you entrust that person with an important task? Why or why not? Honestly evaluate yourself through the eyes of a neutral third party. What do you see?

In a series of interviews with senior executives, flfty out of flfty-two of the respondents said that they would not promote a person with a messy desk or a cluttered work environment. Even if that person was producing good work, these executives said that they would not trust a position of responsibility to a person who could not get organized. Don’t let this happen to you.

3. Refuse to make excuses. Many people working in a messy environment use their intelligence against themselves. They use their cleverness to justify and excuse themselves for the messi- ness of their workspaces. They say things like, ‘‘I know where everything is.’’ Or they say nonhumorous things such as, ‘‘A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.’’
However, every time-and-motion study of efflciency in the workplace concludes that these are exercises in self-delusion. A person who says she knows where everything is turns out to be using a large amount of her mental capacity and creative ener- gies remembering where she placed things, rather than doing the job.

People who say they work well in a cluttered environment are usually wrong. If they worked in a neat, well-organized envi- ronment for any length of time, they would be surprised at how much more effective and productive they were. If you or a per- son you know has a tendency to justify and attempt to explain a cluttered desk or work area, challenge yourself, or the other per- son, to work with a clean desk for an entire day. The result will amaze you.

4. Work from a clean desk. Direct mail entrepreneur Joe Sugarman once wrote a book explaining his flve rules for suc- cess. One of his flve principles was, ‘‘End every day with a clean desk.’’ He made this a rule throughout his organization. This policy forced all employees to work more efflciently and com- plete their work by the end of each day. It made a major contri- bution to success.

When I learned this, I introduced this rule into my own company. I told everyone that they would be expected to clean up their desks and leave them neat and orderly at the end of each day. When they argued with me, I told them that if they didn’t follow this rule, I would go from offlce to offlce after they left and throw everything on their desks into the wastebasket to be taken away by the night janitors. I only had to follow through on this threat once before everyone realized how serious I was.

One manager, probably the messiest executive in my com- pany, gave me every excuse possible for working in a cluttered and chaotic environment. But I refused to listen or compromise. He had no choice but to clean everything up and put it away before leaving at the end of each day. Within one week, he came to me and apologized. He said, ‘‘All my life, I have thought that I worked better in a messy environment. In the last week, I have accomplished two and three times as much as I ever accom- plished at work before. I am absolutely astonished at how much more I get done when everything is put in its proper place throughout the day.’’

Three Steps to Organizing Your Workspace

Here are three things you can do to organize your workspace:

1. Clear your desk. Begin your process of getting organized by clearing your desk of everything but the one thing that you are working on at the moment. If necessary, place things in draw- ers, on the credenza behind you, in the wastebasket, in cup- boards, or even on the floor. Do whatever is necessary to turn your desk into a clear, clean, uncluttered work area, with just one thing—the most important thing—before you when you begin.

2. Assemble everything you need. Arrange to have every- thing you need at hand before you begin any task. Just like a good cook gets out all the ingredients necessary to prepare a dish before he begins, or a master craftsman arranges all of his tools, as a professional, you should assemble all the tools of your trade before you start on a particular job.
Get all the information and flles you will need. Get pens, notepaper, stick-it notes, calculator, ruler, dictating machine or recorder, flle folders, and everything else you can think of before you commence work. The rule is that you should be able to reach out and touch everything you need to do the job.

3. Handle each piece of paper only once. Resolve to handle every piece of paper only once. Make a decision to do something with it when you pick it up, and don’t pick it up unless you are ready to act on it. It is better to stack it up and put it aside for appropriate action later than to continually shuffle and reshuffle it on your desk.

How to Handle Paperwork

There are four things you can do with any piece of paper:

1. Throw it away. One of the best time management tools at home or offlce is the wastebasket. The fastest way to save time in reading anything is to simply throw it away and not read it at all. This applies to junk mail, unwanted subscriptions to cata- logs, sales circulars, and everything else that is not relevant to your goals.
Use the wastebasket to get rid of reading materials that have been hanging around for months. Ask yourself, ‘‘If I did not read this, would there be any negative consequences?’’ If the answer is no, then throw it away as fast as you can. You can also ask yourself, ‘‘If I ever needed this information, could I get it some- where else?’’ If the answer is yes, throw it away.
My rule for keeping my workplace clean is, ‘‘When in doubt, throw it out!’’

2. Delegate it to someone else. You can refer or delegate the task to someone else. When you pick up a piece of paper, ask yourself if there is someone else who should be acting on this matter. Is there someone else who can handle it better than you? One of the keys to success in personal management is for you to delegate everything that can possibly be done by anyone else. This is the only way that you can free up your time to do more of the things that are most important to you and to your job.

3. Take personal action. You can take action on the piece of paper. These are the letters, proposals, and messages that you must personally do something about. Get a flle folder and put the word ‘‘action’’ on the tab. Even better, get a red flle folder where you put all of your action items, and place it where you can see it clearly.
Keep this action folder handy. When you come across something that you need to do something about, simply put it in your action flle to work on later. If it is something to be done immedi- ately, take action quickly and put it behind you.

4. File it for future reference. You can flle it away. But before you flle anything, remember that 80 percent of papers flled are never needed, used, or seen again. Designating something to the flles creates work. Before you decide to put something in your flles, ask yourself, ‘‘What would happen if I couldn’t flnd this piece of paper?’’ What would be the negative consequences of not having this information available?

If there are no negative consequences, or if you could get the information somewhere else, then throw the piece of paper away. Keep your desk clear, and keep your flles clear as well.

When I flrst began using the wastebasket to clear off my ex- cess papers, publications, and reading material, I found it diffl- cult. But with experience, I found that very little that I have thrown away has ever been needed again. The habit of throwing things away rather than saving and flling them has been a big time saver for me, as it has been for many others.

The most important thing is that you take some kind of ac- tion on a piece of paper when you pick it up. Do something, do anything with the piece of paper. Move it along at least one step. One of the greatest time wasters of all is continually picking up the same piece of paper, reading it, putting it down, and having to come back to it, over and over again.

Put Things Away

When you are flnished with something, put it away. Complete your transactions. Finish your jobs. Discipline yourself to stay at it until the job is 100 percent complete. Remember, start with a clean workspace and end with a clean workspace.

There is something deeply satisfying and psychologically re- warding about task completion. Your brain is structured in such a way that you get an ‘‘endorphin rush’’ every time you complete a task of any kind, large or small. The larger or more important the task is to you, the greater will be the feeling of happiness and exhilaration you experience when you complete it. Each time you complete a task, you condition yourself to complete subse- quent tasks. In no time at all, you flnd yourself internally driven and motivated to start and complete more and more important tasks and responsibilities.

Make a habit of flnishing what you start. Teach and encourage others to flnish their work and put it away as well. Especially, teach your children to complete their tasks by setting a good example, and by rewarding them when they do flnish something important. One of the hardest behaviors for people to learn is the habit of completing tasks and putting things away, but this is a habit that serves them all their lives.

Time Management Tools and Techniques

There are flve time management tools and techniques that you should practice for maximum productivity and good personal organization. Each of them takes a little time to learn and master, but pays you back in greater efflciency and effectiveness for the rest of your life.
As Goethe said, ‘‘Everything is hard before it is easy.’’ Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Once you have developed them, they become automatic and easy. They serve you for the rest of your career.

1. Use a time planner. The flrst time management tool that you need is a time planning system that contains everything you need to plan and organize your life. The best time planners, whether looseleaf binders or electronic versions, enable you to plan for the year, the month, the week, and for each day. A good time planner will contain a master list where you can capture every task, goal, and required action as it comes up. This master list then becomes the core of your time-planning system. From this master list, you allocate individual tasks to various months, weeks, and days.

The second part of the time-planning system is a calendar that enables you to organize your time and plan several months ahead. With the right system, you will be able to transfer individ- ual items from your master list to the exact day when you intend to complete them.

The next part of your time-planning system is a daily list. This daily list is perhaps the single most important planning tool you can have. Some people call it a ‘‘to-do list.’’ Winston Churchill headed his daily list with the words, ‘‘Actions This Day.’’

2. Always work from a list. Every effective executive works from a daily list. It is the most powerful tool ever discovered for maximum productivity.

Ineffective executives, those who are overwhelmed with too many things to do and too little time, either do not use a list or do not refer to a list if they have one in the flrst place. They often resist the idea of writing everything down. As a result, they flnd themselves continually distracted by ringing phones, interrup- tions, unexpected emergencies, and e-mail requests.

When you create your daily list, you begin by writing down every single task that you intend to complete over the course of the day. The rule is that you will increase your efflciency by 25 percent the very flrst day that you start using a list. This means that you will get two extra hours of productive time in an eight- hour day from the simple act of making a list of everything you have to do before you start work. You can bring order out of chaos faster with a list than with any other time management tool.

If ever you feel overwhelmed with too many tasks, you can immediately impose order on your list by writing down every single thing you have to do for the foreseeable future. The very act of making a list of ten, twenty, or thirty items allows you to exert control over your time and your life. You immediately feel more relaxed and confldent. You feel back in charge of your work.

Once you have written up your daily lists and begun work, new tasks and responsibilities will come up. Telephone calls will have to be returned. Correspondence will have to be dealt with. In every case, write it down on the list before you do it.

Sometimes a task or demand on your time will seem urgent when it comes up. But something that might distract you from your other work regains its true importance when you write it down. An item that is written down on the list next to all your other tasks and responsibilities often doesn’t seem so important after all.

3. Organize your list by priority. Once you have a list for your day’s activities, the next step is for you to organize this list in order of priority. We will dedicate Chapter 4 to the different ways that you can determine your top priorities.
Once your list is organized, it becomes a map to guide you from morning to evening in the most effective and efflcient way. This guide tells you what you have to do and what is more or less important. You will soon develop the habit of using your list as a blueprint for the day. Refuse to do anything until you have written it down on the list and organized it relative to its value in comparison to the other things you have to do.

4. Use any time management system you like. The variety of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and computer-based time management systems available today is absolutely wonderful. No matter what you do, in whatever fleld, there are digital time man- agement systems that you can tap into or load onto your per- sonal computer to help organize every part of your life. You can upload, download, transfer, merge, purge, and share your flles and information throughout the company and around the world. In addition, there are countless time management systems that provide you with an array of forms for writing out your goals and plans by hand.

What I have discovered is that it doesn’t matter what time management system or planner you decide to use. They are all good. They have all been developed by experts and contain virtu- ally everything you need to double and triple your productivity. The most important part of any time-planning system is that you use it regularly until it becomes a habit, like breathing in and breathing out. It takes a certain amount of time to master a time- planning system, but once you have learned it, you become more productive and efflcient every time you use it.

5. Set up a 45-file system. There is a simple method of or- ganizing your time and your schedule for up to two years in ad- vance. It is called the ‘‘45-flle system.’’ This is a tickler flle that lets you plan and organize your activities and callbacks for the next twenty-four months. This is how it works.

First, you get a box of forty-flve flles with fourteen hanging flles to put them in. The forty-flve flles are divided as follows: There are thirty-one flles numbered one through thirty-one for the days of the month. There are twelve flles for the months of the year, January through December. The last two flles are for the next two years. This is a wonderful system that you can also use with hanging flles in your desk drawer.

When you have an appointment or responsibility for six months from now, you simply drop it into that monthly flle. At the beginning of each month, you take out all of your responsi- bilities for that month and sort them into your daily flles, num- bered one through thirty-one. Each day, you take out the flle for that day and that becomes the starting point of your planning.

This system takes a few minutes to set up. It then assures that you never miss or forget to follow up on a distant call, task, or appointment. It helps you to take control of your time and im- pose order on your future.

Seven Tools for Personal Organization

Here are seven more ideas that you can use to help get yourself organized for maximum productivity. The more of these tools you learn to use, the more that you will get done each day.

1. Prepare the night before. First, prepare your work list for the following day the evening or night before. The best exercise is for you to plan your entire next day as the last thing you do before coming home from work. When you plan your day the night before, your subconscious then goes to work on your plans and goals while you are asleep. Very often you will wake up in the morning with ideas and insights that apply to the work of the day.

Sometimes, the answer to a problem that you are working on will pop into your mind when you wake up or when you are getting ready for work. Often that’s when you will gain a new perspective on a problem or job, or see a different or better way that it might be accomplished.

A major beneflt of preparing your daily list the night before is that this exercise lets you sleep more soundly. A major reason for insomnia is your lying awake trying not to forget to remember everything that you have to do the following day. Once you have written down everything you have to do on your list, it clears your mind and enables you to sleep deeply.

2. Schedule your time. Scheduling your time reduces stress and releases energy. The very act of planning and organizing your day, week, and month gives you a greater feeling of control and well-being. You’ll feel in charge of your life. It actually in- creases your self-esteem and improves your sense of personal power.

3. Get an early start on the day. Start your day early. The more time you take to sit, think, and plan, the better organized you will be in every area of your life. In the biographies and autobiographies of successful men and women, almost all of them have one thing in common. They developed the habit of going to bed at a reasonable hour and rising early.

Many successful people arise at 5:00 A.M. or 5:30 A.M. so that they can have enough time to think and plan for the coming day. As a result, they are always more effective than those who sleep in until the last possible moment.
A few minutes of quiet reflection before you begin any under- taking can save you many hours executing the task. When you get up early and plan your day in advance, you tend to be more calm, clear-headed, and creative throughout the day.

4. Use an organized filing system. Resolve to use an orga- nized flling system both at home and at work. As much as 30 percent of working time today is spent looking for misplaced items. These are things that are lost because they have not been flled correctly. Does this sound familiar to you? There are few activities so frustrating as spending your valuable time looking for misplaced materials because no thought was given to a flling and retrieval system.

The best and simplest of all flling systems is an alphabetical system. In conjunction with a flling system, you should have a master list or record of all your flles in a single place. This master list gives you the title of each flle and tells you where the flle is located.
One of the flnest tools for an offlce flling system is a Rolodex. There are many different uses for a Rolodex at home as well. You can purchase them in any stationery store and they will allow you to keep track of a variety of flles, in a variety of ways.

5. Do important work during prime time. Organize your life so that you are doing creative work during your internal ‘‘prime time.’’ Your internal prime time is the time of day, ac- cording to your body clock, when you are the most alert and productive. For most people, this is in the morning. For some people, however, it is in the evening. Occasionally, a writer, an artist, or an entertainer may flnd that her prime time is in the early hours of the morning.

It is important that you be aware of your internal prime time so that you can schedule your most important projects accord- ingly. Your most important work usually requires that you be at your very best, rested, alert, and creative. What time of the day do you most feel this way?
You must also be aware of external prime time. This is the time when your customers or clients are most readily available. Each person should give some thought to structuring their day for both their external and internal prime times.

6. Use a dictating machine or tape recorder for correspondence and notes. Dictating equipment can be one of the very best timesaving devices in your business or private life. Once you learn how to use a dictating machine, you can cut your time in writing by as much as 80 percent. It takes 20 percent or less time to dictate than it takes to write something by hand, or type it personally. A dictating machine also saves the time of the person who is going to type it for you. It is usually much easier to tran- scribe from a tape than to interpret a person’s handwriting.
When using a dictating machine, there are three keys to ensure maximum efflciency:

First, write an outline of what you are going to dictate. Jot down the major headings and subheadings before you begin. Think through the sentence structure in your mind before you begin dictating onto the tape. Don’t be afraid to go back, erase, and do it over again using a better choice of words.

Second, don’t try to be a perfectionist. Sometimes, your natu- ral conversational voice is the best and most correct grammati- cally. You can always go back and correct the major mistakes later. It’s much easier to edit something that has been tran- scribed than to write it or dictate it perfectly in the flrst place.

Third, concentrate on getting your thoughts dictated as quickly as possible, and then go back and clean it up before you flnalize it. In no time at all, you will be dictating perfectly correct letters and reports that need no correction or editing at all.

7. Make air travel productive. An important area where per- sonal organization is important is travel, especially air travel. Some years ago, Hughes AirWest, a regional airline that once served the western U.S., hired a consulting flrm to compare the efflciency of flying flrst-class with flying economyclass, and with working in a normal offlce. What they found was that one hour of uninterrupted work time in an airplane yielded the equivalent of three hours of work in a normal work environment. The keyword was ‘‘uninterrupted.’’ If you plan ahead and organize your work before you leave for the airport, you can accomplish an enormous amount while you are in the air.

Get the Most Out of Air Travel Time

Since so many people are traveling by air for business today, it is essential that you know how to make every hour of traveling time count for yourself and for your company.

Get the Right Seat

The starting point of getting the most out of air travel time is to prebook a non-bulkhead window seat. The reason you want anonbulkhead window seat is so that you have a tray that opens up in front of you that you can work on.
You also want to keep your briefcase handy during takeoff and landing, and with a bulkhead seat this is not possible. When you travel, your briefcase becomes your traveling offlce. A win- dow seat will allow you to get out your materials and go to work without the interruption of someone who wants to get past you to go to the washroom. Be sure to specify to your travel agent that you do not want a seat opposite the kitchen or the bathroom on an airplane. These seats are too noisy and distracting for con- centrated effort.

When you pack your work for a trip, organize it by subject. Sit down at your desk before you leave and go through what you are going to get accomplished while you are in the air. Before you depart, make sure that you have all materials, envelopes, stamps, and Federal Express envelopes on hand when you begin working. Your briefcase should be fully equipped with every- thing you require. You will be amazed at how much work you can produce on an airplane when you put your mind to it.

Get There Early

An important technique to get the most out of your traveling time is for you to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your departure. Most business flyers arrive today with only sixty minutes to catch the plane, even with increased security mea- sures. Studies have showed that if you arrive at the airport at the last possible minute, you experience enormous stress. As a result, it can take as long as two hours for you to relax and settle down to the point where you can concentrate once the plane has taken off.
It is much better for you to arrive at the airport relaxed, with plenty of time to spare. Then, as soon as you get on board, you can begin work and continue working away until the plane lands.

Avoid Diversion or Distraction

Be sure to work steadily during the flight. Put your head down and concentrate without diversion or distraction. Resist the temptation to read newspapers or airline magazines. Some travelers carry a set of earphones they use to discourage conversa- tion from the person in the next seat.

One frequent flyer I know has a great answer if his seatmate wants to make conversation. When the person next to him asks what he does, he turns to her, smiles sweetly, and says, ‘‘I’m a fund-raiser for a religious cult.’’ This has never failed to terminate the conversation, and it leaves him free to work peacefully for the rest of the flight.

Here is one flnal point on air travel. The very best time to do serious, concentrated work is on the outbound flight, when you are fresh. The best time to read books or magazines, or relax and watch the movie, is on the return flight. On the way back, you are usually tired and not as capable of doing productive work. Be sure to make that outbound flight count. Use every minute to get through work that you have been unable to catch up with in the offlce.

Getting yourself organized is the starting point of peak performance. Careful planning and organization of your work before you begin will yield dramatic improvements in your productivity, your performance, and your results. You cannot be too well organized if you want to get the most done in the time you have. It is a key to time power.

‘‘You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided.’’

Action Exercises

1. Resolve today to become one of the best-organized peo- ple in your business. Repeat this afflrmation, ‘‘I am organized and efflcient in everything I do!’’ until this command is accepted by your subconscious mind.

2. Write everything down before you begin. Always work from a list, and add new items to the list before you start on them.

3. Get a time planner of some kind, whichever format you are most comfortable using (e.g., digital or paper), and invest the time necessary to learn how to use it. The pay- off in saved time and increased productivity will be enor- mous.

4. Clean up your desk or workspace and keep it clean. Disci- pline yourself to be a role model for others who want to know how a top-performing person works.

5. Gather everything you need before you start working, and have only one major task in front of you at a time.

6. Handle each piece of paper only once, and take some action on each item when you pick it up. Whenever possible, delegate it, defer it, throw it away, or handle it immediately.

7. Make every minute count, especially when you travel by air. By organizing properly, you can get a full day’s work done on a single flight.

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