1) Realize that time management is a myth.
No matter how organized we are, there are always only 24 hours in a day. Time doesn't change. All we can actually manage is ourselves and what we do with the time that we have.
2) Find out where you're wasting time.
Many of us are prey to time-wasters that steal time we could be using much more productively. What are your time-bandits? Do you spend too much time 'Net surfing, reading email, or making personal calls? Tracking Daily Activities explains how to track your activities so you can form a accurate picture of what you actually do, the first step to effective time management.
3) Create time management goals.
Remember, the focus of time management is actually changing your behaviors, not changing time. A good place to start is by eliminating your personal time-wasters. For one week, for example, set a goal that you're not going to take personal phone calls while you're working. (See Set Specific Goals for help with goal setting.) For a fun look at behaviors that can interfere with successful time management, see my article Time Management Personality Types. Find out if you're a Fireman, an Aquarian or a Chatty Kathy!
4) Implement a time management plan.
Think of this as an extension of time management tip # 3. The objective is to change your behaviors over time to achieve whatever general goal you've set for yourself, such as increasing your productivity or decreasing your stress. So you need to not only set your specific goals, but track them over time to see whether or not you're accomplishing them.
5) Use time management tools.
Whether it's a Day-Timer or a software program, the first step to physically managing your time is to know where it's going now and planning how you're going to spend your time in the future. A software program such as Outlook, for instance, lets you schedule events easily and can be set to remind you of events in advance, making your time management easier.
6) Prioritize ruthlessly.
You should start each day with a time management session prioritizing the tasks for that day and setting your performance benchmark. If you have 20 tasks for a given day, how many of them do you truly need to accomplish? For more on daily planning and prioritizing daily tasks, see Start The Day Right With Daily Planning.
7) Learn to delegate and/or outsource.
No matter how small your business is, there's no need for you to be a one-person show. For effective time management, you need to let other people carry some of the load. Determining Your Personal ROI explains two ways to pinpoint which tasks you'd be better off delegating or outsourcing, while Decide To Delegate provides tips for actually getting on with the job of delegating.
8) Establish routines and stick to them as much as possible.
While crises will arise, you'll be much more productive if you can follow routines most of the time.
9) Get in the habit of setting time limits for tasks.
For instance, reading and answering email can consume your whole day if you let it. Instead, set a limit of one hour a day for this task and stick to it.
10) Be sure your systems are organized.
Are you wasting a lot of time looking for files on your computer? Take the time to organize a file management system. Is your filing system slowing you down? Redo it, so it's organized to the point that you can quickly lay your hands on what you need. You'll find more information about setting up filing systems and handling data efficiently in my Data Management library.
11) Don't waste time waiting.
From client meetings to dentist appointments, it's impossible to avoid waiting for someone or something. But you don't need to just sit there and twiddle your thumbs. Always take something to do with you, such as a report you need to read, a checkbook that needs to be balanced, or just a blank pad of paper that you can use to plan your next marketing campaign. Technology makes it easy to work wherever you are; your PDA and/or cell phone will help you stay connected.
You can be in control and accomplish what you want to accomplish - once you've come to grips with the time management myth and taken control of your time.