The Secret to Managing Time is Making Goals

Time - don't we all wish we had more of it!

Twenty-four hours per day is all we get. The trick is to make the most of our time. You really do have time for what you need and want to do. You just need to start setting priorities.

If you are overwhelmed by all the daily "junk work" of life - the errands, the phone calls, the picking up, the putting away - you can lose track of what you really want to do. Whether you'd like more quality time to spend with your family, time to set aside for yourself so that you can go back for an advanced degree, or just enough time so that you can read a book (uninterrupted) now and then, I'm here to promise you that these are achievable goals.

Organize YourselfWhen I began creating the Organize Yourself program, I didn't want to create just another time management program. I wanted to create a program that answered the question that I am increasingly hearing from my clients: "How can I find more time just for me?"

This program offers you innumerable ways to find more time for yourself. I've consulted with so many clients over the years that nothing surprises me anymore - from offices you can barely enter because of all the paper to houses that look like they ought to be boarded up and condemned, I've seen it all. I've also visited clients who live in a tidy environment but spend so much time keeping things well organized that they never get to have any fun. That's no good either. With these clients, I work on maintaining organization systems with a minimum of time so that they can still lounge around and watch television or go out to the movies or see an opera.

I've created this program so that you can benefit from all the experience I've gained in working with clients over the years. All that is required of you is to simply start out by making some small changes - you'll soon see the benefits.

Get me organized

One of the reasons why we feel we don't have enough time for ourselves is that we let time run away without us.

You already know that you're feeling time-pressured and stressed, so I'm going to jump in with solutions to help you begin finding time for yourself right away.

The secret to finding the time you want and need is to take control. Here's how.

Step One: Track Your Time

Tracking your time to discover what is happening to it is a very easy and beneficial exercise. Within a week, you will be ready to start making some changes. By simply going through this process you might become so aware of time-wasters that you could be ready to make some changes by later today!

You've probably heard of keeping a food journal when you're trying to adjust your diet. The same philosophy works with identifying how you are spending your time. It is difficult to determine how you can better manage your life if you don't take a look at what is happening in it.

Create a time chart for one full week to document how you are spending each twenty-four-hour period. Keep track of what you do on a half-hour basis. Note everything from showering and eating to e-mail and errands. You need to track your weekends as well. I've rarely had a client who hasn't remarked to me: "I just don't know where my weekends go." Well, now you'll find out.

Step Two: Identify Goals

During the week that you're keeping track of your time, you also have another assignment, which is to reevaluate your priorities.

Write down anything and everything you think of. Once you have finished, you'll begin to see what is missing in your life.

Organize YourselfFive-to Eight-Year Goals

This should be your "dream" page for your long-term goals. Write down what you would like to be doing five to eight years from now - for example, working in a different field, raising children, or retiring. Take several days to consider what you want your future to hold, and then settle on the one or two long-range plans on which you'd like to focus.

Be specific as you note your goals. If your goal is to learn a new language, do you want to speak like a native or to learn enough phrases to get by? The more specific you are, the easier it will be to act on your goals.

Two-Year Goals

Organize Yourself Record on the next sheet of paper what you would like to be doing in two years. Perhaps you would like to switch careers or to have more time for a specific hobby such as photography. If your long-range goal requires advanced education, such as going to business school or getting a Ph.D., then you should write down what you need to be doing during the next one to two years to accomplish this long-range goal.

Research may be required before you can move ahead with a goal. If you don't know the steps necessary to get an advanced degree or to become a life coach, for example, you will need to investigate the requirements before knowing what steps you need to take to prepare for this goal.

Step Three: Evaluate Your Time and Your Goals in Preparation for Some Changes

Combine the work you have done in steps one and two. Take a look at your time chart and consider these questions: What percentage of your time is being spent in areas that are not on your priority list? Where are you spending too much time? How can you be more efficient or cut back in the areas that are less important?

Step Four: Make Your Goals Manageable

Set priorities so that you can focus on the most important tasks first. Otherwise, you might invest your energy in insignificant matters instead of what is most productive. To establish these priorities, look at your two-year and your five- to eight-year goals as well as your "I wish I had more time for ..." list that holds your short-term goals.

Plan how you will make your goals manageable by breaking each one into smaller steps. If one of your short-term goals is creating a more nutritious way to feed your family without spending a lot of time on it, you might want to take a class in healthy cooking or visit a nutritionist for a consultation on how to make some simple changes in your meal plans. A longer-term goal such as moving to a new community would involve researching the job market, contacting real estate agents, investigating schools (if you have children), and so on.

Set realistic deadlines for various steps on the way to reaching your goals. There is something about a "finish by" date that makes a task very real. (A goal without a deadline can become nothing more than an unfulfilled New Year's resolution.) If you want to join a health club and haven't investigated any yet, write down a deadline in your notebook for having called or visited three or four. (If you're fairly certain you still don't have the extra time you need, keep reading. I have a lot of solutions - both here and in the rest of the program.)

Plan to reward yourself for meeting deadlines. Mini-rewards such as a new paperback book or meeting a friend at your favorite coffee bar can be things to promise yourself for achieving several small steps and can provide a nice boost for work well done.

Review your goals weekly, selecting a reasonable number of tasks to undertake during the upcoming week. Realize that you can do anything you want, but you can't do everything. Be selective.

Stay on track. Sometimes circumstances prevent us from following our own priorities. For example, your child is sick, so you have to reduce your workweek, or the boss has required extensive overtime, meaning that you've missed some of your night classes that are part of another goal. When you need to tend to other matters, just do what you can to get back to your priorities as soon as possible.

For your customized program, go to

Step Five: Simplify With Systems

A system can be as simple as a grocery list or as regular as the fact that you are always on time with your bills because you pay them on the last weekend of the month. (Actually, almost all the topics in this program involve systems.)

Systems allow you to do things automatically so you don't have to spend time figuring Organize Yourself out how to complete certain routine tasks. Once you have a system, you'll find you perform the chore almost reflexively. You wouldn't dream of forgetting to pick up milk because you always do it on Tuesdays and Fridays, and your bed is always made because you do it as soon as you get up. Systems require time to create and discipline to maintain, but they make life much easier in the long run.

Whenever you are stuck on how to accomplish something, think about creating a system. Although the process may go a little slowly the first time you do a particular task, you'll find that your pace will speed up as your system becomes familiar.


For your customized program, go to

Step Six: Say No

Life today is filled with possibilities. No matter where you live, on any given weekend evening, you could have dinner with friends, go to a movie, attend a live concert or stage play (there are lots of community theaters around), visit a mall with evening hours, play miniature golf at an indoor entertainment center, go bowling, or stay home and rent a DVD or watch TV, surf the Internet, or read a book - and that's only one evening! We are fortunate to have so many choices, but managing all your options means that each person needs to constantly set priorities and then say no to all the rest.

Most of the time, we have to balance what we have to do, what we ought to do, and what we want to do. We have to make some tough choices regarding responsibility versus personal choice. Although we all need to be dutiful at work and be good family members and helpful members of our communities, we're no good to anyone if we don't say no now and then so that we can capture some time for ourselves. Burnout is real.

So go back to your time sheet and your priorities list at least once a week and remind yourself, "It really is okay to say no."

Step Seven: Organize

Organized people can get things done in less time. The person who is well organized and has a grocery list doesn't need to run back to the store for the ingredient he or she forgot. Just remember it's worth making the effort to get organized if you're trying to find more time for yourself.

And be realistic. Because staying organized takes time, you'll need to build in time to focus on getting and staying organized.

Step Eight: Shake Things Up

You may be thinking that all this stuff about finding more time for yourself sounds very buttoned up, but it's not. The eighth and final step in this topic is to remind you that we really appreciate our time the most when we do things differently every now and then.

Organize YourselfAlthough you could certainly put the fun back into grocery shopping by taking a friend along or making a scavenger hunt out of it with your kids, most of us simply want to get the must-do items of life out of the way quickly and efficiently - and as pleasantly as possible. (Get simple ways to make small changes when you join the Organize Yourself service.)

For your customized program, go to

Start Free Trial

  • Enter your First Name