“Time Management” is a misnomer.  You can’t manage time; you can only manage yourself.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Our productivity during the day depends upon our priorities and our ability to be intentional in the choices we make.  Like money, we can waste our time or we can invest it for a greater return.  How do you “spend” your time?

To assist you to better utilize your time, I have solidified 10 strategies that will help you leverage more value from each day.

#1 Know your purpose:

If you don’t have a purpose in life you are like a ship without a rudder, forced to drift along the currents of change & circumstance.  Your purpose fueled with passion will help move you through even the most difficult challenges.  The bigger your “why” (purpose), the more gravity it has to draw you toward its fulfillment.

#2 Have a limited number of “in-boxes” to capture everything:

Our brains operate much like a computer with both a short-term memory (RAM) & long-term memory (ROM).  When we overburden our short-term memory with thoughts, ideas, to-do lists, etc., our brain bogs down and could potentially “crash”.  The solution is to capture everything swirling in our head into reliable “in-boxes” for later retrieval. It is best to utilize no more than 2-3 in boxes such as a note pad, e-mail system, audio recorder, or physical in-box.  The key is to empty the in-boxes daily and process them in to the next action step.

#3 Have a system to process everything in your “in-box’:

Once you have your in-boxes established, you then need a reliable system to ensure that everything is moved into an actionable or non-actionable status. You will then toss it, file it, do it, delegate it, defer it or build it into a multi-step project.  The key is to decide what to do with everything.

#4 Focus your primary energy on what’s most important:

Most entrepreneurs are opportunistic and can easily become distracted by the vast array of opportunities they are exposed to.  Focused energy is like a laser that can cut through steel.  Unfocused energy is like the sunlight; it feels warm but lacks focus to cut through solid obstacles.  Decide what are your top 3 priorities for this year, your top 3 priorities for this month, your top 3 priorities for this week and your top 3 for today.  FOCUS on your top 3 and you will actualize what’s most important.

#5 Delegate lower priority or lower valued tasks:

You have a limited number of hours.  By delegating some of your work, you effectively leverage your output.  The key to delegation is accountability and follow-up.  You are ultimately accountable for the tasks you delegate; therefore you must follow up to ensure the task is done to the standards and time-line you have set.

#6 Schedule time for renewal & relationship:

You have heard of the “sharpen the saw” analogy.  It’s true.  You need to schedule and protect time for rest, relaxation and renewal.  You will be happier, more fulfilled and you will get more done when you are working. Also, you need to protect the time you schedule for family and loved ones.  When it is all over, no one has ever said, “I wish I would have spent more time working

#7 Learn to say “no” to requests that fall outside of your purpose:

I love the quote “It’s easier to say “no” when there is a deeper “yes” burning inside” Most of us want to please others but at times, saying “yes” to the requests of others comes at a cost of what is most important to us.  Before you say “yes” consider the cost versus the opportunity offered.

#8 Block & protect time for thinking, strategic planning & education:

John Maxwell has shared with his listeners that he has a special time and a place where he just thinks.  Thinking takes time and thinking takes effort.  I suggest you block out time for the specific purpose of thinking & planning.  I would also add that you allow for Divine guidance as you map out your future.

#9 Eliminate or limit your “time-wasters”:

Consider this list of time-wasters and endeavor to reduce as many of them as you can: Crisis, Telephone interruptions, Inadequate planning, Attempting to do too much, Drop-in visitors, E-mail, Procrastination, Some meetings, Inadequate staff or support, Poor communication, Inability to say “no”, Lack of self-discipline, Lack of a system to handle every task, Lack of focus, TV, Gossip, and the list goes on.

#10 Create adequate “margin” in your life:

Too many of us live our life “red-lining”, constantly on the move, constantly in a state of stress.  A life without adequate “margin” is heading toward a breakdown.  This is true for finances, relationships and life in general.  We all need slack.  Look at your life and look for areas you can create space and margin.  Like a root-bound plant, the added room will allow you to grow more fully.