Time Out of Mind

High-profile Delawareans and local life coaches share secrets for managing their days and minimizing their stress.

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Personal coach H. Les Brown says one of the keys to improving time management is to recognize the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks.  Photograph by Keith MosherAre you time challenged? Do you often find yourself in a frenzy of activity desperately trying to finish projects on time?

Developing good time-management skills puts you in control of your life, reduces stress and increases energy. You are able to achieve balance between your work, personal and family lives. You have flexibility to respond to surprises or to consider new opportunities.

“Time is a finite resource,” says personal coach H. Les Brown, owner of ProActivation Coaching in Rehoboth Beach. “If you need money, you can always get a second job or borrow it, but you only have 24 hours in a day. So which is more important to learn to manage?”

The following are practical ways to make better use of your time.

Know Thyself Knowing yourself and what you want out of life is the first step to effective time management, says corporate consultant Devona Williams, president and CEO of Goeins-Williams Associates in Wilmington. Think about what you would like your life to be like, what is possible and what you can truly achieve.

Keep A Time Diary Before you can organize, you need to get a realistic idea of how much time it takes you to do the things you must do. Most people seriously underestimate the time it takes to do routine tasks. Williams suggests keeping a log of activities to give yourself a picture of where your time is going and what areas you need to work on. Personal coach Mary B. Golly, co-owner of Vector Coaching of Wilmington, suggests that the visually-oriented convert results into percentages and display them on a pie chart.

Plan And Organize Time spent planning is time well spent, experts say, and those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A calendar is essential, but otherwise, organize in a way that makes sense to you, says coach Pat Wood, owner of PACE Coaching in Newark. “Go to the store and see what planners fit your personal style,” she says.

Set Goals
Goals give life direction. But the way you set goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Don’t set targets you can’t hit, Wood says. Break large goals into several mini-goals that can be achieved more easily. That’s what University of Delaware President Patrick T. Harker does. “I lay out a 10-year plan of what I want to accomplish,” he says. “Then I break it up and ask myself, in this year, what do I need to do to keep moving toward that long-term vision?”

Prioritize Setting priorities eliminates the tyranny of the urgent, allowing you to see what tasks are most important at each moment and to give those tasks more of your attention when it’s needed.

“The trick is to recognize the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks,” says Brown. Urgent tasks have serious short-term consequences. Important ones are those with longer-term, goal-related implications. Effective people spend more time on important matters to keep them from becoming urgent ones.
Use To-do Lists Lists are a constant reminder of what you need to work on and when, Williams says. But it’s one thing to create a list and another to manage it effectively. Experts recommend that you list tasks in order of importance and update as priorities change.

Be Flexible Allow time for unexpected distractions and interruptions. Experts recommend that you plan no more than 50 percent of your day. If you get sidetracked, Brown recommends going back over your priorities and considering the consequences of yielding to the interruption.

Page 2: Time Out of Mind, continues...

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