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How to Manage Your Time and Be Productive

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

This past Sunday, I presented a mini-workshop on Time Management.

Here are a few of the highlights:

The real key to successful time management is not in some special type of day planner, organizer or contact management software.

Twenty percent of your success managing your time will come from the things you actually do. Eighty percent of your success in managing your time will come not from what you do, but from what you think about. So think about this first: I suggest to you that managing your time is really about ending the day with the feeling that you’ve not simply been productive, but that you’ve moved a step or two forward toward a worthy ideal or goal. Therefore, the most important step in time management is...

Set worthy and appropriate goals. Setting goals is the most important part of managing your time. If your time is not being spent on activities that are related to your goals, you will end each day with an underlying feeling of frustration. (I’ll refer you to my Saipan Tribune articles: Dec. 20, 2006: Setting and achieving your new year’s goals, and Sept. 5, 2007: Goal-Achieving Part 2--Run Toward the Fear for more tips on goal-setting.) Setting, but more importantly, writing down these goals, is another important part of managing your time.

Use my “secret weapon.” I have a secret time management weapon I’ve been using, and which has served me well since 1989 when I discovered its magical powers. I’ve used it to run my passion-centered business while I still had a day job. I used it to match my salary and quit my job to become a full-time passionpreneur. I’ve since used it to write 15 books, launch dozens of websites including, write hundreds of articles including this one, and accomplish quite a lot. Would you like to know what it is? OK. The secret weapon I use to manage my time and be so productive is a simple 6 x 9 hardcover, ruled notebook. Yep, that's it. But it’s really what I do in that notebook that holds the key to my productivity.

Make a list. All great achievers work from lists. I start each day (or from the night before) composing a list of the things that I need to do to move me toward my goals as well as an itemization of my daily task and errands.

If my goal is to write a new book on business startups, for example, my list of items in my notebook for today might look like this:

Wed, Dec 19, 2007

- draft table of contents

- write chapter 1

- apply for ISBN number

- interview business owner 1

- search google and amazon for related titles

and will also include items that might not be related to my immediate goal

- deposit check at bank

- pick up soap, fruits at grocery

- respond to Mike Tripp about

- email schools re: Martin Luther King Day essay contest

- clean up junk in closet

This habit of working from lists is magical. You’ll find it makes your life and your time much more manageable and productive in a number of ways. First, writing your ideas and tasks down on paper frees your mind of the burden of having to remember every little thing that needs to be done on a given day or for a given project. Writing your goals and tasks impresses them into your subconscious mind and activates unseen forces to mobilize to bring you the people and circumstances necessary for their completion. Writing your goals and tasks on a regular basis gives you the opportunity to review them continuously throughout the day so you can assess what is doable, what is important, what is urgent, and what is irrelevant. Save these notebooks, and they will provide you with a record of your activity, a process you can use again for the next project, contact information, and insights into your thought processes over the years.

Write everything down! Once you start on a new goal or project, every thought that enters your mind can, should and will fall into one of several categories: Research (find out how to publish a book), Creation (write chapters), Sales (contact Bestseller Books buyer), Marketing/Publicity (submit copy to Tribune for review). Your continuing mission, which you will get better at over time, is to translate each thought into an action item that can move you toward your goal.

Get to work. I make a commitment to myself that I will not do anything today that is not on my list. If something comes up that is really urgent, I will, of course, have to focus on it, but what I do FIRST is write it down. So, if while I’m drafting my table of contents for my book, I get an email or a call from John requesting a response, I take a minute to add "-respond to John" to my daily task list, and then keep working on my table of contents.

Work on the essential. Whenever you have a free moment, especially after completing a task, simply open up your notebook to today’s date, scan your list and ask yourself:

"What is the best use of my time at this very moment?" or you might ask, "If I were called away on a three-day trip today, what are the three items on this list that absolutely could not wait until I return?" or "which activity(ies) will move me forward toward my goal(s)?" Get in the habit of doing only those things that are directly related to your goals. Some items may not be related to my book, but are time-sensitive (i.e. notifying schools of MLK day contest), and need to be done right away. Some items might be desirable, but not on the critical path toward completing my book (i.e. clean up junk in closet; apply for ISBN number), and can wait until a later date.

Rinse and repeat. As I complete an item on my task list, I place a check next to it on the left side. At the end of each day (and this is important), I transfer all the incomplete items to my list of tasks for the next day, on a brand new page of my notebook, along with any new items that come to mind as I write. In addition, if, as I scan the list, I realize that something I had written yesterday is not that essential after all, then I simply omit it from the next days' lists.

I hope you’ll find, as I have over the years, that this amazing tool and technique for managing time will help you accomplish in one year what others need 10 years to do! And as powerful as it is, it represents only 20 percent of the secret to successful time management. The other 80 percent, as I’ve mentioned, lies in what you know, not what you do. So, here’s something you need to know...

You CAN make more time. You’ve no doubt heard all your life that there are only 24 hours in a day. That may be true, but there’s a way to squeeze a few more hidden hours from your daily allotment. Find your passion. Your goals, and therefore the items on your daily list should be related to your passion and purpose. You’ll find that people make time for the things that are important to them.

Have you ever noticed that when you are engaged in a hobby or activity that you find enjoyable that time just slips by and before you know it, two, three, four hours have passed by when it felt like only one? But have you also noticed that what you accomplished in that period of time is also quite impressive? That’s because when you are engaged in an activity or pursuit that is in alignment with your purpose and passion, you enter a timeless zone in which you are more efficient, faster, more inspired, more confident, stronger and more productive. Your mind and body receive instructions from unseen places that have you making the necessary connections, taking the right actions, making the right choices, and doing the best next thing to move you efficiently toward completion. That’s where the additional hours that great achievers appear to have come from. And you too can and will rise to the level of your greatest potential when engaged in the thing YOU came here to earth to do.

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Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt


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