of the Month
Taking Control of Your Days with a Time Map
A time map is a powerful tool for becoming proactive amid the swirl of demands that come your way. Simply put, a Time Map is a budget of your day, week, or month that carves out distinct times for each of the key departments of your life. Instead of feeling that you have to act on every request the minute it crosses your path, your Time Map guides you, helping you determine whether you have time to handle an unexpected task, how much time you will devote to it and when you will do it. When you don’t have a Time Map, you have no idea what to do when. Every day is a total free-for-all. You just say yes to whatever screams loudest, with no perspective on how to prioritize incoming requests, and when you should be doing things. Of course, this is what leads to multi-tasking...just doing things as they come at you.
A Time Map provides structure to your day -- carving out regular time for what is most essential to you. Rest assured that a Time map can be adapted to your personal style, whether you thrive on routine or variety, whether you have complete or only partial control over your day. Built around your own custom set of priorities and personal style, your Time Map reflects who you are and what is important to you.
Let’s look at a few sample Time Maps so you see what I mean.
WORKDAY TIME MAP – This support person’s day is divided into two reasonable halves, which enables her to calmly juggle the mixture of daily routine tasks, with the many unexpected requests her two bosses throw at her every day. Unless an unexpected activity needs to be completed by noon, she records requests as they are thrown at her, and executes them in the afternoon.
WHOLE LIFE TIME MAP – This high powered lawyer needed to keep her workday and personal life in balance. By setting aside specific time for billable client hours (green), speaking (blue), Pro Bono work (purple), and Self (yellow), she could focus on the moment, knowing there was time set aside for all critical tasks. Notice that her evenings and weekends are also structured to make sure she keeps her personal time in balance as well.
If you want to try Time Mapping, here are some tips to create one that will work for you.
Keep it simple: A structure that schedules you to the minute is far too constricting and impossible to sustain. Limit the categories you are trying to balance your time between to no more than 3-5 broad categories. For a whole life time map-your categories might be Work, Family, Self, Finances, and Community. A work based time map should reflect your core responsibilities: e.g. Strategic Planning, Customer Service, Staff Management, Administration.
Work with Your Energy Cycles: We all have natural energy cycles and moments when we can concentrate better than others. Always try to do your toughest tasks, or the things you tend to procrastinate on, when you’re at your peak energy level – they’ll be much easier then. Also, be sure to factor in the schedules and energy cycles of the people you live or work with when carving out your time Map. It makes no sense to carve out personal quiet time when your kids first get home from school, or when your boss tends to call meetings.
Keep It Visible: In order to stay on track you need to refer to your Time Map throughout the day. Post it on your bulletin board, shrink it down to wallet size, place it in your planner. For every task that crosses your mind or your desk, refer to your Time Map and see where in your schedule it belongs. If you designed it properly, you’ll be surprised to discover that 80% of the time, you can funnel activities to their proper place in your schedule. It takes realizing you don’t have to be in instant-response mode all the time. As long as you have a reasonable time to get back to people, most things can wait a few hours to a few days.
Of course, a Time Map doesn’t work 100% of the time. It is your anchor and your compass in the storm of activity demands, and opportunities swirling around you. A Time Map involves taking control of your schedule – exercising your power to say yes, and no, and be in charge.
On average, your Time Map should work about 80 percent of the time. 20 percent of the time, you’ll have to toss your plans to the wind and deal with the urgency or opportunity of the moment. But at least most of the time, you feel in control, in the moment and fully focused. And life feels back in control again.
So, go ahead...give it a shot...regain control of your days and feel good about what you accomplish at the end of each day.
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