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Corn+Soybean Digest

Get A Good Grip On Time Management

Everyone is given the same amount of time - 168 hours per week. But there's a big difference in what people do with it.

So, do you ever get that whipped feeling that you never have enough time to get done what you want to get done?

Join the crowd. But realize that there is hope.

People can usually work hard, or they can work smart. Or they can do both by choosing wisely from their daily written list of what to do first, say successful business people and time-management experts.

Begin your day by asking yourself, "What do I want to accomplish?" rather than "What do I need to get done?" challenges Leroy Louwagie, president of Professional Marketing Associates, Mankato, MN.

"It's more than a word-use difference - it's attitudinal," Louwagie declares. "The first question is pro-active, and you attack your day. The second is reactive, so your day attacks you. Do you run your business, or does your business run you? Good time management means we must manage ourselves."

Bob Pike, a Minneapolis human resources development specialist, puts it a little differently.

"Actually, you cannot manage time," notes Pike. "But you can manage yourself and what you do with time."

Pike lists several key ways people waste time:

* By not delegating tasks to others.

* By not communicating properly when delegating, so the job has to be done over.

* By delegating too much, which creates problems.

* By spending "dollar time on penny jobs."

"The No. 1 reason why people don't use their time effectively," Pike declares, "is because they don't have a daily written 'to do' list. If you don't have a single, written list, you don't have a management tool."

To get a grip on how to invest your time wisely, begin using the ABC priority system, Pike advises.

But first determine your short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals in life. Make a list of what is really important in your life - business goals, family goals, physical goals, spiritual goals, etc.

A goal, to have any value, has to have a deadline, Pike reminds.

Now, start sorting all the activities that will help you reach those goals into A, B and C categories. Basically, an A task is one that should receive immediate attention.

A chore of intermediate importance is a B task. Something that can wait is a C task. And, really, it may not be too important if it ever gets done.

Make a daily list, writing A priorities first, then B, then C. Best time to do that is at the end of the day, so you can immediately start knocking down your top priorities the next morning without wasting time figuring out what to do first.

At day's end, if B's are still on the list, move them onto the next day's list. They may work up to the A position. That's called having the A habit, Pike says.

If you have a lot of urgent priorities, rank the several tasks in the A category by the designation A-1, A-2, A-3, etc. How do you prioritize the A's? Ask yourself these questions:

1) How urgent is the item? What would happen if I didn't get it done today?

2) Is this going to get me closer to achieving long-range goals?

3) Who else is involved, and are they available to work on this?

4) What do you feel most like doing - assuming all other factors are equal?

Keep the C list of tasks that don't get handled, but put it in a drawer or file out of sight.

"If it's out of sight, it's out of mind and leaves your mind free to concentrate on the higher-priority tasks," Pike reminds. "If nobody asks for it in a year, then throw it out."

If there isn't enough time to get all tasks on your list done, ask yourself, "What will happen if I don't do this C task?" If the answer is "nothing," don't do it.

Many people, Pike cautions, don't learn how to rank the time they spend. Consequently, they waste a lot of it and also have to put out brush fires - most of which occur because of lack of planning or timely action.

Pike lists four reasons why many people don't set priorities as they should:

1) They might be forced to make themselves uncomfortable.

2) It's easier not to do something.

3) They think they are wasting time instead of investing time wisely when they take time to make priority lists.

4) They simply have not developed the habit - an all too common deficiency.

Don't let procrastination rob you of your work accomplishment potential, challenges Pike. Avoid procrastination like the plague. Take a "do-it-now" attitude toward everything.

It will make you admired by those who don't, and more successful in life by any yardstick you want to measure by, insists Pike.

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