Setting Boundaries Around Your Time

Whenever I read an article about time management it says there is no such thing as time management because “everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, you cannot add more time to the day, and you can only manage the tasks within that day.”       

First of all, that entire statement is a no-brainer yet, regardless of that, time management still exists.  

In order to manage tasks, you must manage how you spend your time on those tasks, which means you are managing time.       

Whether you call this time management or task management it involves a series of disciplined steps.  For the sake of semantics, I am calling this process time management.  It goes way beyond determining how much time to spend on tasks.  I will lay out the process for you that I discuss in my book.

Firstly, begin to organize your environment.  If you do not have an “environment” you need to create one especially if you work from home.  Working at your kitchen table is not effective or efficient.  The numerous distractions and interruptions will make it impossible for you to focus and concentrate. 

Preferably, find a space that is private and large enough for a desk, chair, filing cabinet, and possibly a bookshelf to fit in.  Depending on your situation you may be using your computer’s video camera for conference calls.  If this is the case, be mindful of what is behind your chair because it will show up on the camera. 

If necessary, have a decorative room divider or a backdrop that can be put up when you are on camera.  Position the furniture to leverage space, natural lighting, and proximity to often-used items.  Plan to always keep your office space decluttered so that you can find things quickly, and so that things do not accidentally get discarded. 

Now, think about your paper files, electronic files, manuals, and a plan to back things up so important documents do not get lost.  Consider creating an alphabetical filing system for paper and electronic files.  

It is critical to have an external hard drive to back up all your electronic files.  The last thing you want to deal with is a system failure, theft, or accidental deletion of files that prevents you from accessing crucial information.  Getting organized takes discipline and consistency but it is better to put in the time upfront than try to do business in a cluttered, unorganized environment.

Once your environment is organized you need to plan your day.  Many people tell me that they do not have time to plan their day because they have too much to do.  I tell them that planning is the solution to having too much to do!  My clients who plan their day tell me that they save a minimum of two hours each day compared to when they were not initially mapping out their day.

When you plan effectively you are essentially taking control of your day, rather than letting the day take control of you!  Planning involves setting goals, breaking them into actionable tasks, prioritizing those tasks, and then time blocking them into your calendar. 

One of the mistakes my clients make is to commit to things that do not align with their goals, their tasks, or even their values for that matter. 

This sucks up their time, energy, and resources without any return on investment.  In the future, before you take on any request ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Does it align with my values or is it in conflict?
  2. How does it align with my strategic goals?
  3. What will be the return on investment (in time, money, satisfaction, relationship building)?

If something comes your way that does not tie in with your goals, you need to start saying “NO” or “Not at this time.” This level of assertiveness can be difficult for many leaders. We end up devoting many coaching sessions to the practice of this skill.

When you set time boundaries by saying “NO” you will make realistic commitments, prioritize easier, stay focused longer, and manage interruptions with ease.  You will get more done in less time, leaving you MORE time to handle other pressing matters . Like working with your team.  Think about how you currently spend your day. 

If you are not feeling organized or efficient try out the process here for one week and see what changes.  Take small steps so that you do not feel overwhelmed. But remember that consistency is the key when forming a new habit or changing behaviors.

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