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To do so, you need as much reinforcement as possible. In order for
the new habit to stick, you need to continuously see signs that the
new path you’re on leads to success and the old path leads to fail-
ure. Look for ways of reminding yourself through visible signs.’
We can lump the different elements of good time management
into six big categories. Since good time management is a lifelong
endeavour, we will call these ‘steps’ to lend them a sense of mo-
tion. This is not a science, and you’ll never achieve perfection.
However, if you continually follow this process, you will certainly
see improvement in your personal effectiveness.
In the six chapters that follow we cover the six steps that you can
take to improve your own time management (see Figure 3.1).
Identify yourself. If you know what you want, and are com-
fortable with wanting it, focusing effort towards getting it will
come naturally. And don’t forget about people – you rely on
them. How you fit in with people makes all the difference in
how effective you are.
Energise. Most people know that regular exercise, good
eating habits, and a good night’s sleep will give you more
energy. But do they put that knowledge to work? Find out
how high achievers make sure they have enough gas in the
tank. Discover your biorhythms and make them work in
your favour.
Prioritise. Set goals, assign them priorities, and plan your
work accordingly. Eliminate distractions, turning down things
you don’t have time for.
Optimise. Find out where you’re wasting time. Eliminate
what you can, and try to fill the remaining dead time with
useful activity. Block off time for focused effort. Get better at
doing the things you do regularly: use tools, delegate, and
get more out of meetings.
Exclusive discussion with Dan Packer, October 2008.
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Head off problems early. Build solid processes that last.
This frees you to think about the future. Look down the road
for problems that might come your way. Head them off early.
Finish things. Break your work into small chunks. Finish
what you start, and hand it off to somebody in a way that
allows the other person to see its value. In some cases it
becomes clear that what you’ve started isn’t worth finishing.
In such situations, cut your losses.
Figure 3.1 The six steps to improving time management
At the end of each of the next six chapters I suggest two constructive
habits to work on. To make this behaviour automatic, we will use an
approach based on what we’ve learned from Benjamin Franklin,
William James, and Roy Baumeister. We’ll work on two habits at a
Master The Moment:Layout 1 10/6/10 12:10 PM Page 51
time and set up visual reminders. To get started, try spending one
week on each step, filling out the rating form every day at the end of
that step’s chapter. Once you get used to this process, you can get
more rigorous, working on one habit at a time and using the tech-
niques I discuss in the last chapter.
Are you ready to take the first step?
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