3 steps to time management: Check your containers
Use space to ensure that you have what you need, when you need it
Everyone has the same amount of time. Yet some people accomplish all they want to while others are stuck spinning their wheels in the deep mud of excuses and blame.
Most time management issues have less to do with a lack of time and more to do with how we look at time, how we look at ourselves, and what priorities we set.
So, time management is really self-management driven by self-awareness.
Let’s talk about one very practical element of time management that alone could change your life: containers.
For me – formerly a much disorganized person who was always late for appointments – one of the cornerstones of time management is organization. I tend to think of almost everything in terms of containers: time containers and space containers.
Let’s take one simple example. When I give workshops or conference presentations on time management, I ask the audience, “Who here has a problem finding their keys?” Hands go up.
“Ok, those who didn’t raise your hands…Why don’t you have a problem with your keys?” Every group I speak to uses the same words to respond every time: “Because we put them in the same place every time.”
Simple, right? It may be simple, but many people have not made the link between misplacing their keys and the amount of stress in their lives.
If you walk into your office and put your keys in your left jacket pocket every time, they’re going to be waiting for you there every time. At home, if you have a hook on the wall for your keys and you put them there every time, they will be waiting for you there every time.
That wall hook is a container. That jacket pocket is a container. (It could be a plate, basket, or drawer. The important thing is to have a container.)
Say goodbye to the stress of trying to find your keys as you’re running out the door – late – to get to work. Containers help reduce stress.
Use time containers in the same way. Your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual calendars will keep your life in order. They help reduce the number of things you forget to do or appointments you’re late for, and serve to reduce the unnecessary stress in your life.
The key to containers is using them. Before you do anything else when you walk in the door, put your keys in their container. Before you do anything else when you make an appointment, write it down.
1) Review your containers. What causes you stress? Are there containers that can help reduce that stress? (Yes, a bottle of Jack Daniels is a container, but that’s not the kind of stress reducer we’re talking about.) Do you have the right containers to get the job done? Do you have effective containers for your keys, money, clothes, food, documents, files, books, and other important items?
2) Make the change with the small stuff. Clean out your junk drawers while you’re watching TV. Throw your clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor. Get a pre-printed grocery store checklist so you don’t forget anything when you’re shopping. Buy a label maker and create a filing system for your important documents at home and at work.
3) Make a plan to change the big stuff. Do you have a room in the house or a garage that’s just filled with stuff? Those are two large containers I’m sure you’d like to put to better use. Create a plan, with specific deadlines and completion dates, to liberate yourself and regain control over your space.