A special account: Just for you

How would like to have a special bank account where the sum of $86,400 is placed in it every day? The only stipulation is that any amount you do not use by the end of the day is lost. That's right; anything not used is completely wiped out. The great thing about this bank account is that at the beginning of the next day, you will automatically receive another $86,400 to do with as you please. Are you interested?

Well, I have a surprise for you. You actually already have an account just like this one. Instead of money, it contains seconds. Each day 86,400 seconds is deposited in your life account to spend anyway that you please. However, like the special bank account, anything you do not use by the end of the day is lost. There is no way to retrieve it and no way to get any of it back. Don't worry though; you will be given another 86,400 seconds at the beginning of the next day.

How do you plan to spend the deposit that was placed into your account today? Will you let today's deposit waste away or will you spend it wisely?

IT managers have told me that time management is one of their biggest challenges. They talk about the hundreds of emails they receive each day-most of which appear to require their immediate attention. There are many calls on both your desk and cell phones; the endless meetings; the numerous reports that must be written; the never ending documents that must be read, critiqued and digested; the people management commitments; and the numerous ad hoc requests that are all due by the end of the business day. These things only occur during the work day. There is an entirely new set of time challenges when you leave the workplace.

Does it feel like other people have more control over your 86,400 seconds than you do? In reality, you need to budget your time like you do your money-spending it only on those things that will yield the greatest benefit. Here are a few tips that may help you with this endeavor.

Establish your goals

It is really difficult to determine the things that will yield the biggest benefit if you have not defined your goals. You need to outline the important aspects of your life and establish the goals for each. For example, you may want to have a set of goals for the work part of your life and a different set for the recreational part; and a completely different list for your family life. These goals must be clear. You need to have a clear picture in your mind of what it means to achieve each of your goals. The contents are whatever you want it to be since these goals are yours.

Analyze how you are currently spending your time

Most people know when they have had a busy day. However, when asked, they can not always tell you exactly what they did. This is extremely important to know because you need to understand if you are spending your time on the right things. You need to spend it on those things that are going to ensure that you achieve your stated goals.

Create a worksheet that has three columns. You will list your activities (e.g. worked on email) in the first column. Many time management processes have you documenting your activities in excruciating detail. I believe that you should determine the level of detail that will help you accomplish your objective. The level of detail will be different for each person.

The second column will contain the amount of time that you spent on each of the activities in column one. The last column will contain a notation as to whether or not that item is consistent with your goals. A simple yes or no should suffice.

Fill out a worksheet each day for an entire week. That will help you to visualize any anomalies that may have arisen during the week.

Eliminate activities that don't provide a benefit

You need to get rid of those items that are not helping you to progress towards the successful achievement of your goals. There are number of ways in which this can be accomplished. Some items, as you know, are just time wasters. These things are easily eliminated-just stop doing them. There are activities you are doing that must be accomplished. However, they are not helping you to achieve your goals. Therefore, the question is whether or not these activities need to be done by you. Can you delegate them to someone else? Learn to ask for help.

You may notice that your day contains a great deal of disruptions. I hear this from IT managers more than anything else. Look at your worksheet and see if the disruptions are from the same individuals over and over. If so, allocate a set amount of time for those individual at whatever frequency that you think is appropriate. Therefore, you will be the one to control when the interruption takes place and the duration of the time spent.

It may be possible to eliminate tasks simply by combining them with other tasks. Many times you spend time doing a number of little tasks at different times during the day. You may find that with careful analysis, many of those items can actually be combined into one. You will be able complete the combined task much faster than all of the individual tasks.

Finally, make sure that you are fully aware of what constitutes a priority. Focus your time on those things that are real priorities. For example, you may be receiving a large amount of emails each day. Are all of them directed to you? In other words, are you in the "To" field of the email? If so, is it something you need to handle right now? Are you just in the "CC" column? If so, could you establish an email rule for all of the emails on which you are only copied? You can have those emails go to a folder that you can read at some less important time... maybe on the weekends... or maybe never.

Spend quality time on your priority items

Your priority items are those things that help you to achieve your goals. Make sure that you are attending to those things at your most productive times. For example, if you are a morning person, see if you can perform some of your high priority tasks in the morning. You will more than likely be more productive in accomplishing them at that time.

Remember, each day you get a special deposit in your time account. This is the most valuable account that you own. Spend those deposits wisely.