Every day people seem to run out of time. You’ve heard all of the clichés. Time flies… Where did the time go? There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Of course, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference is what we choose to do with them.

People often seek to use their time more effectively by focusing on “time management.” They are focusing on managing the wrong thing. What needs managing is yourself and what you choose to do at any given moment.

The fact is, you cannot manage time. Rather, you can manage the choices you make. How you use your time is your own decision. It’s all about prioritizing. The following steps will help you become more aware of the choices you make, so you can make the most of your time.


1. Chart Your Time

Because you need to manage what you do and not time itself, you need to create a schedule. Detail what you want to do during a day. What are the important things you must do? What things would you like to do?

Rather than creating your schedule as your day progresses, make it the night before, or in the early morning at the start of your day. If you don’t choose to create a detailed schedule of your day, other unplanned events will end up stealing your precious time.

The benefit of creating a detailed schedule of your day and using it to track what you do is that at the end of the day, you can go back and see exactly where you invested your time. Most people realize the importance of scheduling and creating to-do lists, but fail to realize that scheduling is a two-step process.

Once you’ve finished your day, go back over your schedule to see how you did with your planned tasks. Did you spend the amount of time you allotted for the tasks? Did you spend some of the time you allotted for one activity on something completely different? You might be surprised when you examine your schedule at the end of the day to discover how much time you actually wasted during the day.

For example, using this process, you can look back on your day and learn how much time you actually spent prospecting, as well as the number of people you actually talked to. Of course, if you want to reap the benefits of charting your day to see how you invest your time, you have to be honest. It might help to enroll someone else to keep you accountable; for example, you could record your daily activities onto a homemade time sheet and share it every day for a week with your sponsor or upline.


2. Learn to Say “No”

Realize that it is impossible to be all things to all people. If you try to please everyone you will drive yourself crazy, because it simply can’t be done. It’s important to maintain balance in your life; don’t overextend yourself by taking on so many projects and tasks that you won’t be able to properly manage them all. To do this, you must learn to say “no.”

Realize that your time is just as precious as everyone else’s. If you don’t decide what to do during your day, other people will fill your schedule for you with their agenda. If you don’t say “no,” Parkinson’s Law tends to take effect: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

If you have trouble saying “no,” try this: Go outside to a deserted area. When you’re sure nobody is around, yell as loud as you can, “NO!” Then ask yourself, how did that feel? Did it hurt? Of course not. Felt pretty good, actually, didn’t it?

This little exercise will give you practice and confidence. You’ll learn that saying “no” can also be empowering, because you are standing up for yourself and not letting someone else force you into doing something.

And wouldn’t you rather have someone say “no” than lie to you? For example, if someone you talk to about your business doesn’t want to join you, would you rather have them say “no,” or pretend they’re interested and waste hours of your time before you finally realize they aren’t serious about it? You’d vastly prefer they just say, “No, I really don’t think it’s for me,” in the first place. Saying “no” is often what works out best for everyone involved.


3. Prioritize

Once you have your detailed schedule and you’ve said “no” to anything you can’t realistically manage, it’s time to prioritize your activities. The more detailed and specific your schedule, the more you will need to prioritize.

Rank each item in order of importance, then follow that ranking. First things first. Don’t put off something you ranked as very important, just because it is time-consuming or involves dealing with a difficult person. Once you put it off, you’ll keep doing so and it will never get done. (And consider all the time you’re wasting thinking about this dreaded task. By the time you’ve thought it through you could have already completed it!)


Time Is a Choice

The next time someone tells you they “don’t have time,” you’ll know that’s not quite true. They do have time: they’ve simply chosen to invest it in a way that doesn’t fit what you’re discussing into their schedule.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Time is the stuff that life is made of.” We all have the same amount of time to work with each day. Time is a matter of choice. When you realize that “time management” is a myth, and that what there is to manage is yourself and your choices, then you will get more things done!

Time is a choice. Decide how you will invest your time and manage your days. Your success depends on it.

JACK PERRY is a SVP for a division of John Hancock
and author of the forthcoming book,
Jack, You’re Fired.