Perhaps the most widely accepted and most effective time management philosophy is that of Stephen Covey (author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People & co-author of First Things First). It’s definitely not a ‘quick fix’; but as they say, ‘Anything worth having, is worth working for’.
The basic outline of the Covey approach takes 6 steps.
1. Identify what gives you purpose in life. Consider which basic principles (e.g. integrity, honesty, modesty, etc.) are most important to your values & goals.
2. Ask yourself, ‘Who do I interact with?’ All of us wear many hats within the 3 general areas of personal, communal & work roles. For example, in the personal area there is self; family roles - parent/ spouse/ sibling/ child, & friendships we may have.
3. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do to increase the impact of my interactions?’ Weigh the roles that you play in your heart & mind to assess which roles are most important to you. Then think of something you can do to improve your effectiveness within that role. Tip: number your roles in order of the importance you feel for it.
4. Schedule time in your week for Step 3 actions. Make sure to balance your personal, communal & work roles in determining what actions to take. Allow the roles that can most improve your quality of life to have first pick of available times.
5. Be flexible. When urgent things come up, reschedule.
6. Evaluate - pat yourself on the back. Look back on your week & acknowledge what goals you achieved. Think about what challenges you encountered that made it difficult (or impossible!) to keep to your goals. Imagine how you can factor them in for the next week. Most importantly, when something came up, did you make decisions that were in line with your principles & values?
One of the most important things to remember in this process is that it doesn’t pay to do it superficially. Without accessing the true desires of our minds & hearts, we’ll just be running after superficially satisfying things, which won’t sustain us in the long run.
In First Things First Covey & Merrill explain that we first need to acknowledge that the 4 basic capacities of man: Physical, Social, Mental & Purpose are interrelated & that each needs ‘nourishment’. Then we need to use our 4 basic endowments: Self-awareness, Conscience, Independent Will & Imagination to fuel our capacities.
We need to be able to examine ourselves. Set goals in harmony with basic principles. Will ourselves to act accordingly and consistently, & use our imagination to creatively work around / through our challenges. Working on this system will be challenging & slow, but Covey guarantees that you will see encouraging payoffs quickly.
If you like the taste of this method that I’ve presented here, make sure to check out the full, original version in the aforementioned books. You can always ask family, friends or professionals for support.
Submitted by NAPO Member and professional organizer,