THE BLOG
12/06/2014 03:37 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2015

Time Matters

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."
- Michael Altshuler

Many people think of time management as following a pre-determined schedule. They feel satisfied if they finish their to-do list or arrive on time for all of their appointments. Showing up early and tackling your tasks with enthusiasm is beneficial. It feels good to cross items off your to-do list.

But that's not time management. That's time use. Many times, it's actually time abuse.

Time management advice often misses this crucial point.

To manage your time, you must manage your mind.

It's almost impossible to stop yourself from procrastinating or wasting time if you are not engaging in activities that matter to you. And organizing your time around yourself is no easy task. You must take time, each and every day, to check in with yourself. Are you on track? Are most of your hours spent on actions that will move your goals forward?

There are some time-tested ideas that are helpful with time management.

First, always plan your day. Like managing money, the more time you spend planning your time, the more time becomes available.

"He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign." - Victor Hugo

Second, track your time. Even one day of tracking can make a difference. When you see it in black and white, it can inspire you to change. For example, if you place great value on physical fitness but you spend 0 minutes exercising, you'll have no choice but to rethink the way you are spending your time.

In the McKinsey Quarterly, Peter Bregman offers solid evidence that it's best to identify up to 5 priorities in each area of your life for focus this year. 95 percent of your time should be spent on those priorities.

Bregman goes on to suggest that you schedule your day around these tasks by dividing a piece of paper into 6 sections. As you review your to-do list, assign the tasks to one of these sections. The sixth section is for "the other five percent." These tasks are low priority. You may have to let go of many activities in order to focus on the top five priorities.

This is not easy. You will probably have a hard time saying no to the activities that don't support your goals. But think about it.

You can do it all. Just not all at the same time.

Research has shown that it typically takes about 10 thousand hours to become a master at any skill set. Translated into work hours, this means that you need to work 5 years, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day to master your craft.

If you have just started down the path to your dream and you are fitting it in around your family and your job, it is very likely to take 10 years before you are a master at your new profession.

That's too much time to waste on perfecting a skill that's not in line with who you are. On the other hand, if you narrow your focus, and finish that book you've been meaning to write, or target only the most profitable prospects in your business, you'll achieve success in those areas, which will clear the way for your next goal.

It takes self-discipline to resist the pull of doing it all now, or just giving up entirely when you realize you can't do it all now. In fact, the beginning is the point at which most people give up. This is what we mean when we say to manage your time, you must manage your mind.

Sure, you can earn a pile of money and experience success in any career you choose, but after your 10 thousand hours, don't you want to be engaged in an activity that inspires you?

Let's face it. Most people spend lots of time doing things for "entertainment" or engaging in busy work. These time wasters are necessary to numb them to the reality that they are not using their greatest gifts. They are following a path laid out by someone else, rather than making the hard, yet simple choice to align their life with their unique talents and values. They just do what they've always done, and then it's over.

Don't be a follower. Be sure. Be certain. Be you.

Manage your time so that it supports your dreams. This is the road less traveled.

At its' core, time management is self-management. If you are not surefooted, it's easy to be knocked off track by the push and pull of forces outside of yourself. You have to take the time to choose.

If you want to be lead yourself to your dreams, you must identify and magnify your greatest strengths. You must follow your talent, instead of tamping it down while you squirrel away your time on the tasks assigned to you by others.

Take this minute right now. What's one thing you can do to move you closer to your vision? Can you make one call, write one paragraph, or call one client? Do it. Make this minute count.

Time management means managing your mind, not your schedule. It means that you don't listen to your vicious inner critic or your whining inner child. You listen to your solid, identity-based voice, deep within you, the one that knows the next right step.

Time comes with a heavy price. It's your one and only lifetime. Make sure it's working for you.

If time were to take on human form, would she be your taskmaster or freedom fighter?" - Richie Norton