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It's so easy to go off chasing rabbits, doing things that seem urgent but really aren't that important to our long run success. Time management is important to all of us, but especially to leaders. If you are leading other people, you must set a good example by managing your own time well, respect their time by using it efficiently, and help your followers with their own time management skills. After all, without good time management, the important things will not get done in a timely fashion. How can you develop good time management skills?

There are several 5 steps to managing your time well. I'll list them here and examine each one briefly below.

Setting goals

In order to make the best use of your time, you must decide what you want to accomplish. Day dreaming is a good first step to take. Relax deeply and consider your values. What are you proud of accomplishing to date and what do you want to be remembered for when you are gone? Keep these things in mind as you set long-term goals for your life. Get out a pen and paper and write them down. When you write your goals down, they will become more real. You can refer back to them from time to time for direction. You can always change your goals later, but if you consistently pursue goals based on your underlying values, you will be moving in a positive direction and can always make little adjustments to your path as you learn and grow. Always set goals that are specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time bound. Don't say I want to lose weight. It's not specific enough and it's not based on actions. Try I will eat three to five healthy meals a day and exercise 20-30 minutes 5 times a week to lose 50 pounds in a year. The second statement emphasizes the actions that you will take and sets a deadline.

Always deadline your goals. Goals without deadlines are just dreams. If there is no deadline, or the deadline is too far in the future, they are important but not urgent. What happens with things that are important but not urgent? All too often, they are postponed until "tomorrow." If we continually postpone our dreams, tomorrow will never come and our dreams will not be realized. This is one reason that we must establish short-term goals. Break down each of your long-term goals into several short-term goals that take one to 5 years to attain. That way you will have frequent checkpoints along the way to ensure that you are on track to meet your goals.

Establish action steps

Your action steps are the things that you must do to reach your short term goals. You can't conquer the world overnight. Great achievements are built on consistent small actions, each of which moves you closer to your goals. Plan your action steps and create a "to-do" list. Track your progress and reward yourself for the small steps you take to help maintain your motivation for the long haul.

Setting priorities

It seems like there is always more to do than we can possibility get done. It's important to set priorities to be sure to make the best use of our limited time. Think of your schedule as your income and budget your time the same way you budget your money. What to do items are important and urgent? Those must be given top priority. What things are important but not urgent? Do those next. If you have things that are nice to do when you have time, do those last. What about those urgent but not important things? Sometimes we have to do those to please people who have important roles in our lives-like our customers or our bosses. In that case, it becomes urgent and important. But, if it's truly not important, let it go. It doesn't need to be done at all. Remember, time for relaxation is important and if you don't make time to relax, it will eventually become an urgent need. Going full speed ahead and never stopping to rest will take a toll on your health and could kill you. Make sure to make time to maintain your well-being or everything else will fall apart.

Delegate when you can

Is there an assistant that can take over some of your routine tasks? Can your teenager help with the yard work or cleaning? When it seems like there isn't a minute in your life to spare to think things through; STOP! List the resources available to you. How can you use them to help you? Don't be afraid to ask for help when it's needed. At the same time, be willing to help others when you are able.

Expect the unexpected

Remember that things done are always good as planned. Allow extra time in your day to handle the little emergencies that can throw us off track. Add a few extra minutes to your commute time and plan to arrive at the office early. You will have a few minutes to organize your work and get ready for the day and if there's a little hitch on the way to work you are less likely to arrive late. Try to predict what might go wrong and form alternate plans to handle those scenarios.

Manage interruptions

If you are doing tasks that require intense concentration, you can lose several minutes of productive work time every time you are interrupted because you need to re-orient yourself to the task at hand. If you have an office, try to shut your office door when you are doing this kind of work. If that's not possible, try to schedule this work for a slow time of day when you are less likely to be interrupted.

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