Time Management and the Power of Goals

Goal setting, as part of good time management, is not just one of the best ways there is to achieving your overall objectives – it is absolutely vital. Yet if not done correctly it can lead to discouragement and it can be counter-productive.

The reason for this is the response when failing to achieve goals. More often than not people dust themselves down and – set the same goals. So what happens – a repeat performance and yet another episode of failing to meet goals. There is a certain inevitability about this.

Worse still it feeds a sense of recurring failure. Sadly people who expect to fail inevitably do so. Often their attitude would change if they had set and recorded realistic goals so that they could more easily reflect on their successes.

Poor time management is often the result of poor planning. Planning that is not properly executed leads to time and effort being squandered on the wrong things or at the wrong time. Poor time management means less likelihood of success and feeds into the spiralling sense of failure.

So is there a solution? The answer is Yes – and fortunately it is a simple solution.

Let us be simplistic here and look at just two things – planning and action.

Time Management Skills and the Planning Stage

To break out from the cycle of repeated failure you must literally move the goalposts. Often it is not the overall objective that is wrong, but the interim targets or the timescale or means of achievement.

Step 1 is to ensure clarity of purpose – the ultimate objective.

Step 2 is to break this down into the various stages needed to achieve that goal. Make sure that each stage is identified in terms of how it fits with others.

Step 3 is to identify the various tasks needed to complete each stage and the order in which they must be done.

Step 4 is to determine a timescale and resources needed to achieve each task. This is often the crucial element. Failure often comes from setting a target that is unachievable and as a result of not attaining that target, discouragement sets in. Be certain to set a realistic timetable. Include contingency time.

Step 5 is to examine your new “project” in the light of other continuing responsibilities and commitments. Doubtless this will have been considered in your thinking so far, but you should now explicitly evaluate the extent to which these will be affected and adjust those plans if that is possible or desirable. If not, re-visit the schedule for your new project and ensure that it is attainable.

One vital ingredient in all of this is that these stages should be written down. They will become the yardstick by which you will evaluate your success or otherwise in terms of time management.

Time Management and the Action Stage

Work according to your timetable. Make sure that you do not fall behind because of a lack of enthusiasm, but acknowledge when the unavoidable and unexpected throws you off track. If this happens, identify if there are areas when you can make up the lost ground. If there are none then immediately re-schedule the whole project. Do not be disheartened by things outside your control, instead immediately accept the revised schedule as your new target.

If able to progress more quickly than anticipated, be careful not to get too far ahead of your plan, unless it becomes clear that your original planning was in error. In that case you would reorganise your schedule, as would be the case following unavoidable delay.

The important point here is to ensure that you do not get ahead of your schedule simply by neglecting other responsibilities, leading to problems with those. Equally important is the need to resist the temptation to concentrate so much on the new project that you are exhausted by it. With good time management you will remain on target.

To summarise

To achieve success in anything new we need a detailed plan with which to work and to use to evaluate progress. That framework must be realistic and achievable – if not it will become the source of an unwelcome outlook concentrating on failure. When confronted with things you cannot control, then adjust your plans and forge ahead with the same determination. Remember, a feeling of failure can lead to actual failure if the discouragement then prevents the positive attitude needed to progress. However a well crafted flexible plan, of which goal setting is an integral part,can become the means to measure our success at time management, a source of encouragement and a spur to continuing success.