Time management really isn’t time management. What we manage are our efforts, activities, and ourselves. Time is just one way we measure that. For most of us, however, our challenge is to reduce the amount of time and effort we spend on things we have to do so we can spend more time on what we want to do: our personal priorities. The time we spend engaging in things that support and move us closer to living out our priorities and values is prime time.

Understanding and distinguishing prime time activities from all other activities of life is the first step in cultivating your ability to turn more of your time into prime time. Beyond that, the struggle will be to master proactive habits which put you in the driver’s seat. Here are nine great proactive strategies to help you plan and act as an alternative to living your life primarily in a reactive mode:

1. Orchestrate!

Always, always take time to think through what you are going to do. What activities will you focus on getting done tomorrow? What steps will you take to begin and accomplish a project? How will you juggle several major responsibilities this week? Don’t be intimidated at the thought of planning. Planning is simply deciding what you are going to do or how you are going to do it before you do it. The further in advance you are able to plan something out, the more effective you will be able to be. If you’re currently a last minute sort of person, start there and slowly move toward more advance planning. Even a short amount of time spent planning can help you avoid severe time traps later.

2. Activate!

For many of us, the most difficult part of finishing something is actually starting it. We don’t know where to begin and we’re worried about whether we can do it right. Here are a few ways to get started:

Exercise your faith and confidence muscles. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and move forward. You probably are way more capable than you might think. Share your plan with someone else to get their thoughts. Since it’s generally in people’s nature to be supportive and nice, this is usually a great way to get positive feedback to boost your confidence. You might even get a helpful suggestion about something you hadn’t thought about. Remind yourself of past accomplishments and challenges you’ve overcome that you didn’t think you were ready to deal with. You’ve gotten this far in life, haven’t you?

Let go of the worry that something might go wrong. Adopt a new rule of thought for yourself that there is very little in life that can’t be fixed. Yes, something might go wrong, but it doesn’t necessarily need to prevent or end your progress. Learn to expect bumps and challenges and plan ahead for them. Develop contingency plans that outline what you will do if something goes wrong. Knowing you have a plan of action can greatly reduce anxiety caused by ‘what if’ thinking.

Find a small way to start. Break down your task or project into small, minute steps. Do this by brainstorming and jotting down every little thing you think needs to get done in order to complete the task. Find at least one that you know you can accomplish in a few minutes. Just by completing one simple step, you’re on your way! You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and relief and will be able to move on to other more extensive steps as you continue to move forward.

3. Innovate!

Think outside of the box and discover new strategies and methods. Get a small group together to help you brainstorm. Find at least 5 different ways to define your goal; this can help you view it from several different angles. Do a little research about other ways to accomplish something. What have your friends, coworkers, or colleagues done in a similar situation? What information can you find in your local library or on the Internet? Learn to spot and keep information you might find helpful in the future. Make sure you file it in a system (i.e. by category or topic) so you can find it when you need it! Experiment and try new strategies or put a new spin on old ones.

4. Coordinate!

Be organized in your approach. Schedule and spend time after you plan to collect and organize what you’ll need. Set up a file or binder system with categorized tabs for a project so you can easily file information as it is collected or completed. Schedule out larger projects on paper to allow you to easily track your progress. Maintain a resource folder of related information so you don’t have to spend time trying to remember.

5. Delegate!

Find and ask for help from others. People are usually more than willing to help out as long as they know what you need. Be specific about what exactly you need them to do and when you need it. Match tasks you need done based on the capabilities of your helpers. Make sure your helpers have what they need: resources, access to information, training, a copy of the plan and/or schedule, and access to you if they have questions. Make sure to follow up at frequent intervals to check up on how things are going.

6. Eliminate!

Stop doing tasks and engaging in activities that don’t get results. Make sure the steps you’ve identified in your plan will move you closer to your goal. Stop doing things the hard way. Take a close look at each step and ask yourself if there’s an easier, quicker, or cheaper way to do it.

7. Regulate!

Maintain control and stay on top of things by having your plan in writing so you can track your progress along the way. A simple calendar with each step scheduled in will work great. Cross off tasks as you complete them and make short notes about any changes you’ve made or need to make. If you’re engaged in a task that you will be repeating in the future, make revisions to your plan as you go along so when you need to start again, you can work on a process that you’ve already improved!

8. Separate!

Break down or break up overwhelming tasks. Break tasks down into smaller, doable steps, scheduling each step separately. Break tasks up by dividing them into two or three separate tasks or projects. Plan and schedule each of these separately to give you a greater sense of control and confidence. Each of these may then be broken down into specific steps.

9. Celebrate!

Find and create ways to celebrate. Don’t wait until the end of an entire project to celebrate its completion. Focus on your abilities, your accomplishments, what you are learning and celebrate them along the way. Highlight your accomplishments on your written plan or schedule by using colored markers, fun stickers, gold stars, etc. Looking back at the accomplishments you’ve noted can be a great motivator during the times when things don’t seem to be moving along so smoothly.

Author's Bio: 

Donna Birk is a writer, trainer, coach, and Licensed Social Worker. She founded and operates "People Builders," an organization devoted to helping people grow. Get a FREE goal setting guide and FREE E-zine at her website: http://www.youcangetitdone.com