We often see on our televisions graphic images of terrible car crashes, mostly where somebody had been speeding and come to grief. Later tests usually showed that the crash occurred because someone, in order to save time, had taken a terrible risk, and lost the gamble. But what if the crash hadn’t happened, and the driver had got away with the chance he had taken? What if he hadn’t been killed? What would he have done with those few seconds saved had he lived?

The probability is that those precious, golden seconds would have been wasted anyway, squandered on some triviality. Yet the driver had forfeited his life and brought grief and suffering to many others just for that.

It is important to remember that there is an easier way to save time and we don’t have to take massive risks like that. However, if we sincerely want to succeed in life we do have make the most of every moment that is available to us. So you must first of all make an honest assessment of yourself by taking an average day and seeing how you spend it. But be prepared for you may be surprised at just how much of your time has been squandered, and irretrievably lost.

It is a fact that many people, especially those in the workplace, and those of us who are continually trying to improve ourselves already find it difficult to slot in everything that that requires our attention. For example you may decide to set yourself a new goal, one that requires you to do a considerable amount of studying. How do you fit it in? You have already committed yourself to achieving other goals, maybe many of them important ones, and you do not wish to drop any of those in favour of the new goal. Given the problems that could possibly arise you may even consider putting aside the new goal with the promise that you will return to it at some later date. But that would be the worst thing you could do because the chances are that the new goal would be put to one side, left to wither away, and be forgotten.

We may think that other people have more time than us, but of course this isn’t true, for we are all given 24 hours in a day, and there is nothing whatsoever that we can do to alter that. In truth it is all about our perception of time. For example, the concept of time for someone chasing around eager to get a job done, would clearly appear quite different to another person lazing quietly on the beach watching the waves wash over the sand.

So no matter how skilled or educated we are, or whatever we are employed on, we all have available the same amount of time, and our success or failure is usually determined by the way we make use of that time. Two of the greatest timewasters are indecision, and it’s equally destructive bed-fellow, procrastination, and to overcome these it would be wise to devise for yourself an action programme, or a suitable ‘to do’ list. It’s value lies in the fact that it gives us a good indication of what has been done and has the added advantage of enabling us to look ahead at what is still outstanding.

A word of caution here though – if you get involved in too many activities a sense of proportion must be employed, and each one must be given an allotted time and be adhered to. Indecision also comes about through trying to take on too much, where we end up flitting from one job to another never firmly deciding which job to do first, and then ending up achieving nothing.

Do this too often and we become tired and dispirited, losing interest in everything, and ultimately foregoing any chance of succeeding in life. Maintain the ‘I can’ attitude for nothing eats away at our good intentions as much as the pernicious thought – I can’t do it!

So we must begin by organising ourselves. Starting out on a task, not having the relevant information to hand, and keep having to wander off to find the necessary tools, is another timewaster, and a sure recipe for disaster. To avoid the feeling of panic, that we can’t cope, we must ensure that we know where everything is, that everything has been put in it’s correct place, and, really important, that your work area is tidy – it has been said many times that a clear desk, free of any unwanted or irrelevant material, has saved much valuable time, and consequently, money. Clutter causes chaos!

Plan the day ahead by consulting your action programme or ‘to do’ list and distinguishing between the important items and the trivial. Keep to hand all the things you will need such as, letters to be answered, names and addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, in fact anything you would possibly have to wander off to retrieve or search for.

What you must not do is put off until tomorrow the work that can be done today, because that will merely overload your schedule tomorrow, and so some of that will be passed over to the following day, and so on, and so on. If you consistently do this, by the end of the week you will have created for yourself a crippling backlog of work that still has to be addressed.

Watch your idle chatter and extended coffee breaks. A tricky one this because talking to ones colleagues is one of the ways we form a bond of friendship with them and share with them our gossip and interests, so we are not suggesting that you all take a vow of silence. However, it would be prudent to keep your non-work related talk until lunch break, although here you must be careful of going over the time allowed. Better still; try to have these chats over drinks after office hours.

Be punctual. If you value your reputation then this means getting to your appointments in good time, for lateness could cost you dearly in terms of contracts and money. Habitually being late for appointments is tantamount to saying to your prospect ‘you are not important, and I have little respect for you.’

Obviously there are going to be instances when, through no fault of your own, you are late for a meeting. When that happens you must immediately express your sincere apologies to your client, and explain the reason for your lateness. Then leave it at that, for if you keep harping on with your excuses you will begin to sound insincere, or even untruthful, and you will be wasting yet more of those precious minutes. Make a note of how quickly, or slowly, you read. If you are studying or are active in the workplace then almost certainly you are going to have to deal with countless books, and reams of letters, memos, and documents, etc. If you are by nature a slow, plodding reader you would do well to invest in a good book on speed-reading.

There are some excellent ones available on the market, and if you apply the methods they suggest you will save yourself an enormous amount of time. As a matter of interest it has been claimed that fast readers actually absorb far more information than their slower counterparts, which is another bonus.

Finally, do not just believe that the discipline of managing time is only for businessmen, politicians, athletes, and assorted high-flyers. It is for every one of us. It does not matter who we are, or what we do, man or woman, young or old, we can all benefit immensely by the judicious organising of our time. Duties and tasks compete for our attention constantly, and it would be easy to panic and adopt the attitude that we cannot cope, that things are out of control.

Remember again that each one of us has been given an allotted time to use, and it is up to us alone to decide how we will spend it. If we give little thought to the passing of time we will be like bits of straw blowing about in the wind, doing nothing of value and contributing nothing, just following the crowd in a sad life of mediocrity.

It is not easy to suddenly change your way of working but truly it will be well worth the effort. So dare to accept the challenge, for applied properly managing your time will enable you to achieve your dearest goals, and give you that most noble of all attributes, self-mastery.

Roy Burton

Author's Bio: 

Roy Burton was born in north London, but is currently living in Bedfordshire. He has worked in various libraries, travelled widely, and has for many years been an enthusiastic student and advocate of self-development. He has written various articles on this subject for several websites.