Time management.  There are probably more ideas for approaching this behemoth than there are minutes in a year, 525,600.  Sorry to trigger that song for the “Rent” fans out there.  However, there are pivotal moments that form a foundation for getting more things done effectively and efficiently, whether you are carrying out multiple tasks at home, work for a nonprofit, or in the corporate world.

A common phrase among nonprofit boards and staff is “we never have enough time to accomplish our dreams and long list of items we want to implement “one day.”  The reality is, it will likely never happen unless they get the time and prioritization element managed. 

Tools like strategic planning, our strategic advancement map, and board assessments help keep organizations focused and on track.  What about personally?  Leaders eliminate the everyday traps gobbling up time and building barriers between their preferred future and the probable one.

While they may seem basic, I’ve found there are five pivotal “moments” that can make a difference in feeling overwhelmed or feeling on top of your day.  Here’s my perspective on the five.

AM Moments

Waking up is hard for some but it’s one of the pivotal moments that impacts our future.  Sure, we may capture extra “time” with an earlier alarm but being more astute carries more weight. It’s time (actually, it may have been the evening before) to set the tone and pace for the day.  Exercise, meditate, pray, and or take a minute to capture moments with impact on your efforts today.  Focus, prioritize the rest of the day, and identify potential time wasters.  Productive, positive mornings provide a solid foundation for the remainder of the day.

The Electronic Moments

In effectively managing your time, capture your goals and preferred futures.  We have choices that distract or support us on the journey and they’re time wasting or life giving.  Remember, the electronic devices touted as enabling us to save time have a shadow side.  A fine line exists, and unless well-managed they can consume us.  Television, cell phones, computers, texts, and email eat a large part of our time.  A study by eMarketer estimates, that adults spend a daily average of 3 hours and 43 minutes on devices, as well as 3 hours and 22 minutes watching TV.  Multi-tasking and work-related tasks contribute to some overlap. Turn those moments into positive ones by limiting yourself.  Set a timer, block time for fun.  Decide if the impact of social media is worth trading off the identified priorities for the day.

Moments in the Inbox

Do you have more than 100 emails in your inbox right now?  Email is one of the largest, time-consuming activities we encounter daily.  It can weigh us down when we encounter an inbox moment stuffed with 1,000+ messages. Most of those inboxes tend to be used as a “holding place” for the messages to be read “someday,” which turns to never.

Avoid the trap.  Start using features offered by providers to help free up time.  Create rules for messages from specific senders, folders to consolidate messages into topic groups, autoresponders to address specific topics, etc. etc.  An email needs to be read, acted on, moved, or deleted in that moment to keep the inbox manageable and not be the source of an overwhelming burden.   

Priority Moments

Work interaction launches another pivotal moment.  The three C’s, conversations, coffee, and committees can derail the best efforts as can the four M’s, meetings, meddling, memos, and mail.  However, when you’ve identified the priorities, the ABSOLUTE priorities in your life, your year, your month, and your day, you can learn to find the time you wish you had. 

What do you want to accomplish soon? How does today impact that? What can wait until tomorrow? What will take place “someday?”  We’re more effective when writing the priorities down, establishing some accountability by sharing it with others, and breaking tasks into smaller accomplishments.  Here’s where those electronic devices can be valuable support.  There are countless apps and software programs that will help you get organized and stay on track in establishing priorities and celebrating accomplishments.  Find the way that works for you.   

Calendar with Conviction

The final moment that critically impacts our futures is creating and managing a calendar with conviction.  Yes, there’s a difference.  Many of us have calendars, but are we using them with conviction?  Are you scheduling details and managing them well?  Are you scheduling time for things like brainstorming, idea honing, and research?  The calendar should reflect priorities discussed earlier yet be somewhat flexible.

When someone walks in the office stating, “Have you got a minute?”  How do you respond?  Try something like “I’ve actually got a few things on the calendar, but I can take five for you.”    Then be sure to stick with this time limit.  If it seems to need more time, tell them.  “I think this deserves more time than I have right now, how about we schedule 20 minutes at 1?”  Your time is valuable they know the expectations. Once we start allocating time, you’ll be able to reconcile its usage with conviction.

It seems basic, and there’s certainly more meat to the time management space.  However, if a person, nonprofit, or business can make strides in approaching these five pivotal moments, they are likely to be surprised at the impact.

David J. Fry, MPS,CDT is Founder/CEO of Effective Advancement Strategies in Greensburg and consults with businesses and nonprofits throughout Indiana.  He may be contacted at strategies@etczone.com