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Time Management

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. No time to say "hello", "goodbye", I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!

Have you ever felt like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland? Rushing from one thing to the next with no time to rest or relax? If so, perhaps what you need is some time management.

The problem is, you can't really manage "time". You can't take a few hours from the morning and put them in the evening, or take a few extra hours from the middle of the day and put them into the night. There are the same number of hours in the day for everyone, and the follow exactly the same pattern every day.

Each day you have 24 hours to utilize. This breaks down into 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. Each person gets the same amount. You can't save them like vacation days. When they are over, the time is gone. Whether you spent your time wisely or foolishly, it doesn't matter, you can't get it back.

So, if you can't manage "time", what can you manage? You can manage yourself and how you spend your day by setting priorities for what you want to accomplish and then scheduling the activities into a day planner, a calendar, or just a "to do" list.

Have you ever seen someone who seems to be able to accomplish 25 different things while you have difficulty completing 4 or 5? That person has learned the secret of priority management - how to make good use of their time.

They may spend their Sundays preparing meals for the week so that they can have time for other activities during the week. They may give up television in order to take courses. They may make their children's activities a priority, but take knitting or reading with them for the "down" times at the rink, i.e. practices, dressing and undressing time. They may keep magazines or books with them to catch up on reading while waiting in the doctor's offices or for other appointments. They may listen to tapes in their car while driving, either to learn something new, or to keep their mind on something while they drive so they won't speed.

Once you have set some priorities, it will be easier to decide how to spend your time. For example, if your priority is getting your bike on the road, spending 1 1/2 hours on a Sunday afternoon working on the bike is a good use of your time. However, if your priority is keeping your spouse happy and she is waiting for you to help her in the garden, spending 1 1/2 hours on your bike is not a good use of your time!

The first thing you need to do is decide what is important to you and then schedule it into your day. If you use a calendar, you may want to colour code it with red for very important. You can schedule other events - work, leisure - in different colours so that it is easy to see what you want to do at any point in time. You can take some time at the beginning of each week to plan your activities for the week. Often you will have to plan your activities around other family members. It may help to colour code each of your family members as well. Then you can decide if spending time attending their activities is a priority for you or not.

One of the best questions to ask yourself on a regular basis is, "Is this the best use of my time at this moment?". If the answer is yes, keep on doing it. If the answer is no, then it's time for a change.

This doesn't mean that there is no time for unscheduled activities such as friends dropping over - it may mean a slight change in priorities for the day, or giving up some other free time during the week to accomplish your tasks, or simply moving them back a few days if necessary. The important thing is to set your priorities so that you will allow time for them. That way you will use your time more efficiently and you won't have to be like the White Rabbit running around saying, "No time, No time".

Fran Watson is a Career Counsellor and a Toastmaster (ATM-B). For more information on Toastmasters you can go to her webpage

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