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Personal Development

How to Manage Time and Keep Appointments

“I am so busy!”

So many people say this, and sometimes I think it is something of a boast. To be busy is to feel important, or at least it keeps one from thinking they are unimportant! There are others, however, who wish they were not so busy. A Chinese friend recently told me he couldn’t keep his time and appointments organized. I shared with him what I thought was just common sense, but he received it as if it was amazing revelation!

I was actually applying these principles in a corporate office where I worked before coming to China. They eventually held a seminar for us and taught us the things I was already more or less doing. So maybe it can help you…

Get a Daily Calendar

I had a daily calendar that had plenty of blank space on each page. When I came to work I would flip the page each day to its proper date. Then I would see what I had written beforehand on that particular date’s page.

For example: I turned the page and it is the 28th. I see a note: “Meet with Jones at 2:00.” Jones and I had planned this meeting several weeks ago. In fact, it was on the 5th that we agreed to the 28th.

So on the 5th after I got off the phone with Jones, I flipped my day calendar ahead to the 28th and made the note. Then I didn’t have to think about it until the 28th arrived. If it had been something that I needed to prepare for, I could have made a note to myself on an earlier date page as well, like on the 24th: “Meeting with Jones in 4 days. Start researching etc.” Now I will be reminded to not wait until the last minute to prepare, and I didn’t have to strain myself to be thinking about it too far ahead of time.

Arranging other appointments became easy. Whoever called and wanted to meet would suggest a date. I would simply turn to my page calendar and see if I had any notes already on that date.

Besides scheduling appointments, I also used this to remember important events, like birthdays and anniversaries. A day or two before the actual date, I could write a reminder to go out and buy a present.

Managing Tasks

Important “to dos” were planned. For busy days with many appointments and tasks I would start the day by making goals. I would review each note for each task and consider which was most important and which could be stretched out over longer time. If I could put off a certain task, I would scratch it off and make a note to do it on another date page.

Setting realistic goals for each day does wonders for organizing your time. Set them within time frames. “I am going to spend 1 hour on this report. I will finish the Z project in 2 hours. Etc.”

If the days are all busy, then also set goals at the beginning of the week. Look over your notes for each day of that particular week. This way you are getting an overview of all that needs to be done, and you will not be caught off guard when you get to a day and see something you forgot. It is a good idea to get such an overview at the beginning of the month as well.

Spending 5 or 10 minutes each morning to gather your thoughts and set goals for the day will keep you calm as you go into battle. You know what you want to do, and you are not rushing into the day with a “whatever will be will be” mindset, which can lead to stress when the tasks are heavy.

Motivation

When I was in grad school, I was so busy that I literally had to schedule in relaxation time and fun. I scheduled a nap time just as I would have any other appointment. I also used rewards for myself to motivate me to do unpleasant tasks. I told myself that as soon as I finished this task, I would sit in front of the tube for an hour and drink my favorite beverage. Or maybe I would go out and buy some music or something fun. But I couldn’t do these things until I finished what I needed to finish. When I got lazy and wanted to quit, I would think of that ice cold beverage!

Of course, with a family, remember to schedule them in as well! And make them a priority. So many children go wayward because they never got the attention they needed from their parents who were too caught up in their career goals. Don’t lose your children or your spouse to pride and ambition (or greed). Make them a priority and you will be happier, even if it means cutting back because you missed a promotion.

Hope that wasn’t too preachy, but it is a point that should be considered!

To sum up, work with a calendar and take time to set goals. I used a page turning calendar. A monthly calendar will not give you enough space to make notes. Now you can do these things on cell phone calendars, but they may be too clunky to work with. Email clients like Yahoo offer online calendars, and there is Outlook and Thunderbird that do as well. These principles can be applied using those, and you can set email or alarm reminders, but it is harder to flip ahead to view coming dates.

So what do you think? Do you want to do lunch in six months?