About English Language. 21.11.2009

How to organize yourself & manage time

Автор: Nadia

Today I want to dwell upon some basic things connected with organizing yourself and managing time. These are not universal rules, just a few pieces of advice I’m using and they work for me. For three years now I’ve been using some techniques which help me in everyday life, I mean in planning my time and organizing my activities. 

Before we proceed, let me ask you to do the test “How well do you plan?”  Follow the instructions and add all the numbers you get. Next read the interpretation. 
So, how do you feel? Are you an “excellent” or a “terrible” planner? Of course, this tiny test can not possibly be the one source you rely on, but still, it gives a general idea.

Anyway, when we speak about the advantages of planning our time, we can name at least these few:
1. gain time – when we plan, we get some extra time, we don’t waste it, ergo, we gain it!
2. it motivates – when you realize how much you have managed to do within a certain period of time, you are proud of yourself & feel motivated!
3. it reduces avoidance – meaning you don’t forget to do things
4. it promotes review – when you plan, write things down, you can analyse them as well as yourself
5. it reduces anxiety – you no longer have to worry that you have no time for something or may forget some stuff, you feel more confident.

Now, we know that planning time is useful, it’s definitely a good thing to be done, however we avoid it. We tend to avoid things we don’t know or the things that may cause some inconveniences, limit or scary us. But it’s like this only at the beginning, I guess the beginning of any activity, like skiing and stuff. First you are terrified and think if you need this in the first place. But after some time, you can’t do without it. It’s just the same exact situation with time management and organizing yourself. Just do it! I’ll try to give you a little push today, if you still need one.
I also started by a push from my friend. I was recommended to listen to several books/seminars connected with this topic. Here they are: “The art of managing your time” by Bodo Schäfer, “21 Great Ways To Manage Your Time and double your productivity” by Brian Traicey and “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.

Bodo Schäfer  is a world known motivation trainer. Among his most popular books are the following “Laws of winners”, “Your first million within 7 years”, “A dog called Money”, thus he was named a ‘financial Mozart’ of our time. 
Brian Traicey  – a self-made man, millionaire, was included in top ten of the world most popular lecturers in the field of business problems. His annual audience comprises 250,000 people. He consults such clients as IBM, Ford, McDonnel. About 30 Traicey’s books more than 200 couching video and audio programs have been published.
Stephen Covey. Covey's best-known book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide since its first publication in 1989. 
We start with these 7 habits:
Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Choice
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision
Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution
Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Mutual Understanding
Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal
Now, to understand these habits better, you can either read the book or watch this short video that presents all habits within 5 minutes. It can’t possibly substitute the book, but is quite a good option.


Having read the books by these three gurus of business, I decided to describe the basic principles which I find useful and which actually use. So here we go:

1. Make the Decision to Manage Your Time. Simple but so true.
So the very first step you must take if you want to manage your time more effectively is to decide that you will and put it down, buy a notebook specifically for this purpose. Everything that is not in black and white is not serious.

2. Clock & Compass. The majority of the trainings connected with time management speak only about time. But just think, how many hours do you work a day. Now, do you think that people who are 10 times more efficient than you are and earn 10 times as much as you do, work 10 times longer? It’s just physically impossible! So, what’s the secret? We should plan our time, but we should also think where we are going, we should think about direction. Sounds easy, but with our everyday troubles, may be quite complicated.

3. Urgent vs Important – it is connected with the previous one. Quite often, when we do the things that should be done immediately, urgent things, we have an impression that we are doing something really important. Is that always the case? We often fail to understand that these are just trivial things. If you want to know whether you are doing something important or urgent just stop for a second and think how important would that be in your life in 2 years? What benefit would you get if you continue doing it in 2 years?
It’s kinda like that joke about the difference between managers and leaders. While managers are busy thinking how to cut down the trees in this jungle, leaders point out “Not this jungle”.

4. A, B, C, D sectors. Bodo Schäfer suggests planning in these 4 sectors. This division is based on the differentiation between urgent and important.
Sector A – here we have really important thing that are urgent
Sector B – really important things in our lives, which, however don’t seem to be urgent. These include our health, education, long-term goals. This is the sector which the majority of leaders and directors spend their time in. This is where we should be, ideally.
Sector C – contains unimportant for us, however urgent things. Many employees spend their time here doing the tasks provided by their bosses without realising that it does not do them any good.
Sector D – things which are not urgent and not important in our life, like watching or reading something unnecessary, spending time in social networks ect. We should not be here, if we want to achieve our goals.




Urgent + important



Strategically important


Urgent + unimportant



Not urgent + unimportant

5. Weekly Planning. How often did you plan to do something on a particular day, but did not manage to? How did you feel? I guess frustrated and disappointed. So, Bodo Schäfer suggests planning in weeks. In this way, you have a week to do a task, you can plan chances i.e. do it on Monday or Thursday. You avoid frustration and perform better. I usually do it on Sunday evening or Monday morning, I put down almost everything I’m supposed to do this week in A, B, and C categories, I don’t write D category; if it happens, my notebook knows nothing about this :)

7. Relaxation day. This is a day during which you can totally relax and do everything you want. Plan your relaxation days, once a week or once a fortnight, depending on your work. This is a strong motivation tool. Imagine that it’s Thursday morning and you’re already tired like crazy. What do you do? Are you in despair? The idea of your relaxation day will help you. You’ll pull yourself together because you know that on Saturday you are going to do anything you like!

8. Plan chances. If you have a chance to do something today, do it! Don’t postpone or procrastinate! Plus, you’ll feel better and forget about deadlines.

9. The Bucket List. You may say that you don’t know what to write in sector B, you don’t know what’s really important in your life or what you would like to achieve. Don’t worry, Bodo Schäfer has an exercise for you. I call it “The bucket list”. Do you happen to remember an idiom with the word “bucket”? I guess you know this one “to kick the bucket” which means “to die”, surely, it’s very colloquial. Anyway, try making up a list of all the things you’d like to do/have before you die. To make your mind work harder, define a limit for yourself, say one year. If this does not help, watch the movie “The Bucket List” („Список передсмертних бажань”) starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. An awesome movie, strongly recommend watching it. 

10. Article about You. If you still don’t know what you want to be in future imagine that in 10 years an article about you appears in one prestigious newspaper. Take you time and write this article about yourself. Write who you are, what you do and what you have in 10 year time. Calculate how old will you be at that time. Be specific, indicate where you live, describe your typical day. The universe sends us what we order, so to speak. Feel free to contact it and ask for what you really want. If you’re ready with your article, start doing something every day to make your dreams come true.

11. 5 spheres of life: Health, Job, Finance, Emotions, Family
There are 5 main spheres of our live and we should try to find a balance, to combine all of them and not spend too much time just in one. However, the world is not perfectly balanced as well as our life. So, in some periods of our life it’s absolutely ok to spend the majority of time in one of the spheres. Say, when a woman gives birth to a child, it’s normal for her to concentrate on her baby. The same is when a person starts own business.

12. First Put Big Stones. The point is you should start with making big steps in your life, doing something really important for your further life, like education, family, health care. You can add some small things later. Do big things first, than everything else will be easy for you. Watch this video with Stephen Covey who demonstrates this principle.




13. The Law of Forced Efficiency (Brian Traicey) says that we never have time for everything, but we do have the time for the most important.
When we work under pressure, we are really focused. The statement that stress is always a negative thing is not true. When we are pressured, we concentrate on the most important and ignore unimportant tasks. This is where the law of forced efficiency comes in because it forces you to answer the questions:
What is the highest use of your time? What brings the highest return? What can you and only you do, that if done well, could make a real difference?
Having answered these questions, you can identify the tasks that matter most and the ones you’re best at.

14. The 80/20 Rule works like this: we spend 20% of time to do 80% of work, then we spend the rest 80% of time to finish up 20% of a task. That’s in fact is really so. A vivid example is when we write an essay or a post for blog. The same principle usually works in business: 20% of clients bring 80% of income etc. Now watch Brian Traicey explaining this rule and speaking about setting priorities + he touches upon the next principle “eating a frog every day”.




15. Eat a frog every morning. Every day we have a set of tasks. But there is usually one task or two that we really dislike, they are the hardest and we just can’t get down to them. So, here is an idea – start with this task, eat it like a frog. Now, how do you imagine eating a frog? For me, it should be in one quick motion otherwise I won’t do it. Be brave, eat your frog in the morning and that we’ll be the most unpleasant thing that happen to you this day. And don’t look at your frog for too long, it will be getting more and more ugly to you, so just do what you have to, eat it! One company liked this idea so much that they bought tiny frog souvenirs for each employee and you know what, in a year this company doubled its turnover. They told they did it because every member of staff was eating a frog every morning.

16. The rule of 72 hours. The last but not least tip is “the rule of 72 hours”. It implies that if you decide to do something, do the first steps within 72 hours, otherwise there is great danger that you will never do it. If you decide to learn a foreign language, do something; buy the dictionary, learn a few words, but do something!

These are things that help me in my life management. Perhaps, some of them will help you. The point of time management is that it should help us. We should not become slaves of it and strictly stick to our plans. If you have planned to be working from 7 till 9, but your child enters a room and needs your attention, of course you’ll put everything aside. We can’t plan everything, in fact, all these trainers suggest that we should plan only 50% of our time, the rest half we’ll be filled by urgent things. If not, you can always spend time in sector B, doing something really important.

So, if you do want to manage your time and become more efficient, here are two things you should start with: first, make a decision that you really want this and secondly, do something within 72 hours.

Essential vocabulary:
advantage – перевага
avoidance - уникання
confident - впевнений
efficient - ефективний
ergo – отже, таким чином
gain – набувати, отримувати
goal - ціль
in black and white – у письмовому вигляді
inconvenience - незручність
integrity – чесність, цілісність
in the first place – взагалі-то
mutual - взаємний
proceed – продовжувати
promote – сприяти, просувати
pull oneself together - зібратись
reduce - зменшувати
sharpen a saw – гострити пилу
slave -раб
stick to sth – дотримуватись чогось
trivial – дріб’язковий, банальний
turnover – оборот (компанії)
urgent - терміновий


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