The Single Greatest Key to Managing Your Time
In a day-to-day context, each of us — rich or poor, talented or developing, dynamic or shy — is given the same 24 hours. But what do we do with each moment?
While we can't change the circumstances, talents, or personality with which we enter this world, we can decide how we spend the hours, days, and years afforded to us. We can choose the path we take and how we will respond to any obstacles that get in our way. The trick is simply to manage and maximize the time we've been given. (See also: The Secret to Time Management and Work-Life Balance)
In our efforts to manage this limited allotment of time, we need strategies — keys — and the single greatest key to managing your time is managing yourself.
The Supreme Chancellor of You
You are the absolute, unchallengeable dictator of your own life. The amount of influence any other individual has in your life is 100% bestowed upon them by you and can be withdrawn by you at any time. External control is simply an illusion, whether it's your thin-skinned parents offering an undesired invitation or your angry boss "asking" you to work overtime this weekend. (See also: Say "No" at Work and Still Get Ahead)
As the dictator of you, you can communicate love for your parents while declining the invitation. As the supreme chancellor of your own life, you are free to decline overtime work and verbal abuse. Your parents might get offended, or you might end up looking for a new job, but ultimately, you are the sole proprietor of your own destiny, and it is always your irrevocable right to choose.
So what are a few practical steps for managing yourself?
Step 1: What Do You Want?
What do you want? If you can't answer this question, you aren't actually going anywhere. And if you aren't actually going anywhere, why do you need to manage your time? Don't drift!
Do you want healthy, fulfilling relationships? It starts with valuing yourself and only allowing others who value you into the inner places of your heart. Do you want to enjoy your work? Plenty of people have fulfilling work lives, but they didn't get there by permanently staying in a position they hate.
What do you really want?
Step 2: Prioritize Yourself
You are the hero of your own life. Prioritizing your own needs is not selfish. In fact, if you don't meet your own needs, you will never be able to bring your full abilities to the table in helping others. (See also: 20+ Ways to Take 5 Minutes for Yourself)
When you realize you are the most important person in your own life, and that's okay, you stop wasting your time on relationships that demean you. You stop putting everyone else's needs above your own. You stop wasting your hours at a job you hate, or sacrificing 5/7ths of your existence to enjoy two days per week.
It's okay to be happy.
Step 3: Invest in Yourself
Once we've determined what we want and put up our personal boundaries against the ceaseless demands that seek to rob our time, we can finally start moving towards our goals.
Invest in yourself. Few of us will ever have an abundance of third parties peering into our souls, calling out hidden treasure, and then championing our futures. No one else may invest in you, but you can always invest in yourself. Spend 30 minutes a day educating yourself regarding your end goals. Sign up for that course you've always wanted to take. Buy a quality suit. (See also: Great Ways to Invest in Yourself)
Take a chance on yourself, and start moving forward.
Step 4: Enjoy the Journey
The significance of managing yourself is that you are reasserting your control over your own journey. Many factors will influence your final destination, but the journey itself is always yours to command.
Enjoy your journey. Don't waste your life chasing others' dreams or ideas of success. And when you start down the road towards your own version of success, don't make the mistake of thinking the destination is the goal. Your life is the journey, not the destination. When you are doing the things you love with the people you love, you'll find the price tags involved aren't nearly as significant as you once thought.
It's Not How You Start
Is this the final word on time management? Of course not. But ultimately, if you never fully embrace the concept of managing yourself, none of the practical tips you read about productivity and time management will have significant impact on your life. You'll find yourself in the same place time after time after time.
We each have the same 24 hours to live each day. If we understand our immutable authority over every precious moment, we are far more likely to make the most of each one.