Ghosts of time management past

Time management is an issue all year round, but especially during the festive season. Yes, it's that old chestnut again, and it's not the only old chestnut I'll roast because when better than Christmas to roast chestnuts? And, when better to test your supposed time management skills?

As you struggle with shopping, menus, cards, kids, crowds, the stockings, and Rudolph's supper (oh, yes, and the office, I almost forgot!), you appreciate all too keenly that time management really is a delusion. There really are only 24 hours, even on Christmas Day.

Those clever clogs who bought their presents in July can pipe down . . . although they have a point.

So, let's talk instead about priority management - because, as the song goes, "it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." To munch another old chestnut, being effective rather than efficient is the key.

What counts is setting yourself goals and remembering that, for the best goals, the PPP rule applies. Goals should be personal (for you, not others), positive, and present (now).

Come to think of it, as the Old Year fades and the New Year limbers up, now is just the time for goal-setting!

I recommend a three-tier approach to goals. Firstly, set them; set them precisely and to a deadline. You might consider setting them in the presence of other people to foster a sense of responsibility.

Next, lay out a plan of action, a series of steps towards your goals. De-chunk the steps to make them achievable, link them carefully to your deadline, and ensure you leave 40 percent of your time free. You need this slack time to deal with the things you never anticipated; things like Christmas...

Finally (and crucially) you need commitment, without which you are virtually bound to fail. If you let others in on your objectives, you'll boost your commitment as if you'd taken a solemn blood-oath. You should also allow yourself rewards as you progress, observing the old chestnut about all work and no play. Write goals down so you can read, remind, and refresh.

Last and far from least, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all AccountingWEB members a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and productive New Year!

Carol McLachlan's article originally appeared on our sister Web site, AccountingWEB.co.uk. McLachlan helps accountants solve problems, at home and at work. From work/life balance and time management, to assertiveness, communication skills and career planning, she draws on her long career in practice and training as a coach and NLP practitioner.

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