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How to Simply Manage Your Time

Susan L Reid

Time in ShacklesWilliam Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, once said, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."

With the plethora of time management tools and books on the market today, it's hard to disagree with that statement. 

So, what is your preferred time management system?
Do you favor a more traditional approach—such as the tried-and-true, though laborious, Franklin Planner—or do you prefer something more high tech and mobile that you manage from your smartphone?

Regardless of what system you use, successful time management boils down to these three things:

  1. setting priorities,
  2. completing daily tasks, and
  3. eliminating distractions.

Those who manage these three things are not only successful in business; they are successful in life.

So, before you go investing in a Franklin Planner or scamper off to download the latest smartphone app, give this simple five-step time management system a go.

This system is so easy-to-implement,
all you need to get started is a piece of paper and a pencil—or, if you want to go a little high tech, a blank document page.

Five-Step Time Management System

Step One: At the very top of the page, put tomorrow's date. Then, draw four columns. Label the first column, "I Must Do”, the second, "I Next Do", the third, "I Could Do", and the fourth, "Not Mine to Do.”

Next, think of all the things that need to get done tomorrow and decide under which column they belong.

To Do List“I Must Do” Column: These are the things that absolutely must be done tomorrow—and attended to by you, personally.  

“I Next Do” Column: These are things that would be great to get done tomorrow, though they could be postponed if necessary.

“I Could Do” Column: These are things that could be done tomorrow if time permits, yet can be delayed without penalty. 

“Not Mine to Do” Column: These are things many of us do as small business owners that really aren't our business to do. Perhaps these are things that your virtual assistant, business manager, or even spouse can do instead.

Step Two: As American Businessman Lee Iacocca says, "If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got."

Tomorrow, without exception, complete everything that is in the "I Must Do" column. Let nothing stand in your way. Give this column your all, and don't allow any distraction or unrelated interest to supersede the items on this list. Check or cross off items as they are completed.

Step Three:
Once you complete the "I Must Do" column, move steadily on to the "I Next Do" column. First, though, ask yourself, "What on this list can be moved to another day?

Complete whatever is best to complete today. Then move the other items to the next day's "I Must Do" column.

Step Four:
Now that you've finished the first column and whatever was best to complete today from the second column, move on to the "I Could Do" column. Look over the list and decide what, if anything, you want to complete today. Want is the operative word. 

Whatever you decide to complete today, complete it in full. Then move everything else from this column to the pertinent next day's column.

Step Five:
At the end of the day, take out a new piece of paper or open up a blank document page and fill in the next day’s columns with your to-do list.

DoneWhen you’re finished, do something ceremonial with today’s list. For example, crumple it up into a ball and shoot it into the waste basket for two points, declaring out loud, “Done!”

Putting a time management system in place for your small business doesn't have to be complicated, costly, or time consuming. Before you invest in that Franklin Planner or scamper-off to download that latest smartphone app, why not give this simple, easy-to-implement five-step time management system a try?

You'll be glad you did!

Copyright © 2011 by Susan L. Reid

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this blurb with it:

Copyright ©2011 by Susan L. Reid, DMA

Dr. Susan L. Reid is a Small Business Expert and Business Catalyst for spiritually conscious women starting up businesses. She is the award-winning author of Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success.

If you're interested in finding out more about what steps you can take to ensure your lasting business success, then get instant access to your own free copy of Turn Your Business Dreams Into Reality Toolkit at

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