As a student, you have undoubtedly experienced moments of panic in which you think, “I just don’t have enough time!”
Time management is a critical skill to learn, not just because you are juggling multiple classroom and personal responsibilities now, but also because you are entering a profession constructed around time: Appointment times, time you carve out for working on your business, and unexpected time that can result from client cancellations. If you can’t manage your time and schedule, you will struggle as a professional massage therapist.
Time management isn’t about which tool or app you use to schedule your time; it’s about how well you use the time in your schedule. You must learn how to determine what your time is worth, realize you cannot—and should not—do everything yourself, and prioritize the activities that will help achieve your goals.
Time can be an asset or liability, depending on how you approach it. To get time on your side, start by changing yourself.
Alter Your Attitude
You can’t alter time, but you can alter your attitudes and behaviors relating to it, which are largely influenced by your conditioning and self-esteem, and can mean the difference between self-sabotage and success. Attitude is a choice, and choice requires awareness. To understand your attitude, ask yourself:
What thoughts and feelings do you have concerning time?
- Do you always feel rushed, or do you usually have plenty of time to complete your tasks?
- How did your family relate to time? Were your parents often late for things? Was this embarrassing to you?
- Do you take time to take care of yourself?
- Do you view time as your friend or enemy?
Using the answers to these questions, you must decide: Will you continue to hold on to your attitudes surrounding time, or are you willing to change those that do not serve you?
Sometimes it’s not your general attitude about time that affects your ability to get things done, but your attitude toward specific tasks. Realize there will always be certain tasks you just don’t want to do.
Rather than procrastinate, which will affect everything else on your to-do list, try looking at the undesirable task differently. Put yourself in an enjoyable environment to work on it. Remind yourself why it’s even on your list—it must be important—and that the sooner you get it done, the sooner you can return to tasks you enjoy.
If you deeply dislike the activity, it might be because you aren’t the best person for the job. Ask yourself if someone else could do this task more easily and effectively. If so, find someone to trade tasks with, or hire someone to complete the task. Your time is finite and valuable; if it takes you twice as long to motivate yourself to complete a task better suited to someone else, how much is that costing you in treatment or study time?
Make a Daily Plan
Managing time is not as simple as making a to-do list and working your way down that list. You must create a plan that addresses all the different categories of time you need throughout your day: time to plan, work with clients, manage your business, study or continue your education, market your practice, network, take care of yourself and have fun.
Invest at least 10 to 15 minutes in daily planning. When you have a clear purpose, priorities, goals and plans of action every single day, you won’t feel so overwhelmed, even when the unexpected happens. Adjustments to your to-do list to accommodate surprises are part of life; yet when you plan regularly, you will know what you have to do, the order in which to do it, and when it needs to be done.
Planning is meant to simplify your life-not make it more complicated. When you first start planning regularly, it may seem to take a long time; but after doing it on a regular basis, you will find you can usually plan your day very quickly.
The Pareto Principle, developed by management consultant Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008) and named for economist Vilfredo Pareto, posits that 80 percent of results are produced by only 20 percent of activities. That means the other 80 percent of activities only produce 20 percent of results. Imagine what would happen if you increased the time you spent on those 20 percent of activities you know consistently produce the bulk of your results.
Identify and label as high-priority those 20 percent of activities that produce 80 percent of results, then increase the time you spend doing them. The more you learn to focus on these top-20-percent activities and do them during 40 percent or even 60 percent of your time, the more productive, prosperous and balanced you may become.
You can also identify the 20 percent of your clients who contribute 80 percent of your income, or the 20 percent of products that contribute 80 percent of your retail sales. Focus on the most effective 20 percent in your life to streamline activities and reduce stress.
After you have written your daily plan, evaluate it. Decide which activities absolutely must get done today.
Review the other items and decide which need to be done very soon. The rest of the activities that would be nice if they were accomplished soon, but are not of major significance, should be re-evaluated and removed from your list, if possible.
The more you focus on high-priority activities, you may discover conflicts; less-important tasks still need to get done. If this happens, refer to your priorities and goals. You may have to make difficult decisions and delegate the other activities, simplify them or, ideally, eliminate them.
If you struggle with prioritization, show your list to a trusted massage colleague or instructor. You may have overlooked something or need to switch some priorities—and it’s usually easier for someone else to be objective.
Prioritizing is also about when to do activities. For instance, if you’re a morning person, do your more challenging tasks in the morning. On days you have several classes or are giving several treatments, try to schedule those activities on slower days.
Put Yourself First
Above all, take care of your own needs, recognize your patterns and honor your highest priorities—for success in your education, your future business and your life.