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Letting Go of the Resolutions of New Years Past: Planning and Managing Time in 2009

January 2009
Everyone starts the New Year with good intentions, but we often fail to follow through. Here are some straightforward recommendations about how to plan your time effectively and use it wisely to accomplish your goals.

And so it has come. The New Year. Full of promises and expectations, and perhaps the chance to change. A clean slate, if you will. And of course, the opportunity for resolutions.

Whether you are a solo-practitioner, a director of marketing for a large firm or somewhere in-between, I bet that at some point, you have vowed that 2009 will be different. Statements like, “This year I will reach out to clients to more often,” or “This year I will be more effective in how I spend my time,” and of course, the ever popular, “This year I will stick to the marketing plan that took months to develop and vet through committee.”

Take comfort, for you are not alone. Each year millions of us look at the new year as if it were newly fallen snow. Pristine and untouched, and ready for us to start again. The problem is, by February we are often mired in the slush of the daily routine, making it difficult to stick to those New Year resolutions.

So why is it that some of us slip back into our bad habits? What is it that keeps us from truly achieving the goals we set-out to accomplish? No one sets out to fail at time management. Perhaps it is just human nature. We are a certain type of person, and as such we behave in a certain way. Take, for example, three of the personality types that often struggle with planning and time management.

  • First, “The Big-Picture Person” -- a.k.a. don’t sweat the details. This individual has great vision and terrific suggestions, but tends to fail in the execution.
  • Then there is the “The Yes Man” or “Yes Ms.” -- a.k.a. never says “no.” This individual has never met a tactic he or she didn’t like and often tends to be the go-to-guy for the big picture person.
  • And while certainly not least, but almost always last is “The Chronic Procrastinator” – a.k.a. why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? This individual often thrives on self-imposed stress, but often ends up accomplishing much less than could have been achieved.

Is there anything that can be done to help each be more effective time managers? The answer is yes, but unfortunately it is not a quick fix. The reason that resolutions so often falter is that we fail to live them day in and day out. If you really want to improve your planning and time management efforts, you have to be willing to commit each and every day to a time management regimen. Just like diet and exercise, it can feel painful at first, but the end results are a great reward.

So below, I offer a handful of tried and true methods for managing your time and sticking to plan. Some seem easy, but if you don’t do them every day they will not work.


Take a good look at your business as it stands today and craft a simple vision statement by asking yourself: What should my business look like a year from now?

Start building your plan by answering the following questions:

  • What things are being done today that are moving you toward your vision?
  • What things are being done today that are moving you further from your vision?
  • What things are not being done today that must be done to move you toward your vision?
  • If I continue with my current plan (or lack thereof) will my business look as described above?
  • And finally, determine what you have available (or are willing to commit to) in terms of time and money. Treat your time like you treat your dollars. Don’t spend on things with little or no return.


Lay out what you want to accomplish in specific time chunks (3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc.). Be realistic in terms of what you want to accomplish and the time frames you allow yourself. More often than not, grandiose ideas that can’t truly be supported by your time, human and budget resources will remain nothing more than grandiose ideas.

Write down your goals and re-read your list weekly.

And even if you have heard this before, it bears repeating….Goals should always be concrete, measurable and achievable.


  • Don’t schedule a meeting to discuss something that can be handled in a phone call. As Dilbert says, “Avoid meetings with time-wasting morons.”
  • Turn off your email notification pop-up and sound.
  • Schedule time to look at your email and don’t deviate.
  • Schedule meetings with yourself. If you continually get interrupted during your self-meeting, find a great hiding place and keep it a secret.
  • Avoid scheduling meetings during the first 90 minutes and the last 30 minutes of your day.
  • Keep daily task lists – number them and mark off items once they are accomplished.
  • Always leave a couple of lines on your daily task list to write in the unexpected items you accomplished.
  • Save the easiest tasks for the end of the day.
  • Learn how to say no.
  • Give yourself deadlines and prioritize your time just as you would your money.

Too often we spend lots of time making sure things are done right and not enough time determining if we are doing the right things. Taking control of our time, or at least being more aware of how we spend it, is a great first step toward keeping those resolutions.

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About the Author

Elise Martin is the director of marketing and business development for Grant & Eisenhofer PA, a national litigation boutique concentrating on federal securities, corporate governance and complex litigation. 

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