Time management definition
Time management focuses on having conscious control over time. It indicates that through planning we can work smarter rather than harder.
It also focuses on having the right things in your toolbox so you can use your time to accomplish your goals.
Time management is really all about managing yourself. You can’t really “manage” time because there are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 seconds in a minute—and that never changes.
If we had 25 hours in a day, that would also be insufficient. Perhaps what we need is not more time but instead, better time management.
How we use time depends on skills learned through self-analysis, planning, evaluation, and self-control.
Benefits of time management
People who manage time well often find that they:
• Are more productive.
• Have more energy for things they need to accomplish.
• Feel less stressed.
• Have more free time to do the things they want.
• Get more things done.
• Relate more positively to others.
• Feel better about themselves. (Dodd and Subdheim, 2005)
Time management techniques
Finding time management techniques that work best for you depends on your personality, ability to self-motivate, and level of self-discipline. By incorporating some, or all strategies below, you can develop time management skills very easily.
1- Know How You Spend Your Time
A time log is a helpful way to determine how you use your time. Record what you are doing in 15-minute intervals for a week or two.
Evaluate the results:
• Did everything you needed to do get done?
• Which tasks require the most time?
• What time of day when you are most productive?
• Where is most of your time is devoted (i.e. job, family, personal, recreation)?
Identifying your most time-consuming tasks and determining whether you are investing your time in the most important activities can help you to determine a course of action.
Having a good sense of the time required for routine tasks can help you be more realistic in planning and estimating how much time is available for other activities. Many apps exist to help you keep track of your time.
2- Biological Prime Time
This is the time of the day when you have the most energy and, therefore, the greatest potential to be productive.
To determine yours, record your energy levels every hour on the hour for three weeks. You might need to set an alarm on your phone, watch, or computer to help you remember to record each hour.
Collecting this much data for three weeks can be difficult, but it gives you good data for recognizing patterns. Use it to identify your biological prime times.
Once you have determined your prime times, schedule your activities to make the most of your energy peaks and dips.
During your peaks, schedule your highest-leverage activities (those activities with the highest payoff) as well as activities that require the most energy.
3- Important-Urgent Matrix
Popularized by Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, this 2×2 matrix is another method to help users manage their time more effectively.
image source: wikipedia.org
On one axis, users classify tasks that are important and not important. Urgent and not urgent tasks go on the other axis. The result is 4 quadrants: tasks that are important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and lastly not important and not urgent.
Naturally, we tend to focus on tasks that are urgent. These could include some calls, interruptions, or distractions — it’s hard not to reach for your phone when it blinks with a new message.
The matrix helps to distinguish tasks that are truly urgent AND important, which should be attended to. On the other hand, we tend to neglect important but not urgent tasks; this could include exercise and vocation planning. Covey recommends that we focus on this quadrant to achieve effectiveness.
4- Have a dynamic task list
Capture the tasks and activities you must do on a list and update it regularly during the day. Revisit this list frequently and add new items as soon as they appear.
Make sure your list gives you a quick overview of everything that’s urgent and important and remember to include strategic and relationship-building activities as well as operational tasks.
5- 80-20 Rule
The 80-20 Rule, also known as Pareto’s Principle, says that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your actions. It is a way to view your time usage, prioritize your chosen tasks against your most important goals.
In other words, 20% of your work will constitute 80% of your achievements. Tasks that fall into the former category should therefore be given a higher priority and doing so will help to increase productivity.
This principle is a useful tool for you to analyse where your time is currently spent, and subsequently determine where it could better be directed to ensure time is spent wisely. The analysis also encourages users to search for simpler and easier methods that are less time consuming to complete each task.
6- Learn to Say No
While it’s great to be a team player, it’s also important to know when and how to be assertive and let people know you can’t handle their request at the moment if it conflicts with you achieving your goals.
If you do agree to take on the task, negotiate a deadline that helps them achieve their goals without sacrificing your own.
7- Escape Procrastination Using the 4D System
• Delete it: What are the consequences of not doing the task at all? Consider the 80-20 rule; maybe it does not need to be done in the first place.
• Delegate it: If the task is important, ask yourself if it is really something that you are responsible for doing in the first place. Can the task be given to someone else?
• Do it now: Postponing an important task that needs to be done only creates feelings of anxiety and stress. Do it as early in the day as you can.
• Defer: If the task is one that cannot be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.
8- Avoid multi-tasking
Psychological studies have shown that multi-tasking does not save time. In fact, the opposite is often true. You lose time when switching from one task to another, resulting in a loss of productivity (Rubinsteim, Meyer, and Evans, 2001).
Routine multi-tasking may lead to difficulty in concentrating and maintaining focus. Do your best to focus on just one task at a time by keeping your area clear of distractions.
To stop multi-tasking, try these tips: Plan your day in blocks and set specific time aside for meetings, returning calls, notifications on your devices.
9- Eat that Frog
To quote Brian Tracey from his book, “Eat That Frog,”
“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
Your frogs each day are the tasks that will have the greatest impact on achieving your goals, which are usually the tasks that you are most likely to procrastinate starting.
10- Snowball your tasks
Another option is to “snowball” your tasks by breaking them down into smaller segments, completing preparatory tasks, and eventually completing the larger task at hand.
Whether you choose the “eat that frog” or “snowball” method, try building in a reward system for completed tasks to help stay motivated.
11- The Glass Jar: Rocks, Pebbles, Sand
Categorize your work in this way:
• Rocks: Your most important strategic projects
• Pebbles: Projects and tasks that are important but not the most critical
• Sand: Smaller, more insignificant tasks
Tackle the rocks first. If you keep tackling the small things (the sand and pebbles), and not the important strategic items, the rocks, then your jar will quickly fill up with no room for more rocks.
12- Get Organized
To effectively manage your time and be productive each day, you must create the right environment.
Eliminate useless clutter, set up an effective filing system, have a nearby place for all the work items you need frequently, and utilize workflow management tools to help you create a productive environment.
13- POSEC Method
The POSEC Method is another popular method of personal time management. POSEC stands for Prioritizing by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing, and Contributing.
It is loosely based around Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” If you work through the POSEC steps correctly, you scale Maslow’s hierarchy to attain personal happiness.
The steps are as follows:
• Prioritize and define your goals and tasks. Order them in terms of the most important and achievable in the time allotted.
• Organize and figure out the best way to accomplish your everyday tasks, such as daily analysis and routine monitoring.
• Streamline and simplify the things you must do but don’t like to do, so you’ll have more time and energy for other things.
• Economize and reduce the things that are not urgent.
• Contribute: Achieving your tasks and goals should give you the opportunity to give back to society.
This method can be defined overall to break down your main goals into smaller tasks and minor goals. This makes it easier to handle one minor goal after another until the major goals are finally accomplished.
14- Action Priority Matrix
One of the ways to make the most of your time is to choose your activities intelligently. The “Action Priority Matrix” is similar to the important/urgent matrix we previously discussed, and it can help us to select activities intelligently.
To use the matrix, first score tasks based on their impact and second on the effort needed to complete them. Then use your scores to plot these activities in one of four quadrants:
• Quick wins are the most attractive projects, because they give you a good return for
relatively little effort. Focus on these as much as you can.
• Major projects give good returns, but they are time-consuming. This means that one
major project can “crowd out” many quick wins.
• Don’t worry too much about doing fill ins—if you have spare time, do them, but drop
them or delegate them if something better comes along.
• Try to avoid thankless tasks. Not only do they give little return, they also soak up time
that you should be using on quick wins.
To use the Action Priority Matrix:
- List the major activities that you want or need to complete.
- Score the activities on impact (0 for no impact to 10 for maximum impact) and on effort
involved (0 for no real effort to 10 for a major effort).
- Based on your scores, plot the activities on the Action Priority Matrix.
- Prioritize appropriately and delegate or eliminate less-impactful activities.
15- Caffeine Nap
This last technique is not a time management technique per se, but it’s a useful tip to feel refreshed so that you can keep going on. As oxymoronic as it sounds, a caffeine nap is backed up by scientific evidence. Studies have shown that the sleep-deprived need only a cup of coffee and 15 minutes of nap to feel amazingly refreshed.
So how does it work? After drinking a cup of coffee, immediately close your eyes and relax, limiting your nap to 15 minutes. Caffeine takes roughly 20 minutes to influence your body, and so not only will it not hinder your ability to sleep, but it will kick in about the time when you are awakening.
The result is a heightened state of alertness when you wake up, helping you to concentrate better. So, if you have been either downing cup after cup of coffee or sleeping the afternoon away, a combination of the two could work better for you.
Are there any of the above time management techniques you already using?
Is there any technique that I missed?
Please tell me in the comments section.
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