Complete Guide to Time Management
It has often been said that time is our “most scarce resource”. Therefore, we all must invest in – and use it – prudently. When you think about it, all of us have basically the same amount of time. But you will still find many people saying they “do not have enough time”, or they “need more time”. Why is it that some people have no problems accomplishing their tasks in a specified amount of time, and others’ do?
In this article, you’ll learn about 1) time management basics, 2) what good time management is, and 3) tips on how to become better at time management.
TIME MANAGEMENT BASICS
Look at any established organization, and you are likely to find the following concerns explicitly addressed: human resources management for personnel recruitment, selection and hiring, financial management for budgeting, operations and performance analysis, and capital management for seeking funding and investments.
Time management is that discipline that focuses on planning the amount or length of time that will be spent on specific activities, often with the goal of increasing effectiveness and efficiency. Its earliest roots can be traced back to when Frederick Taylor developed his scientific management techniques for improving the productivity of workers on the job. Of course, the concept of time management has evolved, making it more systematic and logical in its approaches.
In business, time management refers to the allocation and distribution of time among activities that demand it, depending on a specific set of priorities. In this sense, time management may also be referred to as the “budgeting” of time, such that the right amount of time is allocated to the right task or activity.
Time Management as a Skill
Other than as a discipline, time management is also described as a skill or the ability to plan and consequently control the amount of time you spend in accomplishing your tasks. It boils down to how skilled a person is in his analysis of how his hours are spent on a specific activity. It also tells a lot about his ability to prioritize his tasks in an effort to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.
As a skill, time management is something that can be mastered with consistent practice and further developed over time (no pun intended). Once this skill has been mastered, our work and personal lives will be more organized, much easier to handle, more efficient, and definitely happier.
Two Focuses of Time Management
- Getting MORE THINGS done: You have a limited amount of time. Thus, you have to manage it so that you will be able to get a lot more work done within that limited time. In the past, when you used to barely finish two tasks in one hour, perhaps you can find a way to be able to finish three or four in the same amount of time. You can do that through time management.
- Getting the RIGHT THINGS done: It is possible that you may end up doing something other than what you originally set out to do. You planned to finish Task 1 in one hour. However, in the middle of that hour, your attention got diverted and you also started working on Task 2. When the hour was up, you ended up not finishing Task 1, and actually even had another (Task 2) pending. As a result, you did not finish anything. With time management, you may have been able to finish Task 1 before the hour was even up, and got a head start on Task 2.
Why is Time Management Important?
- To simplify things. You are practically dealing with clutter if you do not make an effort to organize your time. By setting up a timetable for you to follow, it is simply a matter of sticking to the plan and not getting sidetracked.
- To add structure to your day or life, in general. Again, there is less clutter, and everything is more organized. With a timetable or a plan in place, you are better able to see where you stand at the moment, where you aim to be at the end of the day, and how you will be able to get there.
- To increase efficiency. Work will definitely be facilitated, because there is less clutter to deal with. You can focus on the important things, the things that need the most attention, and leave the rest for later.
- To increase productivity. If you have a firm hold on your time and how you use it, you will be able to get more work done or show higher output. This is an offshoot of improved efficiency.
Skills required for time management
Effective time management begins and ends with a set of skills. The following skills encompass everything from planning your projects to prioritizing your workflow, and will help you become more effective at managing time.
As we’ve already touched on with the 4 Ds of time management, prioritizing your workflow is not just something that’s nice to have–it’s a must-have. This will help you when you need to focus on the things that matter and to put off the things that don’t.
Goal-setting is crucial in any project. Put your stated goals through the SMART framework. Ask yourself: are my goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound? If they’re not, consider rethinking them. It’s better to overthink than to underdeliver.
It’s often said that failing to plan is planning to fail–and in most cases, this is true. When you’re working from a solid plan, you’re thinking ahead, preparing for any number of eventualities, and creating contingency plans. You’re less likely to be caught off guard, and better equipped to cope with potential hiccups.
At times our workload can be so heavy that it’s not humanly possible to do it all by ourselves. In such testing times, we can share the burden by delegating tasks that are less important, or better suited to others. Don’t be afraid to ask a coworker to help you out. Just make sure you return the favor!
When the heat is on, it’s easy to get caught up and let your emotions get the better of you. Try not to let this happen. Take time to do nothing. Unwind. Your brain is like a sponge. It can only hold so much information at any given time. If you try to do too much, you’ll burn out. Everyone needs time off to stay on top of their game.
Procrastination and time management
Procrastination is everyone’s worst enemy. And often, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. It’s those fleeting moments where we’re idle–or worse, distracted by side quests that have little or nothing to do with the task in hand. Even if it’s just five minutes here and ten minutes there, these things eat into our precious time. And they all add up.
People procrastinate for different reasons. It could be that you’re putting off the task at hand because you’re unsure of a small detail. It could be because you have too much on your plate. Sometimes it’s because you don’t know how to prioritize your workflow. Other times you simply don’t want to do the work.
It’s also worth mentioning that a major cause of procrastination comes down to poor time management. Failing to plan for upcoming tasks and deadlines often leads to procrastination. Needless to say, this is a roadblock to productivity.
Visualize your task list
One way to counter your urge to procrastinate is to visualize your task list. Write down all the tasks and projects that you’re working on. Separate them into daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, and annual tasks. Sync these tasks with your calendar, and set reminders if needed.
Get rid of distractions
Another method of procrastination prevention is to get rid of all the distractions that stop you from doing whatever it is you have to do. Think social media, mobile phones, and unnecessary tabs. Banish anything that steals your attention.
Designate idle time
If you’re one of those people who find it hard to concentrate for an extended period of time, you could benefit with designated idle time. Set a timer. Do thirty minutes of work. Then rest for ten minutes. Repeat the process until you find the right balance of work and rest.
Take advantage of energy patterns
Throughout the day, our brain goes through periods of high energy and periods of low energy. Don’t waste the periods of high energy. Make sure you tackle the tough tasks when your brain is brimming with ideas. Then, during the periods of low energy, you can focus on the tasks that are less mentally taxing.
Regulate your energy levels
You can also help regulate your own energy levels by eating the right food at the right time and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This is crucial if you want to stay alert and productive. Too many people make the mistake of not eating at a set time–or eating the wrong thing. That’s how we end up in an afternoon slump.