Working towards effective time management

Compiled from articles written by Angela Booth, Gabe Wahhab, Donna M. White and Jane Collingwood

IDENTIFYING THE TIME STEALERS

Either the day runs you or you run the day. Poor time management can reduce productivity and create stress.
It should be crystal clear by now that the most common time stealers are:

  • Not knowing what to do or how to start
  • Task repetition
  • Procrastination
  • Undue attention to Interruptions
  • Being unable to access the right information

If we underestimate the time it will take to complete tasks, we add unnecessary hassle to our day, throwing out our schedule for hours and even affecting the following day.

DEMYSTIFYING TIME MANAGEMENT

We all have 24 hours in the day, but some of us feel we have no time while others seem to get everything done and still have time for relaxation. Demystifying the myths of time management will provide clarity on the importance of time management.

  • No one can manage time à Time management is about managing your own life. You will be surprised how many minutes and hours are released once you start to act more deliberately and consciously.
  • Time Management will make me work harder. à Elimination of the unnecessary tasks or the so called ‘time stealers’ is the aim.
  • Everything according to the schedule will deprive me of freedom and choice. à Time management does not limit freedom but rather creates it.

If you are in the habit of pushing yourself too hard because of unrealistic expectations and standards, time management skills can help avoid these hassles and work as a valuable stress management tool. The effort involved will be worth it for the sense of accomplishment it helps generate.

WORKING THE SHIFT

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt is that without good time management skills you are likely to fail and never achieve what you intended to do. In one of my first articles, I spoke about the dangers of procrastination but today, I would like to explore a few different ways to improve your time management skills.

  • Pick your moment

All of us have times of day that we work better. It’s best to schedule the difficult tasks for those times. However, you also need to schedule things that need doing at particular times, like meetings, or a trip to visit a client.

  • Don’t procrastinate, but do ask why you are tempted

If a task is genuinely urgent and important, get on with it. If, however, you find yourself making excuses about not doing something, ask yourself why. You may be doubtful about whether you should be doing the task at all. Take time out to clarify your thoughts.

  • Ask for help when and if needed 

Sometimes, we waste time desperately trying to figure out how to do something instead of simply asking for help.  Colleagues’ assistance is one of the most valuable assets that we should learn to make use of. Requesting help doesn’t only save time, it will also ensure that the work is done by a professional.

ESSENTIAL TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS

I have outlined the essential time management practices which play a critical role in determining your productivity levels.

  • Goal Setting
  • Prioritization
  • Effective Planning
  • Delegation/outsourcing
  • Focus to reach Completion
  • Stress Management
  • Working effectively with others
  • Minimizing Distractions

However, time management skills are like shoes or a good pair of jeans, you may have to try several pairs before you find just the right fit. They’re different for each person and you have to find what works best for you. In addition, as you move up your organization or, if you go down the path of the entrepreneur; there will be nobody standing over you to hold you accountable on a daily basis. You will be totally responsible for your own results. Below are a few skills that work for me.

Stay Calm and Keep Things in Perspective

Unless you hold some magical power, and if so please enlighten me, everything cannot be finished at once. The first step towards effectively managing time is to take a step back and think clearly. Rushing into any situation without poise can make even the easiest task feel impossible.

Self-awareness

No two people like to work the same way. We all have our own preferences for how we like to work e.g. some people work best in the mornings while others prefer to work late. We are motivated by different things and like to work in our own way. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is quite healthy. It just means that you need to have a good understanding of your own likes, dislikes, and needs. When you have a high level of self-awareness, you are able to take the very best time management advice and tailor it to fit your own style.

Self-motivation

You will have days where you do not want to do anything. You may be sick, tired, bored or simply lacking motivation. On days like this, there is little that anyone else can do to get you going. You need to be able to motivate yourself to take action, even though you’d rather not. If you have improved your self-awareness, you will have a great deal of the information that you need to motivate yourself.

Growth Mindset

Time management is not just a behavioral skill. It is cognitive too. Your thinking and mindset play a massive role in determining your results. Knowing how to cope with setbacks will help you bounce back quickly and reduce the amount of time lost when things go wrong.

Determine what time in the day you will set aside for each task

Morning time is usually the best time to tackle your most difficult and highest priority tasks. As the day wears on and you wear down, you can then work on the other tasks requiring less mental effort. Now you're ready to begin your day.

Make use of the Idle Time

If you are conscious of how you spend your day, you would realize that there is a portion that is some amount of idle time that can be put to productive use. Be aware.

Decision making

You will have to make important decisions e.g.: which task to do, which tasks do not get done, when a task is completed, which meetings to attend, etc. It is imperative that you are able to consider the consequences and make effective, clear decisions questioning and challenging

Questioning and challenging

Quite often, people delegate work to you because it is convenient; not because it is the correct course of action. Questioning and challenging are essential skills if you want to improve your time management skills. Eliminating work that you should not be doing is the beginning of prioritization. Never accept a task until you are crystal clear about what is expected.

CONCLUSION

In the quest for better time management, we have been flooded with a large variety of gizmos, tools, and programs invented to help us more effectively manage our time. These tools and programs make great claims, but most fail to help us achieve that ultimate “nirvana” of time management that we desire. Many people think that time management skill is all about getting more work done. On the contrary, it is about ensuring that you get the important work done.

I challenge you to start today by implementing these techniques. If you learn to do them and do them well, you'll be able to use some of that new found time for some much needed personal and family enjoyment.

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