Time management, what is it?
The pandemic, in many ways, has become the catalyst for individuals to focus on what matters and spend time more wisely. This is where time management comes into play. It’s a term to describe how individuals set, protect and adapt their time relative to the changes around them.
Time management is about aligning time invested in doing something with one’s goals or objectives, personally and professionally. Three fundamental principles (ROM) go into doing just that:
- Recognition: time is a finite non-renewable resource which necessitates prioritization
- Organization: tasks, activities, goals, and schedules are designed and organized
- Management: time expended is monitored, managed and adapted to the environment
These principles transcend life hacks and quick fixes. It’s best to look at these attributes as equally important in long-term time management. Let’s get into the “how” of it next.
Good time management practices
There are many ways to set goals, the traditional SMART and the extended PECSAW models are two. These tools support the organization principle by focusing on the what and how of tasks, activities or goals. PECSAW goes further than SMART by considering pursuit worthiness. But what about prioritizing or adapting as circumstances change in your world?
Applying ROM principles, in aggregate, leads to time management mastery.
So, the question is how do we improve time management skills?
It begins by recognizing one’s existing capabilities – strengths, weaknesses and potential blind spots. You can do this by:
- Asking others for feedback. It’s amazing how colleagues are eager to help point out, when asked, what needs improvement!
- Understanding your style. It helps you adapt your actions; because actions are the basis of the skill.
- Focusing on improving. Choose development areas within yourself that will give you the best return on effort investments.
Practical Tips to Improve Yourself
Let’s delve a little further into understanding yourself (sometimes referred to as self-awareness) and identifying steps for self-improvement:
- Understand working preferences – what time of day do you work best? Are activities and time slots then aligned according to your productive periods?
- Estimating time requirements – are you able to accurately estimate the time to complete a given activity? If not, how are you then incorporating actual experience into future time estimates?
- Attribute value to time – are you spending it wisely between must do versus nice to do activities?
- Focus on future time/effort not expended time/effort – is the future effort/time outcome we would forgo more or less valuable than the alternative things we could do?
- Prioritizing activities relative to objectives – is time being spent on delivering against things that matter in your work or personal life? Are you also avoiding the trap of working on urgent and unimportant things?
- Breaking down activities into smaller tasks – to avoid feeling overwhelmed (or paralyzed), are “big” steps broken down into smaller ones?
- Build in personal and non-negotiable time – how are you building in personal time (like working out or family time)? How are you also building in uninterrupted time to focus on intense activities?
- Short burst activity periods – for some, it helps to focus for 20-40 minutes at a time to avoid procrastinating with intense activities.
- Crack down on time-wasting – set social media and Smartphones to silent while working in critical periods to avoid distractions. Use organizational tools to help prompt action, such as calendar and reminder APPs.
- Contingency planning – always consider a variety of outcomes and plan for the best- and worst-case scenarios. Things can and do go sideways, just as Murphy’s Law predicts!
What’s next on your time management journey?
Weak time management skills lead to missing expectations, which then adversely impacts the perception that others hold of you. If an employer or client cannot rely on you to get something done on time, they will likely go and seek more suitable employees or take their business elsewhere. Either way, an undesirable outcome! So, wait no longer – strengthen this critical skill with these straightforward steps.
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