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Time management

What is time management

We can get many different opinions on what time management is and how one handles time. Often employees and supervisors have different concepts of what time management is. There are times when parents and teens have a very different idea of time management. And, of course, spouses don't always read from the same page on managing time.
At one time or another most of us have had difficulty managing time. If we feel there is not enough time to get something done then our stress level increases. When asked to take out the garbage does that mean right this minute, in an hour, or when the garbage truck is coming down the street?

What does it mean when the boss says that she needs the report by the end of the week? The end of week could be Friday at 5 p.m. It could be Saturday at midnight which is the end of the calendar week. Or her idea of the end of the week could be Friday morning so she can review it before she needs to send it out.

There are some things we can do to better manage our time and to better understand what time means to others.

Understanding time

It is clearer and more precise to speak about time in terms of actual events of time. The boss saying that she needs the report Friday at noon is much clearer than needing it by the end of the week. Saying to a friend, "Let's play tennis next week" is very different from "Let's play tennis next Monday at 8 : 00 PM". You can help others by being specific when talking about time. Even if you are somewhat vague it is better to say, "Let's get together between 6 p.m. and 6:15 p.m." instead of "Let's get together about 6 p.m.

You can add clarity to statements that may have different interpretations by talking in terms of specific time frames. "Please wash the dishes before you go to bed" is clearer than "Please wash the dishes".

Management of time

No one has exactly the same idea of what constitutes perfect time. Much of it comes down to whether your relationship with time is a happy one. Are you able to meet your work obligations, enjoy the company of others, and take good care of yourself? Or do you find that you have a high level of stress because your boss is asking for something 20 times or you are regularly paying late daycare fees because you can never get there by closing? There is no "one size fits all" for time management. Here are some principles that may be beneficial :

  • Planning :  Planning is central to time management. It is helpful to plan ahead not only for meetings and activities but for long term projects. Time management usually doesn't work if it is written in stone. There needs to be some flexibility worked in for the realities of changes, interruptions, delays and reprioritizing. There are times when the best schedule has to be thrown out the window.
  • Segmenting : Breaking tasks down into segments can make things go smoother. A large task or project can seem daunting. Breaking it down into components makes the process easier and probably reduces the stress level. If you have a hard time getting started on something it may be better to look at it in terms of segments.
  • Realistic Time Frames : It is important to give yourself and others reasonable time frames for activities and tasks. Build some additional time into your schedule. Try not to over-commit your time. It is better to anticipate something taking longer and finishing earlier than to underestimate time and have to take time from something else. Your boss will be much happier if you bring a project in under the estimated time instead of him waiting while you finish it up.
  • Saying "No" : Many people have a hard time saying "no". It is a talent worth developing if you want to manage time effectively. People who are unable to say "no" often endup resentful, overstressed, and unhappy. Be able to say "no" if you already have too many things going on. Maybe it is time to say "no" to someone who is always asking for help but is never available when you need it.
  • Prioritizing : Make a list of things that are upcoming for the day. Are there things that can wait? Do some of the items on the list take on greater priority than others? Get items off your list that are most important or have been on the list for a while.
  • Does It Feel Right : Don't feel that you have to do a variety of tasks each day. Someday we may feel extra energy. That may be a good time to focus on tasks that are more challenging or require more creativity. If you didn't sleep well or are not feeling well it may be a good day to get rid of some of those tasks that don't require much thought or high energy.
  • Technology : Use technology to help you keep track of time and things on your schedule. If you aren't using computer software to schedule your time then consider looking at what programs are out there. Most companies already have some type of scheduling software for employees to use. Buy a PDA [personal digital assistant]. They come with pre-installed software that will allow you to schedule events and transfer the data back and forth to a computer. You can create lists of phone numbers, contacts, friends, your anniversary, etc. Sometimes using technology can add a certain level of fun to mundane tasks.

Do's and don'ts of scheduling:

  • Block out time that can't be interrupted to accomplish tasks that need your full attention
  • Push yourself to stay with a project until it is completed [as long as it is reasonable in length]
  • Work with your internal clock. If you are a morning person take advantage of that time to do your most difficult work.
  • Do not schedule every minute of the day. Emergencies can be plugged in if need be.
  • Don't forget to schedule family time and time for self.
  • Keep things in perspective

Time management bullets

History Lesson : The 19th century Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, identified was is now called Pareto's 80/20 rule. It states that 80% of all that happens at work is really the result of 20% effort. For example, you may spend 80% of your time working on 20% of your job description. With you goals in mind,you can be 80% effective by achieving 20% of your goals. If you have a daily to-do list of 10 items, you generally can expect to be 80% effective by successfully completing only the 2 most important items on your list.

10 Major time wasters:

External influences

  • Telephone interruptions
  • Meetings
  • Visitors
  • Socializing
  • Lack of information
  • Excessive paperwork
  • Communication breakdown
  • Lack of policies and procedures
  • Lack of competent personnel
  • Red tape

Internal influences

  • Procrastination
  • Failure to delegate
  • Unclear objectives
  • Failure to set priorities
  • Crisis management
  • Failure to plan
  • Poor scheduling
  • Lack of self-discipline
  • Attempting to do too much at once
  • Lack of relevant skills