Ever wonder why some of us seem to be very busy, yet nothing is getting done—while others can get through a seemingly impossible amount of work, volunteer with their favorite charity, spend time with their family, exercise, read the latest best seller and still find time to just relax? How do some find time, while others continue to run out of it? Unfortunately time cannot be created, but it can be unlocked by successfully learning the art of time management.
Simply keeping track of what you do with your time is not time management. That would be like saying that keeping a food diary will ensure you lose weight. Unless you use that information to make changes to your diet, you won’t lose a single pound. The same is true for effective time management. It is a process that begins with an examination of your time management personality, an evaluation of the areas that can be improved, and the construction of a plan of action to improve your productivity, reduce stress and improve your quality of life.
Examination- What is your time management personality?
The Challenge Addict
Always in a state of crisis, this person lacks direction and will fall “victim” to bad planning and faulty estimating. By ignoring pertinent facts, they will consistently find themselves in self-induced crises. They enjoy flying by the seat of their pants and are addicted to the challenge.
This is the person who lives to work. They can’t rest and often take on more than they can handle, allowing work to overshadow anything else in their lives, including family. The paradox is that trying to do it all, without accepting help, often leads to procrastinating, and the workaholic will be forever behind—and under so much pressure that their chances of success are actually reduced.
They are the only ones capable of performing the task at hand. They are often worried about what others think of them and experience low self-esteem when they feel they have fallen short of their own impossible expectations. They take too much time on simple tasks, paying too much attention to details that have little or no effect on the finished product. The perfectionist is never satisfied, experiences high levels of stress, has a short temper and may even battle depression.
Tycoons have mastered time management to the exclusion of almost everything else. They have a distinct ability to compartmentalize their lives and focus completely on one aspect. While it may seem they have achieved mastery, it is at the expense of a happy and fulfilling life, in many cases.
Evaluation: Answer yes or no…
- Do you know what your “ideal week” looks like?
- Are you happy to delegate tasks to others?
- Do you prioritize your tasks easily?
- Do you clear out clutter (old files, paperwork)?
- Can you leave work at work and relax at home when you are home?
- Do you plan your day or your week?
“Yes” to the above questions is ideal. Congratulations, you are already a competent time manager.
“No” indicates areas that need improvement.
Create: Plan of action
Envision your “ideal week.” Write it down and be specific. Don’t just say, “I will get all my work done this week.” Start planning Friday afternoon for the next week. Review where you are on current projects, and decide where you want to be by the end of the next week. Create the week on “paper.” This is like saving all your open files and shutting off your computer. Clearing out the clutter in your mind makes for a much more relaxing weekend—you can start on Monday with a plan that your mind has already been working on for three days.
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if you allow yourself two hours for a task that can be completed in 30 minutes, you will invariably end up wasting the other hour and a half. The art of time management is to accurately gauge how long a task will take and to know how much you are capable of doing in a week. Consider both time and energy as factors. Most people can actually do only about half of what they think they can do. Prioritize by choosing the most important things and do those. Ask for help on the rest and delegate whenever possible.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself as you learn these new habits. You can’t go out and run a marathon on day one of training. It will take time on your feet, and your muscles need to adjust to the demands being placed on them. Practicing these tips daily will let you lead your life instead of life leading you.