“Oh God! There is so much work to do and so little time!”
How many times have we heard ourselves and almost everyone else say this?
We have 24 hours in a day and in those 24 hours we have to pack in so much – sleep, food, work, family and so on, that we are all the time rushing through things. As a result, we end up with loads of unfinished and inefficiently done work.
Yet, there are people who, in the same amount of time, manage to do a lot more work and that too productively. How do they do it? The answer lies in effective time management.
Management guru Peter Drucker says that “crisis management is actually the form of management preferred by most managers” The irony is that actions taken prior to the crisis could have prevented the fire in the first place.
What is Time Management?
An old Chinese saying that stresses the value of time goes, “An inch of time is worth an inch of gold; yet you can’t buy an inch of time at an inch of gold.” Many anecdotes praise those who use every “inch” or even “a tenth of inch” of time well.
Time management is about controlling the use of your time in order to be able to function effectively, even under intense pressure and be able to produce results on time. People who are able to do so are the ones who are the highest achievers in all walks of life.
On the other hand, lack of effective time management leads to last minute rushes to meet deadlines, days which seem to somehow pass by unproductively, crisis situations etc. which further result in inordinate stress and degradation of performance.
At the heart of the Time Management concept lies Self-Management. Time can’t be managed; it is ourselves and our use of time which needs management. This Personal Time Management underpins mainly managerial skills such as planning, delegation, organization, direction and control. It is about being Effective (having a desired effect), Efficient (being productive with minimum waste) and Effortless (being effective without having to put in extra, unnecessary effort)
How do we manage our time ?
The first step towards achieving effective time management is identifying “Time Wasters” or “Stealers”.
Given below are some of the more common time wasters:
- Frequent Interruptions – in the form of telephone calls, personal visitors etc.
- Lack of Priorities and Objectives – being unclear about the desired goals and not being able to distinguish between important and unimportant work.
- Procrastination and Indecision – wasting precious time by avoiding disagreeable tasks and not taking firm decisions.
- Ineffective Delegation – doing unimportant work yourself which can easily be delegated to subordinates.
- Attempting too much – many a times, we tend to take on a lot more work without giving ourselves enough time, which results in half finished projects and no feeing of achievement.
- Personal Disorganization and Lack of Planning – a cluttered desk, haphazard planning are also major contributors towards time wasting.
- Inability to say “No” – Many people are unable to say “no” due to fear of upsetting people. If people can dump their work on you, they will. As a result, your own work remains pending most of the time.
- Communication Failure – When working within a team, often unclear instructions and incomplete information leads to wastage of precious time.
After having identified some of the major time wasters, the next step involves taking corrective action.
Perhaps the most important step would be Goal Setting. Setting long-term as well as short-term goals helps you in concentrating and focusing your efforts on them. Successful people are able to define their objectives as clearly as possible and review them
Having an Action Plan for achieving your goals should follow. Prioritizing your assignments – doing the important and urgent work first and breaking down tasks into manageable parts, all form an important part of an effective plan.
At any given point of time, you should be concentrating on one task only, instead of trying to do many things together. This helps in focusing on the task at hand and finishing it quickly and efficiently.
Politely refuse other people’s requests, which do not fit with your goals and devote your entire energy and time to your own work.
Learn to delegate those routine tasks, which your subordinates can do almost as well as you would. This will give you time for the more important work at hand.
Avoid procrastination at all costs and however disagreeable the job is, just do it! An important and effective tool in Time Management can be making a “To-Do List” on a daily basis, spelling out the day’s goals, objectives, priorities etc. This will give you a ready plan to act upon, which can be reviewed periodically, thus ensuring that you do not digress away from your goals and that you utilize your time in a constructive and productive manner.
At the heart of time management is an important shift in focus:
Concentrate on results, not on being busy
Many people spend their days in a frenzy of activity, but achieve very little because they are not concentrating on the right things.
The 80:20 Rule
This is neatly summed up in the Pareto Principle, or the ’80:20 Rule’. This argues that typically 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of results. The remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort. While the ratio is not always 80:20, this broad pattern of a small proportion of activity generating non-scalar returns recurs so frequently as to be the norm in many areas.
Rational goals are the most clear and definite from the three types of goal setting listed above. The primary application of this kind of goal setting is for short range only. Each goal of this type should be formulated according to the SMART principles:
S imply stated and specific
A s if now: written in the present tense
R easonable and believable i.e., within your control and influence
T imed (with a date) and toward what you want
and it should answer the following questions:
Common Causes of Procrastination
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Distaste for a particular task
- Feeling overwhelmed by the whole task
- “I work best under pressure.”
- Waiting to “get into the mood.”
- Loss of motivation to complete the task
- Inability to see the task as important
Here are some strategies to manage procrastination:
1. Set priorities. The most important step is to pick one project and focus on it.
Not: I don’t know where to begin, so I can’t begin at all.
Not: I have to do EVERYTHING! Nothing else is worthwhile.
2. Break the task down into manageable amounts. I don’t have to do the whole task at once. I can take separate small steps to complete the task.
Not: There’s so much to do and it’s so complicated. There’s no way I can do a research paper in time.
3. Set small, specific goals. If I write 2 pages everyday, I can finish the first draft of my paper in two weeks with a week left to revise it.
Not: I have to write a major research paper in 3 weeks.
4. Take one step at a time. What is the next step on my list? I’ll concentrate on that step right now.
Not: It’s too much. I’ll never get it all done.
5. Reward yourself right away when you accomplish a small goal – I spent an hour working, now I’ll call a friend.
Not: I can’t take any time out until I’m completely finished.
6. Use a time schedule. I can use these times this week to work on my assignment: Monday 7-8, Tuesday 7-9, Saturday 10-12.
Not: I must devote the whole week to this project
7. Know where your time is going. I will look for resources using one database and then see if I have enough information to start on my paper.
Not: I’ll just go online, find a couple of good sites and then start my paper. Hours can pass when you are online. Set specific plans for your time online. Write out the goal of your search and refer back to it every 5 or 10 minutes. You can even set a timer to go off every 10 minutes as a reminder to check that you’re still on task.
8. Optimize your chances for success. I’ll start my research paper in the library.
Not: I’ll start my research paper on Sunday evening at home.
In an online course, a good example of optimizing your chance of success is planning to download a program, especially if you’ve never done it before, when technical help is available from your Internet Service Provider or the helpdesk. If you have problems, you will be able to get help at that time, rather than having to wait until the next day.
Another example is to schedule time to work on the course just before or during your instructor’s online office hours. You will be able to get answers to your questions when you need them, rather than being stuck until your question is answered.
9. Just get started. I’ll write what first comes to mind, then improve it later.
Not: I can’t write until I’m inspired and can write it all out perfectly the first time
Computers make revising your work easy. Although organizing your thoughts may be difficult later on, it’s usually easier to revise and add to existing work than to think up ideas from scratch.
10. Be realistic. I have limits. I can take on fewer responsibilities and still like myself.
Not: I should be able to work full-time, take classes, take care of my children, and spend time with friends with no trouble.
Tools and Techniques
Tips on daily planning, making the best use of your time, organizing office work, dealing with interruptions, dealing with paperwork, managing meetings, delegating effectively, through following techniques
- MISER concept (Merge, Improve, Simplify, Eliminate and Reduce the tasks)
- Dealing with your time wasters
- Day Time log Technique
- Owner’s Manual
- Hunting Technique
- Action Planning Worksheet
- Things to do today
- OPA(Outcome, purposeful , Action)
- Six Level of Initiative