Time management is hard – Realistic approaches to time management in your day
The problem with time management techniques is I am sometimes too busy to keep them all up. They all work, and they all benefit your day, but the truth is that you can time manage yourself into having very little time left to do any work. For me, and I am sure there are people who will disagree, there is a danger of over managing yourself and ending up no better off than you were.
It’s about saving time for you
Time management should be about saving time for you, not about chopping around and trying the latest thing all the time. It’s rather like the fad diets you see people trying where they switch from this to that and never achieve their weight goal because they are too busy working on a new diet all the time. Your time-saving regime will need to be right for you, or it simply will not work.
Five different time management tools:
So, rather than write the usual time management hacks kind of article, I thought it would be interesting to write one that gives you five different time management tools and also be honest about their pitfalls. Try introducing them for a week or two each and see which one, or combination of them, works best for you.
- A, B, C list. This is probably the most common method people have of managing time and tasks over a day. You take a task and list it by importance with A being something that is important, through to C which is something that should really get done, but it isn’t going to bring the sky down if it doesn’t. The thing about A,B,C is that it really does work well. There are variants of the list where tasks are also listed by urgency. The potential downfall of the list is that you need to write it. It takes time, ironically, to write the list. It also works best if you have a lot of tasks.
- Ignore the emails and social media pings. In some ways, this is more of a concentration exercise than a time management one. Instead of spending time on an email or message as soon as it pings into your inbox leave it until a set time each day. This is actually rather a good method of making use of time rather than saving it. You still need the time to go through your messages, but you allocate it rather than have it interrupt the flow of your day. Unless you have a pressing need to respond to your mail and messages, it works well. The danger is slow response time. If the competition responds faster, then you could lose out.
- Organise your day. If you know what you will be doing and how long it will take then you should be able to organise a schedule for your day ahead. Allocate 1 hour for this task and 30 minutes for that and so on. If you always know where you are going, then it should be easier to get there. I will be honest though, this one doesn’t work for me. My day is too varied, and I need to put a huge section called ‘unknown’ on the plan. However, if you have a set series of tasks, it is perfect.
- Do away with everything except what you need to do. Look at what you need to do and only do the things that need doing. While this may sound obvious, it is harder than it seems. Take only the tea breaks you agree with yourself, don’t allow yourself to wander off for a chat by the water cooler and ignore any task that isn’t important to that day of work. The problem with this method is that it makes your day rather dull. Interaction and the occasional moment of off topic activity are all part of the day.
- Work less, say no and leave on time. While this sounds like the recipe for an unengaged workforce, it actually focuses you on managing your day more. “I am sorry, I am too busy” is difficult to say but it will mean you work less and more efficiently. This is all well and good, but the pressure to work more can be difficult to ignore and if you are in a workplace where it is the norm you may feel uncomfortable.
In the final analysis, you must choose an overall method that works with your lifestyle and your work environment. There is no point in adopting a time management method that extends your day or becomes a burden of stress.