Time management is not cramming more into your day. Time management will help you spend your time according to your goal.
Effective time management is essential to attain your career and personal goals.
If you are unclear about what you are trying to achieve, it is difficult to achieve it.
We all have twenty-four hours in a given day, seven days in the week, and fifty-two weeks in the year. Our time needs to be managed effectively and efficiently to meet work goals and priorities, balance work and personal life, reduce stress and increase motivation.
Time management entails selecting the most relevant task to complete from all the possibilities available, and then by doing it in the best possible way. Action needs to be planned. Action is not an end in itself, rather a means to attain a goal.
There are misconceptions about time management. Examples include:
- ‘I work better under pressure; time management would take away that edge.’
We need to control how we use our time to reduce stress and produce higher-level outcomes. Both urgent and the longer-term important tasks need to be completed.
- ‘Time management takes away one’s freedom and spontaneity.’
When we control our time to reach our goals, we spend our time to its fullest advantage, rather than ‘firefighting’ issues.
- ‘Time management takes time I don’t have!’
Research shows that investment in planning gives us more time. We need to invest time to use our time effectively – doing the most important things first, and efficiently – in the quickest and best way.
In the workplace, we are under pressure to maximise our time to achieve set outcomes. This is easier said than done when we are confronted with time wasters. Sometimes, these can be unavoidable. Other times, these can be overcome with a change in approach. The first step is to identify these time wasters. Examples include:
- Information overload with emails or paperwork
- Difficulty saying ‘No’
- Telephone calls or meetings that are unfocused and too long
- Doing too much at one time
Time management problems are caused in two ways:
- Internal problems – problems that are within one’s control. These include lack of self-discipline to work, procrastination, failure to delegate, or being interruption prone.
- External problems – problems that are beyond one’s control. Examples include phone calls, over-dependent/untrained staff, or lack of support.
Aim to view the time management problem as being internal rather than external. By internalising our time management problems, we are able to have greater control and improve our time usage. Conversely, when time management problems are regarded as being external to ourselves, many believe things just happen with little control. This refers to the internal and external locus of control.
Five strategies to manage time
Time management strategies assist us to focus our energy on the important tasks at the right time to achieve better results. Below are five strategies to assist you.
1. Set goals
Realistic and achievable goals help you to manage your time and provides a focus for your activities. Set goals that are SMART:
Specific – Specify what you are going to do.
Measurable – Goals can be measured.
Attainable – Goals can be achieved within the time frame. Ensure that the goal stretches you, but is also achievable.
Realistic – You are willing and able to complete the tasks to achieve your goal, and the timing is realistic.
Timely – Allow enough time to complete the task, and for changes along the way.
2. Make a ‘To Do’ list and prioritise your tasks
List activities and tasks that you need to complete. All the activities that we undertake have a relative value. Therefore, you can accomplish more and move towards your goals if you prioritise your tasks/activities using a priority system of A, B and C tasks.
Category A – Essential and urgent tasks
These include: assisting customers, addressing staff management issues, dealing with a workplace issue or problem.
Category B – Essential, non-urgent task
These include: working on projects that are longer-term, or spending time with family and on your health.
Category C – Remaining tasks that don’t fit into categories A or B
These include: distractions from staff or technology, responding to emails, or dealing with responsibilities that arise.
3. Learn to say ‘No’
Recognise the reasons that this is a problem. It may be a way of:
- Avoiding difficult and unpleasant tasks
- Trying to be nice
- Avoiding conflict
- Fearing the consequences
- Trading short term gratification for longer-term self-respect
To help to say ‘no’, identify the important things in your career and in your life. These are the bigger picture ‘yes’ values. Then, you can say ‘no’ to those things that do not fit with these values.
Many people are uncomfortable with saying ‘no.’ It takes time and practice but is worth the effort.
4. Remove distractions
Unfortunately, distractions are part of the course! Examples of distractions include interruptions with questions or work/personal ‘drop-ins,’ text messages, colleagues who are loud with their conversations, social media or other websites, or personal email.
Distractions can cause stress and lead to poor performance. We have a responsibility to manage or avoid distractions by creating time and space and limiting technology to help focus on our work.
5. Match your energy level to complete tasks
Our energy level will vary during the day. This is natural. Use the body’s guide to suit your tasks and activities. During your peak energy time when you are most alert, undertake the tasks that require greater attention. This may include writing a document, analysing data or interviewing/meeting another party. It may help reduce the time spent completing the task. During lower energy times, undertake less demanding tasks such as photocopying or filing. Consider taking a break to pick up your energy.
By managing our time to achieve the goals that we seek, we are able to master our time, improve our wellbeing, and achieve success. What challenges do you face to manage your time?
Connect with Leah Shmerling via LinkedIn and website careercoachingandtraining.com.au, and check out the blogs.
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and Training and has over 30 years’ experience in career development, life coaching, education and training. Leah is the author and publisher of the nationally accredited online short course Foundations in Career Development Practice.
Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a Certified Retirement Coach and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.
Leah can be contacted by email. More about Crown Coaching here.
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