Health & Fitness
Time Management: So Much To Do, So Little Time
April 24, 2018
So much to do, so little time. It’s the most commonly heard complaint in this increasingly hectic age, both at work and at home. It seems 24 hours in a day just isn’t enough anymore. Workloads are getting heavier, staffs are getting smaller and deadlines are getting tighter…
Don’t worry, though. There really is no need to panic – just as long as you know how to manage your time effectively. It sounds easy enough, but there are secrets to learn and skills to master.
There are a number of steps to good time management, but lesson number one is analysis. Before you can find ways to manage your time more effectively, you need to analyze how you’re spending your time now. You’ll be surprised at the difference between how much time you think you spend on certain things compared to the reality!
Keep a log or list of everything you do throughout the day. This will give you accurate data on how you’re spending your time, with whom, where, when and so on. Once you have an accurate list of where the time went, it’s a relatively simple matter to analyze the data and identify where time is wasted.
Once you’ve identified the problems, it’s time to work on some solutions. First, look for tasks, or even parts of tasks, that you can delegate to someone else. This will immediately create some extra space in the day. Next, look at what’s left on your list and identify some priorities. Which are the high-value items on the list? These are the things you should spend more time on. As for the low-value tasks, make a decision as to whether they’re really important enough to warrant a place on your list at all.
One thing that is really important to remember is not to eliminate all idle time from your plan. Breaks are important for maintaining your productivity – if you let yourself get burned out, even the simplest tasks will take twice as long as they should. Treat breaks as an investment in good time management, not as a time waster.
Do the analysis again in a month or two to monitor how much progress you’ve made and to identify additional measures you could take to make the most of your time.
We often treat paperwork as something we can fit in around other commitments, but this approach just ensures we never have enough time to get it all done. If you use a weekly planning guide – which is a great time-management tool in its own right – you can get a bird’s eye view of the week ahead. And just as you make sure you include important activities, meetings, phone calls in your planner, make sure you also schedule adequate time to complete your paperwork.
Always think in terms of priorities… Too often we confuse urgent with important. Not all deadlines are created equal. Some can be moved. Some really don’t matter very much. What you want to focus on are the things that are urgent and important, and sort your paperwork and mail according to those priorities.
There are ways to save time while you prioritize, too. When you receive new paperwork, don’t waste time reading the fine print until you’ve determined you really need to. How do you do that? Learn to skim read. Scan the table of contents, then the chapter titles, headlines, key tables and figures and you’ll get an understanding of what the document deals with. If, having done this, you decide the document deserves your full attention, you can take the time to read it in detail.
A good filing system can solve a lot of time-management problems, too. Without one, you can spend as much time hunting down various documents as you spend actually dealing with them.
You can’t do everything yourself. We mentioned above the value of delegating, but this means more than just farming out work to those around you. You want to make sure the job is done well, or you may spend more time cleaning up the mess than you’d have taken to do the job yourself.
First, carefully define the task to be delegated. What are the expected results? What are the limits of authority? How should the task be approached? Next, choose someone you trust and who you feel is suitable for the job. You need someone who has the ability, training, interest, motivation and the necessary time to do the job and to do it well. Next, you need to clearly communicate the task to the person and make sure you follow up on the result and give the person constructive feedback.
There’s an old story about a really shy guy who falls in love with a young woman. He sensed she felt the same way, but he couldn’t find the courage to ask her out. Finally, he decided he would mail her a love letter every day for a year, and then ask her out on a date. Faithfully, he followed his plan, and at year’s end he was courageous enough to call her – only to discover she’d married the letter carrier. Oh, the risks of procrastination…
If you have a habit of procrastinating, it can be a hard one to break. It’s not impossible though, and the rewards are worth the effort. We have some tips to help you. The key to breaking the procrastination habit is recognizing when and why you procrastinate. Look back at the activity log you kept. Which tasks are you putting off? When do you usually procrastinate? Is there a pattern? Identifying the procrastination traps helps you avoid them.
Finally, experiment with solutions to find the ones that work for you. Working with a partner might help you stay focused. Perhaps starting the tasks you usually avoid with something enjoyable will help you make that first step, or perhaps this is part of your procrastination problem – you never get past that first step. In that case, you might do better to simply bite the bullet and get the worst over first, leaving the more enjoyable tasks till last as a reward. You might find it helps to prepare really thoroughly for the tasks you tend to avoid, and to wait for a time when you are rested and energetic to tackle them. Or this might be where you run into trouble and you’d do better to simply wade straight in and make as much progress as you can straight off. Every person is different, so you’ll need to tailor an approach that works for you.
Once you’ve practiced and mastered these skills, you should find it much easier to manage your time effectively. Remember to concentrate on effectiveness and spend your time doing things that will advance your high-priority goals. Do the things you really want to do and reward yourself along the way. You deserve it!
Special thanks to Business Unlimited
13 Key Time Savers
Learn to set priorities
Start with priority tasks
Fight procrastination – do it now if it’s important
Subdivide large, tough tasks into smaller, easily accomplished parts
Establish a quiet hour for yourself
Find a hideaway
Learn to say “no” when you have something important to do
Learn to delegate
Accumulate similar tasks and do them all at one time
Minimize routine tasks
Avoid over commitment. Be realistic about what you can do in the time available
Don’t over schedule. Allow some flexible time for crises and interruptions