at TISS, Patna, India
Dr Pauldy Otermans
Chair & Principal, Otermans Institute
Lecturer (Education), Brunel University London
Deputy Chair GU, University of Cambridge
Are you that person who always has to run to be on time for the next meeting in your calendar? Or are you that person who is given a 30 minutes earlier meeting time by friends so you are not late? Or are you that person who has missed many trains or flights because you were late? If you are any of these people, this lesson is perfect for you! In this lesson of ‘lessons for humanity’, we will be talking about time management.
We all have heard about the term time management and some of us are better at it than others. Even if you are good at it, maybe some of these tips will help you become even better. Time management is the process of deciding in which order you will perform a set of tasks and making sure that all tasks are done on schedule; on time. Why do employers give such emphasis on time management? Well, before giving some tips and showing the benefits these can bring, let’s discuss some consequences of having poor time management skills.
1. Wasted time: This is probably the worst thing that happens with poor time management skills. Time is just wasted! This often happens, for instance, when we aimlessly scroll through social media. You are distracting yourself and thereby wasting time. Remember, time is the only asset in life you can never recover.
2. Poor work-flow: Not planning ahead and creating a schedule can lead to poor efficiency. For example, if you need to complete several important tasks, an effective way to do this is to combine relevant tasks together and complete them in a sequential order. Otherwise you might have to jump back and forth between tasks that could have, for example, been solved simultaneously. This will only slow you down, stall your work and lead to lower productivity and frustration.
3. Poor quality of work: Rushing to complete your tasks at the last minute to make that deadline, usually means a compromise on the quality of your work, as there is not enough time to complete it thoroughly and to the appropriate standard. Even if the standard turns out to be good, we at Otermans Institute always instruct that it is good practice to go over your work with a fresh mind the next day before you make your submission; and you need time for that.
4. Lowering expectations of you: If people cannot rely on you to complete your tasks in a timely manner, their expectations on you drop. This can have a direct effect on both your personal and work life.
1. Use a diary or planner: This can be done online or using the old-school method on paper. By planning your days carefully, you can see whether you have an option to squeeze in that extra task or meeting you were thinking about. Always be careful to also allow time to go from one task or meeting to the other. This does not only include physical walking time, but should also include your free mental time. By that we mean the time it takes you to close your mind’s involvement with activities from task 1 before moving and opening up your to get involved with task 2.
Tip: Start using a diary to keep track of how you spend your time this week in order to better plan for the weeks ahead.
2. Make a to-do-list: A lot of people like to make to-do-lists. The nice thing about to-do-lists is that you can tick of the items that you have done and this gives a very satisfying feeling! Also it makes your list of work more tangible and accountable.
However, to-do-lists can also become very disorganised. Many people use post-its, loose paper sheets to write down to-do-lists or simply message themselves on the phone. Being disorganised can result in us loosing track of the things we need to do as it can become overwhelming when, for instance, the number of post-its on your desk grows considerably like in the image above. This is another thing with to-do-lists: Instead of becoming shorter, they often tend to become longer and longer which can be quite demotivating. We at Otermans Institute propose the following to circumvent this:
Use one notebook or diary where you keep track of all the things you need or want to do and split these in categories for instance “work”, “project 1”, “project 2” and “personal”. Then use a separate notebook where you write down a daily to-do-list. In this way, your work becomes more manageable and realistic, and you will actually be able to tick off all the items on your daily to-do-list. This method keeps your long term and short term tasks separate and more manageable.
3. Reduce your interruptions: When you set time aside to complete your tasks, make sure you don’t get interrupted or distracted during that time. This could mean telling people that you should not be disturbed for the next hour, or that they should first knock or raise their hand before they want to “interrupt” you with their query. This can also mean turning of email and social media notifications so those emails that keep popping in won’t distract you. Some people even schedule in specific times during the day to answer emails; you can listen to an interesting take on this in the podcast below. For example, you can create a system similar to checking emails at 9am and 4pm to avoid getting stuck in endless email chains. Make a system that works for you!
Is It Time to Just Ban It?
Courtesy Harvard Business Review
4. Know your prime time: Your prime time is the time of the day when you perform at your best. It is the time when you have the most energy and thus the biggest chance to be productive. Prime time is something personal and is different for everyone. Some people work better in the morning, some better in the evening. Prime time can also be different for different tasks. Some people read better in the morning and write better in the afternoon. Experiment with this to find your own prime time!
5. Prioritise cleverly: Prioritising your tasks is very important in time management. The most well-known way to do this is by using the 2x2 Eisenhower matrix. This is sometimes also called the urgent-important matrix and helps you decide on and prioritise tasks based on urgency and importance. This will allow you to sort out less urgent and less important tasks, or tasks you should not do at all and those that you could delegate to others. You can do this daily on your to-do-list. An Eisenhower matrix looks like this:
By following these tips, you will see that good time management skills can lead to several benefits including:
• Delivering your work on time to the required quality.
• Increased efficiency and productivity.
• Reduced stress and anxiety: For example, when crossing off items on your to-do-list, you see that you are making progress. This will create a happy feeling, will motivate you to keep going and reduces stress or worry about not being able to complete the task at
hand; the exact opposite feeling from a piling list of pending tasks.
• More free time to spend on leisure, family and self-development activities.
1. Identify your own prime time.
2. Create an overview of all the tasks you need to do and put them in the Eisenhower matrix to prioritise.
3. Plan your next week taking into account your prime time and the results from the Eisenhower matrix.
1. Introduce the Eisenhower matrix to every member of your family. Discuss each other’s prime time. When you are aware of each other’s prime time you can take that into account when planning your tasks and working with each other.
2. Plan the tasks that need to be done in the house together, so that nobody can use the excuse that they do not have time for these chores or did not know about them!
Take Control of
Courtesy Harvard Business Review
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