Time management systems will vary from person to person and so they should. Your Time management system should be unique to you. However, regardless of what system you use, there are three key time management skills that you need to become proficient in. Goal setting, Prioritising and Organising.
My definition of time management is doing things, for the right reason, at the right time and in the right way. The time management skills listed below are fundemental in achieving this.
Time management skills
Time Management skill 1 – Goal setting
Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement. – Brian Tracy, Eat that Frog
We need to be doing things for the right reason, and that means setting goals. Every task should be linked to goals and objectives, whether they are short term, medium or long term.
We should always be asking ourselves the question. Is what I’m doing or about to do, getting me closer to my goals and objectives? If it’s not, then why are you doing it? It may be a case that it must be done and you must do it. If that’s the case, just be aware that doing it isn’t getting you to where you wish to be.
Remember though that setting achievement goals are only one of three types of goals we should be setting. The others being preservation and elimination goals. Read more about setting these types of goals here.
Time Management skill 2 – Prioritising
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Goethe
Once we have set goals and know why we are doing things. We need to make sure that we are doing them at the right time. This means prioritising tasks. By prioritising tasks, you will always be focusing on the tasks that are the most important at that moment in time.
In the book How to Think and Act Like a Chief Executive the author C.Ray Johnson states the importance of prioritising. He says “Prioritizing is the answer to time management problems – not computers, efficiency experts, or matrix scheduling. You do not need to do work faster or to eliminate gaps in productivity to make better use of your time. You need to spend more time on the right things…”
When it comes to prioritising your workload, it’s worth keeping the Pareto principle, (better known as the 80/20 rule) in mind. In time management terms, it means that 20% of your tasks will bring you 80% of your results. So, you shouldn’t be doing any tasks in the 80% until you’ve done those in the 20%.
One of the more well-known prioritisation techniques is the Eisenhower model. Made famous by Stephen Covey in his book First things First. The model says that you can place tasks in one of four boxes depending on the urgency and importance of a task. Many of our tasks may seem equally urgent and important. However, on closer inspection you may discover that many of the tasks we class as urgent are not important. Whilst, things that are most important for us, like spending time with family and on hobbies, often are not urgent. Another way of prioritising tasks is according to the amount of effort that is required to complete them and the impact that they will have.
Many people spend most of their time on big projects or tasks which may be high impact, but they are also high effort. It may be worth spending a few moments identifying tasks which give you quick wins. These tasks are low effort and high impact and can help you to maximize your productivity.
Time Management skill 3 – Being Organised
For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned. – Benjamin Franklin
So far, we have explored the Time management skills of goal setting and prioritisation. Now we come to the vital third time management skill, that of organising. In time management terms this skill is about doing things in the right way.
Far too many people waste time due to a lack of organisation. They jump around from one task to another and back again, never really completing anything. A prime example is managing things like email and phone calls. In many instances your lack of organisation is inadvertently giving other people permission to manage your time for you.
Try to organise like tasks together. Do you have lots of calls to return, do them at a set time and altogether. If the person you’re trying to contact isn’t there. Don’t leave a message asking them to call you back. Instead state what you need to talk about and give them the time that you’ll call back. 90% of the time they will be waiting for your call.
Deal with your emails at set times of the day, answer them all together in one batch. Use a filing system for your emails that works for you. Nn average we spend an hour a day searching for things that have been filed incorrectly. Keep your desk and office organised and tidy so that you know where everything is.
Which of the above time management skills do you need to work on? Let me know in the comments below.
Till Next Time
Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor