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The idea of effective time management is one that has left people with questions and confusion over the ages. Time as an invaluable tool is one that cannot be managed in the literal sense. It is a commodity whose usage cannot be handled, stored, or controlled like the others.
The rising challenge of having to cope with many activities in a day, while being compelled to achieve all, alongside the task of handling the many attention-seeking events- legitimate and illegitimate, makes the idea of effective time management even more elusive.
Time management, however, is a skill that must be acquired in order to navigate through life’s unending challenges and be wrapped in the euphoria of fulfillment and purposeful living.
What is time management?
“Time management” is the process of planning and organizing how to divide your time between specific activities. From the definition, we can make the following deductions:
Time management is a process: contrary to the erroneous view of many regards time management as a one-time process, it is, in reality, a process. This means that it is started somewhere and somehow, and one grows and progresses in the act.
It entails planning and organizing: this means a conscious effort that starts from the mind and translates to behavior. It is the intentional effort geared towards the arrangement of your time in a feasible way that makes for flexibility and the proper scaling of the most important and urgent activities, to the important but not urgent activities, to the urgent but not important activities, and to the unimportant and not urgent activity. And finally:
It also entails allocation of time to specific activities: here, time management at the discrete level of meaning entails the time allocation for each activity. This ultimately sums up to a chunk of activities and gives a parameter for measuring progress made.
From the foregoing, it can be learned that the idea of time management actually means or implies self-management- a term for energy deployment. Time cannot be managed. It is you that can be and should be managed in reality. This will take the form of conscious planning and organizing how you will divide your time between specific activities as seen in the definition above. To get this done, however, one needs to be armed with certain skills.
Important time management skills
Certain skills are needed for one to effectively manage his or her self, and consequently, manage his or her time. Have you ever wondered how and why certain people achieve more than others given the same time and resources to get certain things done? Well, it’s not far from what you are thinking. It’s the presence and the utilization of the following skills for managing Time that make the difference. What then are the skills?
As easy as this is or should be, it is a salient factor that plays a major role in the effective management of your time and even resources. The act of taking conscious daily decisions as to what to do, how to do it, and when to do it is key to effective time management. This creates in the individual the mental picture of a finished task even before it is started and creates a level ground for its actualization.
It is not surprising to find ineffective time management linked to indecision; because people that wallow in the mire of indecisiveness oftentimes tend to be dragged in the mud of ineffective time management, which ultimately leads to a lack of actualization of desired objectives and goals.
Wake up daily with the decision to live purposefully and do not linger at the crossroad of decision-making in the course of the day. This implies taking charge and responsibility for your life with the understanding that you own your life and that your time (the sum of which equals to life), is yours to be utilized and decide how you will manage yourself in that regard.
Failure to do this, however, will result in an outcome that stands in contradiction with your intentions.
Closely related to decision making or followed by it, is the act of feasible goal setting. Here, as a follow-up to your decision to manage yourself and achieve set objectives, you are admonished to set goals that can be and should be accomplished within a set time frame given all the necessary resources.
In goal setting, your goal must be ‘S.M.A.R.T‘. SMART is an acronym for:
S- Specific: your goals should be clearly defined and void of ambiguity. This covers what exactly needs to be done with precision rather than assumption.
Your goal should be boldly written in legible ink of specifications and it should make sense to you as an individual. This will enable you to channel your energies into its actualization and keep you focused while enabling you to effectively manage your time in the process.
M-Measurable: your set goal should be weighed in the balance of worth and significance. There should be in place, a parameter for measuring its authenticity and If found wanting, it should be discarded and replaced.
Goals that are expressed in isolation, oftentimes do not yield the desired results and do not make for effective time management. More often than not, useful time and energy are devoted to an adventure of futility.
Therefore, your goal-setting process should include or encapsulate a goal that is measurable in worth and effort.
A-Attainable: here, the goal should be put into a feasibility test. This is the all-defining part of the act of goal setting. A goal can only make sense if it is attainable.
The idea of outrageous goal setting only results in ‘ building a castle in the air ‘, which ultimately breeds frustration. This implies that your set goal should bear in mind certain factors that may serve as a deterrent to its possible accomplishment, and work towards the elimination of the defining factors in order to avoid disappointments as a result of wasted time and efforts.
The earlier a goal is set and defined attainable, the less time will be invested in an unprofitable venture, and the more you tend to manage yourself for its accomplishments, resulting in effective time management.
R-Realistic: closely related to goal attainment is reality. Here you measure your set goals by how much sense they make to you and their importance. A goal, as attainable as it may be, if found wanting on the scale of relevance, should be sidelined appropriately.
A realistic goal is one that is important and worth the time and effort and it is attainable.
When this is established in the mind, one gets geared up with fresh energies to get the task done thereby employing useful energy in good time- effectively managing yourself and time. Failure to settle this reality, however, only results in an inevitable end of wasted time.
T-Timely/Time-bound: a set goal should have a defined and limited time frame for its execution. This should be clearly expressed in the time allocation and deadline imposition. A goal without a time frame for execution is as good as no goal at all.
You should set time limits for your goals. This will help in no small way in managing yourself and employing your all into its actualization, which is the goal of time management.
Living with this consciousness makes you accountable for every second; this drags your focus into activities in line with your set goals.
This is the act or ability to scale things and activities in the order of relative importance; it helps us in defining and knowing that which is of utmost importance to us among many alternatives. We prioritize activities so that we can proportionately allocate time for them. Indeed, it is a skill needed for proper time management.
Life’s many demands and activities can be enticing and attention-catching, and anyone who delves into activities randomly as they happen only ends up mismanaging time; this makes you achieve close to nothing of relevance.
Our ability to scale our activities in the light of worth and urgency will help us effectively manage ourselves and our time. This will give us a focus and help eradicate the over wastage of time on inconsequential, and aid the employment of time on worthwhile activities.
Having the right priority mindset and skill, not only makes us able to achieve more in a limited time but also helps us to avoid the problems of confusion, inefficiency, and stress.
Daily make a workable plan for the line up of activities to be carried out and the order that they should base on their importance and urgency.
In this time management skill, the idea of multitasking will mean carrying along or engaging in more than one closely related activity in order to save the time of getting it done one after the other.
It should however be understood that multitasking can in a way be a source of limitation if not done the proper way. Depending on the personality and the tasks to be carried out, multitasking can be to your advantage or disadvantage. Someone with a short attention span should not consider multitasking as he or she tends to lose concentration and is unable to perform at optimum in the situation.
In the general sense, multitasking is best encouraged in the situation of similar activities that can make for easy delve into one another and be carried along. This makes time management and energy deployment a possibility.
This skill entails the ability to relinquish certain responsibilities to like-minded people who you trust can handle them effectively without much supervision.
Delegation often times, is associated with the control and authoritarian model of leadership, but its ideal meaning goes beyond that.
While it is advisable to put in time and effort in the course of going about personal activities, it is still wise to make people help out with certain responsibilities as long as they have the ability. This will go a long way in easing the stress of having to do everything by yourself, and save you the time that doing all of that will consume or demands, which is the goal of time management.
It is pertinent to note however that delegation can only be termed beneficial and effective if it has as delegates skilled and like-minded people depending on the complexity and nature of the task to be carried out.
Therefore, to maximally benefit from the time-saving advantage delegation offers, one must seek out and work only with those whose mind is in tune with the required expectation and whose skills and abilities match up with the task to be done. This can be achieved by consciously training people to act in a certain way you deem fit or you would ordinarily in order to avoid the setback that comes with having to engage in certain activities by yourself as a result of a flop from the delegation.
This is the process of planning your day and schedule with the mind of solving a particular problem or meeting a pressing need.
Scheduling your day with a target of meeting a need which premium is placed on, and rewards can be achieved from, whether a self-reward which can be in the form of fulfillment or a reward from any other person; has the potentials of making one effectively manage his or time and make possible the attainment of overall productivity.
Your problem-solving schedule list should be such that given the available human and material resources, you are able to achieve all of it while leveraging on the time and maximally utilizing it.
If we daily start each day or embark on each activity with the aim of solving a clearly defined problem or meeting a need, not only are we able to manage ourselves to bring it to fruition while managing our time, we are also able to lead more focused and productive lives as we will be wrapped in the euphoria of fulfillment with each passing day and at the end of life ultimate
Time Management Strategies
Having understood the skills needed to effectively manage your time, it is important to know the strategies the management. Below are practicable tips for time management that you can apply to your daily routine.
Tips for Managing Time
- Start your day with a clear focus: wake up each morning creating a mental picture of how your day should look like. Take 10 to 15 minutes of time out at the start of each day for meditating and organizing your day. In the early hours of the day when basically there is no such encumbering activity, one can utilize the time and properly plan the rest of the day. This will give you the needed energy and focus needed to run the day and help you effectively manage your time in the course of the day.
- Have a dynamic task list: here, you draw out a list of the task to be done and when there should be done. Your list should make provisions for impromptu demands, but try your best possible not to jump into any activity that was not featured in your list except it is a pressing activity. This will give you a sense of ownership of your day, and help and better manage your time.
- Focus on high-value activities: after making your list and drafting a plan to stick to it, it is important to focus on or give more time and attention to high-value activities as all activities do not weigh the same on the scale of relevance. Identify and utilize your most productive times in the day for such high-value tasks or activities. Activities with little or no value should be allocated minimal time and attention and vice versa.
- Break big tasks up into smaller chunks: enormous tasks should be done and undertaken in small chunks. This will make for optimum productivity and effectiveness while managing the time that gets wasted in the “bulldozer” kind of work activity. Be reminded that it’s not how much workload is carried on at a time that guarantees or defines time management, but how much of effectiveness in the space of proper timing that does the job.
- Take breaks when working: in order to avoid the wastage of time that comes about as a result of inefficiency or low productivity associated with lack of proper rest, one needs to pay close attention to rest and unwinding when necessary to avoid total breakdown and boost performance. The rest period should not be a condition for laziness and laxity, it should rather be a period of retreating and unwinding in order to bounce back even more effectively. As easy as it sounds, it enables one effectively utilize energy, time is better managed, and productivity is attained ultimately.
- Minimize interruptions: interruptions and distractions are, often times, inevitable obstructions we face in the course of the performance of an activity or undertaking a task. It is however in our power to minimize these distractions and interruptions and give as much attention as possible to the pursuit of that which matters to us. This can be done by moving away from places where such distractions abound, and being personally coordinated in order to avoid self-distraction and the interruptions which may occur as a result of such.
- Stop procrastinating: it is one thing to draft out a workable plan, given the necessary wherewithal and parameters in place, it is another thing however to press and see to its completion. The thin line in between or the tendency not to get it done can be attributed to procrastination. Procrastination simply implies pushing for another time (which one feels is more convenient), activities that can and should be done now. Procrastination is indeed a great enemy to time management, and to effectively manage your time, you must shun and avoid procrastinating. You must resolve that there is no better time to engage in or perform this particular task of great importance other than NOW! This way you are better able to manage your time and achieve more.
- Review your day: make a plan to take stock of how each day went and check flaws. Evaluate the feasibility of the task list made earlier in the morning and review it if need be. Admit flaws and inability to achieve the set goal. That way, you get renewed and better prepared for the next day’s undertakings.
Benefits of time management
Having looked at what time management entails and how one can effectively manage his or her time employing the necessary skills and strategies, it is also important to know and understand the many benefits that can be derived as a result of being able to properly manage your time. Below are the benefits of effective time management. The list is not exhaustive. Effective time management ensures:
- More productivity and efficiency: when time is effectively managed, it makes for more productivity and efficiency as it eliminates the situation of wastage of time, which is always evident in the case of improper time management, and channels the time into the performance of useful enterprises that makes possible efficiency and productivity.
- Provision of a better quality of work: effective time management can guarantee the provision of better quality work from a professional and a day-to-day standpoint. One will perform and provide better quality work in his or her undertakings when he or she effectively manages his or her time.
- Meeting deadlines and making delivery as expected: effective time management enables one to meet set deadlines and deliver as expected of him or her in the condition of necessity. When time is properly managed, it eliminates the syndrome of ‘last minute’ work and makes for adequate preparation, which leads to expected delivery on time and in time.
- Avoidance of stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety (with its many implications) which results from working under pressure, is and can be eliminated by effectively managing your time, and doing what is expected when due.
In conclusion, effective time management benefits on all sides. In addition to the above, it has a way of improving quality of life (by way of eliminating stress and anxiety), creating more opportunities and career growth, and giving creating more time for leisure and recreation.
The 21st century world with its many demands, distractions, and advancements can be successfully navigated and productively maximized by way of effective and proper time management. To be relevant, therefore, one needs to effectively manage his time or her time. And remember, it’s YOU that needs to be managed not time!