Time management is typically defined as the process of exercising control over the amount of time we spend on specific activities — more specifically in how we can increase our own efficiency and productivity. There are a number of ways that one can increase their time management skills, a number of tools to help, and certainly a large number of books designed to do just that. It is interesting to note, however, that there are so many materials on time management, yet almost everyone seems to have, at least some time in their life, problems and issues with time management at home or at work, and a constant struggle to “add” more time to their lives. And what is the reason for this? Is it endemic to humans? Were primitive people rushed for time? Or, are the sweeping changes in society and the global marketplace causing us to try to do more things within a smaller amount of time? (Time Management and Personal Productivity, 2011).
Indeed, one of the seminal questions about contemporary life is that life seems far more rushed than ever — even though the statistics say that we have more leisure time available — about 45 minutes more per day than our grandparents did in the 1950s and 1960s. However, the real key is how we utilize that free time, whether it is free time or not, and what things we tend to cram into the day that were not available 40-50 years ago. For instance, we now have 24/7 cable channels, hundreds of them; the Internet, computer gaming, friends across the globe, and hours upon hours of television. Programming may not have been as sophisticated 50 years ago, and there were certainly far fewer programs to watch, but most Americans spent far more time outdoors or in some sort of sporting or hobby/self-improvement environment. Instead, say some, one of the reasons we feel that we have so much less time, and are incapable of managing that time, is that we try to do too much per day; we even relish fast food because we do not want to take the time to actually sit down and prepare a meal. Thus, the science and art of time-management techniques become endemic without our society (Bronson, 2006).
Personal Time Management- Most time management strategies are associated with personal goals. These goals should be broken down into projects, action plans, or even simple task lists; otherwise they become so overwhelming as to be unmanageable. When working with individual tasks or goals, rate those tasks — as simple as Low to High, or a more sophisticated ranking system. The danger comes when there are too man multiple horizontal priorities and very little can get done. The process of even thinking about a plan and/or task list (calendar of activities) on the daily, weekly, or monthly planning period actually makes one slow down and think about things that need to be done, how to best do them, and at the very least, develop a simple way to organize the priority (Mancini, 2007).
The task list (to-do list, things to do, assignment sheet, etc.) is simply that, it outlines the process of the steps necessary to complete a project and is an inventory tool that is powerful in that it supplements memory. One can use task lists all the time — from shopping for groceries to complex project management. The key is to write down the task, rank it, and then once it is completed, cross it off the list and move on. Of course, sometimes issues require more complex lists, but the very heart of this technique is that once the task is completed and the item crossed off the list, the mind lets that task go, and moves on to the next task. The individual that tries to hold on to too many tasks alone often fails due to a feeling of impotence in even getting started with individual tasks (Allen, 2001).
Some basic skills necessary to effectively perform task management are:
Map out everything that is important on a list
Create at least some time per day that is not reallocated
Learn to politely say no
Set accurate and adequate priorities
Don’t go to extremes — dropping everything or taking on too much — the key is balance.
Do not assume a critical task will get done, just because it needs to be done; assume nothing that one could not do themselves.
The fantastic thing about these skills is that there are a number of computer-based programs that help manage listing programs and electrnoic applications (PIM — Personal Information Managers) and PDA (Personal Data Assistants). As well, there are several web-based applications, many of which are free (Morgenstern, 2004; See www.todobrew.com).
To organize one’s tasks modern task list applications often have built in hierarchical systems because there are so many subtasks and even sub-subtasks. Task lists are often tiered, with the simplest being a general to do list that records all the tasks a person needs to accomplish, and the ability to transfer, add, or elaborate on these tasks. This type of list is often priorities:
ABC prioritization ranks A as being most important, C least important.
One ABC method assigns A to tasks that are immediate, B done within a week, and C. within a month. One can then have AC, or BA tasks.
Numerals may also be used to rank tasks, with as many tasks as one has, although experts agree that after about 10-12 tasks, the list seems too daunting (Laikebn, 1973).
A completely different approach argues against prioritizing and believe that lists should be closed — get work done every day, get the list free, and at least then find out what needs to change in terms of workload (Foster, 2006, p.224).
Informational Steps to Solve Issue- To mange the issue of time management in my own life, it would be most helpful to keep a detailed diary of how time is spent over the course of a few days to a week. One that is done, tasks can be grouped (eating, sleeping, watching television, etc.) to find gaps and ineffeciencies.
Process to Evaluate Issue — To evaluate the issue, I will group the tasks that seem to predominante from the analysis in order from the most time spent per week to the least. Further analysis will look at time gaps, time spent on non-productive issues, and a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of what issues are in my life that time management, or lack thereof, is impacting the most.
Problem Resolution- Using the task list information gathered from this analysis, I will use my phone and a personal information manager to list and then prioritize items that are critical, and then manage backwards. Critical items must be started each day, and at least some progress made on them (e.g. part of a long-term report or project). I will also evaluate non-critical time wasters and find ways to still have leisure time and recreate, yet remain tru to the software in at least orgasinzing my time.
Conclusions — The large portion of the problems surround time management are simply allowing it to occur by forgetting to make a list. Taking control of one’s time by at least prioritizing a few goals per day means that at the end of a week, at least 10 things are done that may or may not have been done before. Yes, it takes discipline; yes, it might be inconvenient at times, however, despite any inconvnience, the benefits outweigh any issues surrounding the field of study.
Time Management and Personal Productivity. (2011, March). Retrieved from timemanagementsolutions.com: http://www.time-management-solutions.com/
Allen, D. (2001). Getting Things Done. New York: Viking.
Bronson, P. (2006, October 23). How We Spend Our Leisure Time. Retrieved from Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1549394,00.html
Foster, M. (2006). Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. New York: Hodder and Stoughton.
Laikebn, A. (1973). How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. New York: PH Wyden.
Mancini, M. (2007). Time Management: 24 Techniques to Make Each Minute Couni. New York: McGraw Hill.
Morgenstern, J. (2004). Time Management from the Inside Out. New York: Owl Books.
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