How to manage time in today's fast-paced world? (5-step process)
Time Management, as we all know, is a key parameter in every aspect of life whether it is at work, home, or anywhere else. What is then Time Management and why there is so much focus on it, why do we see tons of videos and lectures on YouTube and other websites. The plain and simple reason is that if practiced well, Time management leads to stress-free life if and improve productivity by multi-folds.
So, the Million dollar question is how should one manage time, in this fast-paced world driven by technology and social distractions? Through this blog, I would detail 5 steps on how to manage your time and how you can implement these suggestions. But first, let’s understand the theory of time management through a well-known experiment:
The Theory behind Time Management
To understand time management and the importance of managing priorities, Let’s look at the “Jar of Life”. What is the famous Jar of Life Concept? I have explained it through few pictures below:
The Illustration we are trying to explain here is that in life you can classify your tasks to Important, Necessary, and Other tasks. You have a Jar of Life that’s empty, Bigger Pebbles are Important Tasks, Smaller pebbles as necessary tasks, and Marbles as Other tasks. The concept of Jar of Life says how do you fill the Jar with different tasks so you can fit all the tasks. Imagine if you start filling the Jar with non important tasks first, then by the time you try to fill in the Important tasks the Jar will be completely filled as illustrated in below image. So, the idea of learning Time Management is to have the Important tasks filled in first and then all the other tasks should follow in that way you can plan and finish all your tasks, and you can clearly see that illustration through below picture.
Now, the next question everyone must be thinking is how does one classify the important and non-important tasks. The best way to do that is to make a To Do List of activities which adds values to your life. If you take an example of an office then list down the activities that has a strategic vision for the company as important, and prioritise them, and all the non-important activities can be classified as spending too much time during lunch, Coffee Machine, chit chats in the office etc.
Practicing Time Management
Now that you have understood the theory behind the first Principle of Time Management, Let’s practice our theory. I will site an example on how I have applied this principle in my life. So, what I have done apart from making a To Do List is that I have made a Not To Do List wherein I have highlighted all the things which I should not do during my hours where I have to focus on important activities. The real challenge although is how do you apply them in your daily work routine, let’s say you made yourself a promise that you will dedicate few hours in the morning schedule to work on the most important activities from your To Do List but then as soon as you reach office your boss has come up with a list of other activities, or there might be some urgent issues which needs to be solved or someone has booked in a meeting with you. In those Practical situations, To Do List will definitely take a back seat, so how to Approach this problem?
1. Create a Not-to-do list
My personal experience from Project management says try to book a 2-hours slot in the morning for your high priority activities and during those hours focus completely on your Job in hand and take away all the Not Do List activities such as social media sites, chain of emails, and coffee talks.
This way you can fully concentrate on your activities and your calendar is not free anymore for anyone and if your manager asks for some additional tasks, then he/she knows your To Do List. In such a case, the manager will understand and assign the task to someone else with free capacity. I hope you realize that doing this has actually lowered down your burden of extra tasks and in turn Stress. That is why Time management is so closely related to Stress Management.
2. Follow a Time Management Matrix
The Second step in practicing Time Management is to create a Time Management Matrix, which basically lists down the important, non-important, urgent and non-urgent activities. Below, I have attached a picture for detailed understanding of the matrix.
The Picture talks about 4 Quadrants wherein you will have to decide which activities from your To Do List comes under which Quadrant. The Most Urgent activities which have to be finished now will come under Q1, the not so urgent yet important activities will come under Q2, Not Important but Urgent activities will come under Q3 and not Important and not Urgent activities come under Q4 are mainly Distractions, which we talked in the First Principle and those have to be deleted from your list of activities.
Now, the Most Interesting part of this Time Management matrix is Quadrant Q3, which is to delegate your work. Most colleagues whom I have worked with hesitate to delegate work because of various reasons. The most sighted reason I have come across is the Risk associated when you are handing over the work to someone else, and there comes the definition of the Delegation.
My Personal experience says delegation is an amazing thing to do as it adds many advantages to your organization. To name a few delegations empowers people, give them more responsibility, and help managing our time with other important activities. Although the challenges would be to manage the risk associated when you handover a job but that can be mitigated through the use of skill matrix. If you know the person and his/her skills then the risk can definitely be mitigated and you should be able to delegate the job. We have to understand one basic thing “ We cannot do all the activities on our own”.
Also remember, if you are not able to follow up all the activities then use the Pareto Principle of 80:20 as explained in the below picture illustration, which basically explains you to take out your 20% of the most urgent activities and finish them in order to get 80% Impact.
3. Calculate your Prime Time
The Third step under Time Management practice is to Calculate your Prime Time So you must be wondering what is a Prime time? According to Performance psychologists Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz “ Physiological measures such as heart rate, hormonal levels, muscle tension and brain-wave activity all increase during the first part of the cycle, and we tend to perform best when we work for around 90 minutes, then take a break for around 20 minutes. Rather than constantly “grinding” through the day and forcing things, you align your work habits with your natural patterns.”
So, the whole idea with this term is to know your Prime time throughout the day in order to plan the activities from a To Do List. Picture below will give you more understanding of the prime time concept. There are excel workbooks available online to calculate the prime time. My Personal Experience making the Prime time was that my productivity was really high on mornings which was obvious but around 14:00 hours approx. 2 hours after lunch again my productivity was going high may be because of the energy I got from food helps me. So the basic idea here for all of you is to know yourself better, and which in turn helps you plan your daily activities. Do all the Urgent and Important tasks when you are operating at high performance levels and all the non important tasks when you are at say lower bar on your prime time graph.
4. Know the Personality types of people you work with
The fourth step I would like to mention is to know the Personality types of People working under your team in order to manage the time effectively since different personality tend to perceive the time differently.
DISC personality types helps you a lot in understanding the personality types and manage your time. I have provided some insights with the help of pictures to understand the peculiar characteristics of different personality types and what they need to do to improve their time management skills. My Personal experience working with different team members in the office is to make a sheet with people and their personality types, which helps me understanding my team members and also to set deadlines for each project member.
5. Avoid Procrastination
The Last step in our time Management journey is to avoid procrastination. We all inherently, ourselves, Procrastinate everyday on some or other activities. There are many different types of Procrastinations such as
(i) Ignoring the tasks
(ii) Hoping it will go away,
(iii) Talking about rather than doing it,
(iv) Doing something else which is not very important,
(v) Saying no to your colleagues on somethings which are important although you are busy on some non important things.
So, how to Avoid Procrastination? It is more of a mental fight that you have to win, Imagine it as a new diet you have to follow in order to loose weight its more of a mental, discipline than anything else. The other additional things one can do is to set deadlines, divide the work into smaller pieces, Organize the tasks and tell your friend to keep reminding you priorities and deadlines. One of the other important task you have to do is to learn to say “NO” to the activities which you cannot handle. Picture below give you an illustration of the same. According to my personal experience setting deadlines in your calendar and saying “NO” to the unwanted tasks works really well because even if you forget them in your tight work schedule you will get notifications to finish that job and saying no to the unwanted activities will not burn you out. This way it will help you avoid Procrastination.
This concludes the Time Management Principles, and I hope all of you find this blog useful. Implement these activities in your day to day life and see the wonders you reap out of them.
This post is written by Pradeep Kumar Paliwal for Edzest Education Services. Follow Pradeep here: Pradeep’s LinkedIn Profile