Time is a fixed element of life, we can’t outrun it nor can we control it but we can fall in line with it. We can master how we react and use our time wisely. Assuming we sleep 8 hours we only have about 16 productive hours of the day everyday so we should utilize it well. The natural enough of time management is procrastination, it is the big bad wolf that will huff, puff and blow your time management house down if you let it. If you’re having procrastination issues, check out my post 8 Practical Solutions to Procrastination. If we know how much time we have left on earth, we might not waste it as much as we do. The clock is constantly ticking and it doesn’t care whether you’re rich or poor, strong or weak, fat or skinny, it just ticks! To do justice to this topic we have to define time management and address its importance before diving into the main course which are the tips.
What is Time Management?
According to Wikipedia, “Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. It is a juggling act of various demands of study, social life, employment, family, and personal interests and commitments with the finiteness of time. Using time effectively gives the person “choice” on spending/managing activities at their own time and expediency”.
The Importance of Time Management
Time is a finite resource. It can’t be regained or renewed when it is lost. Time is money perhaps that’s why wages are based on per hour basis. This means that the importance of time management cannot be overemphasised! One way to go about it is to reallocate time spent on lower value activities to higher value ones. For example, spend less time watching TV and more on working on your project. All work requires time. Thinking about how to spend your time before doing so will improve your personal time management and increase productivity. Many tend to work better when they’re pressed for time but not under too much pressure.
Brian Tracy said that “I used to think that time management was only a business tool, like a calculator or a cell phone. It was something that you used to increase productivity and possibly your earning potential. Then I learned that time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends.”
Time Management Tips
- Time Management is a Myth: Time is the same, 60 secs a minute, 60 mins an hour and 24 hours a day, this doesn’t change; no matter how organised you are. You can only monitor, police and improve how you spend your time with the time constraints we have. For example, you can say you didn’t have time to finish your exam in the given 2 hours but if you improve your time management, you’ll see that enough time was allocated.
- Find a Good Time Management System: Finding a system is very important because it makes things easier. For example, if you want to make soap it has to go through a particular system. What makes a system great is that it can produce the same or similar effective results repeatedly. L. Adams from Entrepreneur talks about the quadrant time-management system which he claims to be very effective. Your activities are split into 4 quadrants based on urgency and importance. Things are either urgent or important, both, or neither. The quadrants based on importance are do it now, plan it, delegate or drop it. So, the most urgent/important should be in the first quadrant and the least or neither should be in the fourth. For instance, you’ve a coursework deadline coming up but you haven’t started, the body or main content of your coursework should be the most important and doing spell checks would be the least important.
- Sense of Urgency: According to Brian Tracy, the most important measure of time is speed and as for time management, it is a “sense of urgency.” This will make you take massive action and move fast when opportunity presents itself to you. For example, if you see money falling from the sky will you wait till it lands to pick it up or will you grab it mid-air? You need to develop a “bias for action. Fast tempo is essential to success. All successful people not only work hard, hard, hard, but they work fast, fast, fast!”
- Assess Your Time for a Full Week: Before really understanding TM, you need to audit how you normally spend your time for at least a week. You’d be shocked when you expose yourself, it’s like looking at your bank statement when you’re broke and seeing your ungodly spending. So, what do you do every day? Write it in a notepad or on your phone. Split this up into blocks of 30-60 mins. What did you get done? Did you waste time or spend it well? If you use the quadrant system, circle the quadrant that the activity was associated with. At the end of the week, round up all the numbers. Where did most of your time? Which quadrants? You might discover shocking results.
- Per Task Time Limit: Safe to say all my readers have had an exam in one form or the other and they usually have a set time. I think my longest exam time was about 3-3.5 hours. The invigilators tell you when to start, when the time is almost up and when the time is finally up, they take away your papers. It’s even stricter for computer based testing (CBT) where the questions simply disappear. When practicing for exam be clear how much time you need to finish each question. For example, you have 4 questions to answer and you have 3 hours. You can spend 45 minutes on each question or 1 hour each on 2 and 30 minutes each on the remaining 2.
- Say “No”: Saying yes when you actually wanna say no can really waste your time on less useful tasks. And people tend to take advantage of people that say yes too much. For example, you have a work deadline coming up but your friend that you secretly have a crush on has asked you to drive them to the airport and you say yes and then you find traffic because you live in Lagos and that’s just a day in the life.
- Cut Down on Social Media Time: According to Social Media Today, “the average person will spend nearly two hours (approximately 116 minutes) on social media every day, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. Even more, time spent on social is only expected to increase as platforms develop, and is expected to eat further into traditional media – most notably TV. Right now, the average person will spend 7 years and 8 months watching TV in a lifetime. However, as digital media consumption continues to grow at unprecedented rates, this number is expected to shrink in counter to that expansion. Currently, total time spent on social media beats time spent eating and drinking, socializing, and grooming.”
- Create Time Management Goals: In terms of TM, the key is about is changing your behaviors or habits, not changing time because you can’t. You should start with eliminating your personal time-wasters such as TV, social media, people, etc. For one week, for example, set a goal that you’re not going to check social media when you’re working. When you achieve this goal and see positive results you’ll want to incorporate time managing habits into your everyday life.
- Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize: Some tasks are more important and urgent than other as I addressed before. Sometimes we procrastinate because we’re afraid of taking on a big task but as Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This means you should do your hardest tasks in the morning because you’ve rested well, you’re refreshed and have the most energy in the morning. Think about it this way, on a journey, a car has the most fuel at the beginning (unless you go to a petrol station haha).
- Utilize Waiting & Commuting Times: It happens to everyone: we wait in queues, waiting rooms, airports and other public spaces and many of use commute to work on a bus or train. You can use this time to catch up on funny videos you missed, emails or reading a lovely book you’ve been putting off. If you’re driving, you can listen to audio books or podcasts.
- Leave Perfection Alone: Humans are not perfect. We’re just not built that way. So, how can an imperfect thing create perfection? It’s simply the impossible. Perfection is a waste of time anyway. Things can’t really be good enough when you’re striving for perfection. You’ll be like Tantalus or Atys who in Greek mythology “…was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp and the water always receding before he could take a drink” as his punishment in Tartarus. Excellence involves failing multiple times and learning from such mistakes, there’s nothing ‘perfect’ about mistakes. Pretend you’re a scientist and see your life as a lab and your experiences as experiments i.e. a valuable step on your journey, no matter what the outcome. Instead of indulging in perfectionism, keep the big picture in mind. Focus on your priorities, not the minute details of your work. Address the most important tasks on your to-do list and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- No Multitasking: You have two hands for a reason. You can only do so much at once. Multitasking is usually a job requirement but that doesn’t mean carry the world on your shoulders, you’re not Atlas. Many people say that multitasking is a way to get more done in less time but doing on multiple tasks simultaneously may make you less productive. Tasks may take longer to finish because you’re not giving them full attention. It could work when you’re cooking for instance but the fragility of the tasks should be taken into account. Do one task at a time instead but speed it up if you must. You will get your work done quicker this way, allowing you to make the most of your time. For example, check all your social media accounts then log out of them and then do something else. Don’t worry about that notification that just made your phone screen flash, actually turn off your notifications.
- Delegate: There’s strength in numbers, when you’re working in a team it’s best to divide the tasks amongst others in order to lighten the load on you and make things faster, division of labour means division of time wasted. For example, I have a boss who is doing a Masters and so in order to make things easier on she gives me and someone else some work to do, so she knows what to study and what to forget about.
Quote of the Day:
Time is the currency of greatness but you only have so much. Spend it wisely.
That’s it from me guys, now it’s your turn!
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