Time Management. What's the big deal? Just write down what you need to do, figure out how long it takes to do it and just do it? Right? So...all you need is a clock, isn't that time management? No? Time management is never that easy you say? Well, why not?
Because TIME MANAGEMENT is NOT just about TIME MANAGEMENT.
- Managing interruptions : both external and within our own headspace
- Avoiding procrastination
And it's most likely also about:
- Goal setting
- Positive thinking
WHY IS PROPER TIME MANAGEMENT SO IMPORTANT
Effective time management simply helps you get things done. We have so many choices, demands, duties and things we want to do, have to do, need to do, are asked to do, in our daily lives that managing our time properly helps us accomplish those things
WHY IS TIME MANAGEMENT SO DIFFICULT?
Because most people have two different sides of ourselves. There is a part of us who wants to move forward, and a part of us who wants to hold back. As both sides argue among themselves, the easiest thing to do is nothing...procrastinate, plod, avoid, stutter. And it's because our basic human nature is often to pick the easier path rather than the more challenging one.
WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE GREAT TIME MANAGERS AND OTHERS CAN'T ORGANISE THEIR WAY OUT OF PAPER BAG?
Because they have developed a habit and a system of good time management. They weren't born that way. Time management is a skill you develop. If you want to badly enough. I have a friend who is perpetually late. All the time. For lunches, drinks, dinners, meetings...you name it. However, has he ever missed a long-haul flight? Never. Nor a short-haul flight for that matter. He can organise his time when it matters, it's just that it doesn't seem to matter enough in his day-to-day life. Think of time management training like any other training such as training for a marathon. Start slow and gradually build up.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME MANAGEMENT TOOL
The simple answer to this is: the best time management tool is the tool that helps you get things done on time. I know that sounds completely facetious and unhelpful but it's true. What works for some people may not work for others and vice versa.
The first and key time management tool is to believe and understand that time management is a skill and a habit and that YOU can become productive, focused and organised. It is just like getting fit and building up muscles. Work on it steadily and consistently and you will become a master. If you believe yourself to be 'born messy' or 'born late' or 'one of those guys who can never quite get it together' then you are training yourself for failture.
As for the other tools, here are some time management materials that might help:
- A simple egg timer. Perferably with a loud clicking sound and an even louder bell. An egg timer is a great gadget to help you refine the art of time boxing. Time boxing is when you mark out a specific time frame for a particular activity. Let's say you have a bunch of phonecalls to make today e.g. call client, call travel agents and get quotes, call wife and wish her happy birthday, call the vet and book an appointment for Kujo etc. Box them all within a time frame e.g. 30 minutes just for all the phone calls. Set your timer to 30 minutes and when the time is up, it's up and you can make the rest of the phonecalls during the next time box. Time boxing is particularly good for activities that involve research and decision making. For example, if you want to book a weekend away and you're looking into hotel options: give yourself a set time such as two hours to do the research and then you have to decide no matter what.
- A diary. An old-fashioned paper diary. Forgive me trees, but sometimes the act of writing down your schedule for the day on good old-fashioned paper and crossing it off very boldly once done can give a tremendous sense of satisfaction that for some reason a computer calendar can't. Start by making a list of the things you have to do today, be realistic about how long it would take you and start to schedule it in. Leave buffer times e.g. 11:00-11:30am for a break or to deal with interruptions
- A sturdy lock. Lock yourself into your room so no one can come in and interrupt you. Or put up a huge Do Not Disturb sign. Make like a monk
- An alarm clock. Get up one hour earlier each day and you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish. There's an old Chinese proverb "No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich". Oh and you won't miss out on sleep if you go to bed one hour earlier too.
TIME MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
There are many different time management software options for you, from the complicated to the incredibly simple. Some, like Basecamp, are project and team management tools, and others, like Todoodle are more helpful To Do lists.
RECOMMENDED READING FOR TIME MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity is by far the best time management philosophy and system. It's incredibly simple, practical and realistic. And, it's the only time management book I think I've read which thinks a daily To Do list is a waste of time! It's become so popular that there are entire websites dedicated to Getting Things Done or GTD. The book also doesn't focus on gadgets, you can use a book, pda, computer schedule, the back of your hand to get organized, it's just about putting all your tasks into an easy workflow. The single most useful part of the book for me has been the chapter on organising your emails. I used to think I had a thoroughly organized system for this but the system starting to own me. Although I was good at clearing up my Inbox, it took ages to do so as I was dragging emails into various files and then making notes on the related action associated with them. Getting Things Done just cut through all of that and make it a whole lot simpler. Getting Things Done is written by Dave Allen. His company provide effective employee time management courses and classes and produce time management planners and worksheets which are very helpful.
The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play is not so much about time management but about procrastination. It's so different from other books on procrastination in that it doesn't just go 'ok, find out what you want in life and go for it' (maybe I'm being harsh on other books) but it turns procrastination on its head and talks about enjoyment and having fun instead. As the title suggests, it says procrastination is a habit. It also interestingly suggests that procrastination is not about laziness. It has another definition linked to fear and a reaction against pressure from external forces. It gives a new, freshing take on procrastination and how to tackle it.