This article presents you techniques and strategies for time management and will help you to develop time management skills.
Definition of Time Management:
What is time management and how can it influence my life in a positive way?
Time management refers to numerous techniques and skills that can help a person to make use of the available time in the most efficient way and to accomplish goals, tasks and projects within the predetermined period of time. Time management skills vary from, but are not limited to, prioritizing tasks, planning, scheduling, organizing and the delegation of functions. However, it also includes an analysis of the time spend for different activities as well as close monitoring that allows one to improve his time management skills.
An individual that applies time management techniques can improve his productivity, which allows this person to get more work done within shorter amounts of time. Time management allows us furthermore to take control over our professional as well as personal life, as it helps us to know what needs to be done and what goals need to be accomplished on a daily basis. Effective time management can be a true advantage for an employee as it allows him to meet deadlines of projects without having to delay the completion of it.
How to Manage Time Effectively:
The following time management techniques will help you to deal with work overload, allows you to improve your productivity, and most important: it will help you to save time in a smart way.
Organization is the alpha and omega of time management as it helps you to get an overview about your plans for the current day and what tasks need to be accomplished. Being organized helps you to avoid procrastination and postponement of all kinds.
You can organize your workday by taking yourself up to 10 minutes in the morning, where you specify the tasks that need to be accomplished, the projects that need your attention, the problems that need to be solved and the goals that you would like to achieve in this day. You can do so by creating a task list (to-do-list) where you write down the main tasks that need to be done, mention the necessary steps that lead to the completion of projects and where you split your main goals into subgoals and work towards their achievement. Sometimes it can be also very helpful to write some ideas down on how you plan to accomplish some of the more difficult tasks and problems.
Make sure to keep your to-do-list in mind and cross-check it every once in a while, whether you are ahead of your planning or not. When you have solved a problem, accomplished a tasks or achieved a goal that was part of your task list you can cross it off until you have accomplished everything that was written on the list. Furthermore it is important to set priorities when you create a task list, e.g. by high-lighting some of the most important tasks with a marker, but more on that in the following, where it says: Prioritization.
#2 General task lists
Besides a daily updated to-do-list you can also create a general task list that includes all of your main goals, split into subgoals. This task list can include instructions or ideas on how you plan to reach these goals, delegate tasks or possible obstacles and how to overcome these. I would also recommend you to include a particular section into your general task list where you list some of your regular tasks that you have to accomplish on a daily basis.
Prioritization is essential as it helps you to focus mainly on your tasks and duties with the highest priority before you turn to tasks with lower priority that are not related to your main goals or not contributing towards your intended output. Prioritization is an effective time management method as it enables you to be more productive in stressful times when you are facing work overload as you can cast aside time intensive, but unimportant tasks.
There are numerous techniques that help you to set priorities from the simpler “ABC” prioritization and the “1-10” prioritization scale, to more in-depth and precise techniques like the “Pareto Analysis” (20% of your tasks contribute to 80% of your outcome, but will also take 80% of your available time), the method to prioritize tasks from “important and urgent” to “not important and not urgent” and the POSEC method that prioritizes by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing. I personally prefer a combination of scaling my tasks from 1 – important to the least important task arranged accordingly to their urgency and due date. However, I recommend you to have a look at all the different prioritization techniques that are being explained in the following and then to choose whatever techniques fits your needs most.
#1 ABC analysis
The ABC analysis allows you to prioritize your tasks into three different categories:
- A – Tasks that are important and urgent
- B – Tasks that are important but not urgent
- C – Tasks that are not important and not urgent
What are the advantages of the ABC analysis?
By prioritizing your tasks into three categories you will get an excellent overview of all your tasks, their importance and urgency.
What are the disadvantages of the ABC analysis?
The ABC analysis is not an in-depth analysis and not as precise as other prioritizing methods. It should therefore be combined with the Pareto analysis or be extended by adding two more characters to imply the urgency and importance of specific tasks (e.g. “A-1” or “AAA” for the utmost important and urgent tasks and “B-1” or “BAA” for very important tasks that are just slightly urgent to “B-2” or “BBA” for important tasks that are not urgent, etc.).
#2 Scaling from “1-10”
Prioritizing tasks via a scale from 1 – very important to 10 – unimportant can help you to create a simple to-do-list with the most important tasks at the top of it. The advantage is that such a scaled list can be created in short amounts of time, but it also lacks precision.
#3 Pareto analysis
The idea behind the Pareto analysis is that we can accomplish 80% of our tasks and duties within 20% of our available time, which also implies that the remaining 20% of tasks will take up to 80% of our remaining time. The 80-20 rule also implies that only 20% of our tasks contribute to 80% of our outcome. The Pareto analysis is an easy, but time intensive method to manage time and improve your productivity.
How to apply the Pareto analysis?
You can apply the Pareto analysis by writing down a list of tasks that need to be accomplished (to-do-list) that is ranked in order of their importance, with the slight difference that importance in regards to the Pareto analysis means the contribution of this task to the overall outcome of your goal/project. Put simple: you rank your tasks accordingly to their outcome. If a task does not contribute towards the aimed outcome it is regarded as unimportant. Once you have finished the list with all tasks ranked accordingly of their outcome you can spot the top 20% of all your activities that result in an outcome of 80%.
What are the advantages of the Pareto analysis?
The Pareto analysis allows you to focus on the accomplishment of the top 20% of your tasks that contribute towards the maximum of your outcome, which allows you to set aside 80% of your tasks until the most important ones are accomplished.
What are the disadvantages of the Pareto analysis?
The Pareto analysis does not consider the urgency and overall importance of a task, such as tasks that need to be performed in order to maintain customer friendliness (which does not result in the top 80% of the outcome and would have been put aside), but could have negative impacts if not performed.
#4 POSEC method
POSEC is an acronym that stands for Prioritizing by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing, which shall help you to focus our attention on your daily responsibilities. The POSEC method can be summarized as a method to break the main goals into smaller subgoals and tasks, which makes it easier to address one subgoal after another until the main goal is finally accomplished. The POSEC method leads to an upward movement on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The POSEC method is comprised by the following stages:
- Prioritize responsibilities accordingly to your goals and the available time
- Organize what needs to be achieved regularly to maintain success (financial security)
- Streamline tasks you are not fond of, but have to be done (work)
- Economize tasks you would like to perform that are not urgent/important (pastime)
- Contribute to to others. (“Giving something back”, social obligations)
What are advantages and disadvantages of the POSEC method?
The advantages of the POSEC method are that it does not only focus on prioritizing tasks at the workplace but also helps you to prioritize pastime activities and social obligations. In contrast to this is it a disadvantage for people that want to prioritize their tasks and duties at work in a very precise way.
The motivation behind time management techniques is to get more things done within shorter amounts of time and revolves around the basic question, “How to get more out of my time?” However, the third essential part of time management (besides organizing and prioritizing) is the elimination of various tasks, responsibilities and distractions that are very time consumptive. The prioritization of your tasks helps you to spot unproductive and time intensive tasks and allows you to eliminate these or delegate less important projects and responsibilities amongst your employees/subordinates. In the following you can find what exactly needs to be canceled/avoided:
#1 Fight procrastination:
Procrastination is a destructive habit that will distract you from your actual task, which after all leads to hastiness and stress whenever you cannot met deadlines. Being able to discover, fight and finally avoid procrastination is an important time management skill and absolutely necessary when it comes to using your time in an efficient way. The best way to overcome procrastination is by
- Recognizing that you are procrastinating
- Evaluating the reasons you are procrastinating
- Taking counter-measures against procrastination
One of the most common reasons why we procrastinate is when we have to accomplish unpleasant or disliked tasks and when we would rather like to do various other activities than performing our duties. You can beat procrastination by rewarding yourself after you accomplished an unpleasant task, clarifying the negative consequences of not performing a task and by simply starting to address the task step by step.
#2 Eliminate distractions
Distractions of all kinds will decrease your concentration and interrupt you from performing your tasks. In order to manage your time efficient you need to eliminate distractions that prohibit you from performing your tasks or delay the completion of projects. Distractions vary from the internet, emails or the telephone up to multiple tasks that are performed simultaneously (multi-tasking).
#3 Delegate tasks
Try to delegate tasks that are mundane, unimportant but need to be done and those tasks you are not good at or lack knowledge that one of your co-workers or employees possesses. This helps you to concentrate on the important tasks and leaves you more time to accomplish these.
#4 Eliminate tasks
Every once in a while you might notice that you are performing tasks that have absolutely no outcome and are not even important. Sometimes you might have even “created” your very own tasks that no one else is performing and that don’t need to be performed to accomplish your goals. You should try to eliminate as many of these tasks as possible, as these are simply a waste of time.
Monitoring helps you to find out how much time you spend for different tasks and – which is more important – it lets you realize how much time you spend with ineffective activities. You can monitor yourself by creating an activity report where you note down your activities, the time that it took and the importance of these activities. As soon as you have monitored your own behavior for a few days you can start analyzing it and if necessary reduce or eliminate unimportant activities.
One elemental part of every to-do-list and general task list is goal setting and the goals we write down into these lists. However, goal setting would go beyond the scope of this article and isn’t necessarily a time management technique, which is why you can find further information here: Goal Setting Strategies.
Time Management Tools
Modern software applications that allow us to manage time have become very popular with the technological development. These time management tools vary from simple reminders and calendars that can be used with PDAs, mobile phones and smart phones up to software products that were developed for the computer. However, the more complicated and precise such an application becomes, the more time intensive and the less useful they will probably be.
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