Time management is a crucial part of everyday life and is required to be implemented in order to effectively make the most of every hour. It is the skill which allows us to arrive on time, meet deadlines and structure our day based on as little wasted time as possible. Many of us are extremely bad at managing our time but there are a number of methodologies that can be utilised to improve your own time management. They range from the simple act of writing important dates on a calendar to planning our day in ten minute chunks. For many of us, procrastination is the enemy of effective time management and with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, smart phones and their veritable treasure trove of games, it is increasingly difficult to focus and resist the temptation to update our status instead.
Managing our time effectively in our personal lives is relatively easy. We rarely make several sets of plans with different friends on the same day and so, it largely boils down to making sure we get out of bed when the alarm clock tells us to. However, the complications come when we take into accounts factors such as transportation, the process of getting ready and the various interferences we can encounter on the way. For example, the cat could be sick and it require cleaning up; the phone could ring and we get caught up talking; or even, the hot water could not work and require us to spend time fixing it. There are innumerable factors that could affect our personal life. To limit these, it is best to manage the various factors that we are in control of such as the time we wake up and the time space we allow ourselves to get ready for our day. The temptation is to get out of bed at the very last moment but in fact, it is far better to be out of bed earlier than the expected time as it is better to give yourself more time than less time. Also, having to rush around in the morning is extremely unsettling and will invariably affect your approach to the rest of the day. The simple act of getting out of bed half an hour earlier than is necessary can mean effective time management as you are sure to leave the house feeling fresh, awake and prepared.
In our professional/academic lives, time management is significantly more difficult. This is because of the work load we take on: we invariably expect more of ourselves than is possible and will take on more work than we can do in the allotted time. Intriguingly, most people would rather say ‘yes’ than ‘no’, especially in a professional environment but in reality, most people would prefer you to say ‘no’ if there is likely to be a problem with actually finishing the task. In both professional and academic lives, we must work to deadlines and to keep to those, we must effectively manage our time by setting mini-deadlines. For example, if an essay is due in at the end of the month, set yourself deadlines for planning, completing the research and completing the first draft; allowing yourself plenty of time to read through, edit and tweak it. Although in a professional setting, the onus is more placed on the ability to complete the work quickly, efficiently and in a far smaller window of time.
There are a number of tools that can be wielded in order to achieve effective time management. These include delegation, prioritizing, planning and setting goals. We’ve already discussed setting goals to some extent but by doing this, you are constantly working towards your next mini-deadline; edging ever-closer to your big deadline; and as such, you are in control of the situation. This obviously also involves an element of planning: sitting down to decide your goals’ deadlines and basing these decisions around your social life and your ‘me time.’ Do not set yourself un-realistic goals because when you fail to meet them, you will feel under-confident and invariably go off-track from your planning in other areas too. Time management only works when you are completely realistic with yourself, your abilities and your time. Prioritizing your tasks is an important part of the planning process too: which task has the nearest deadline? Or, if they are all due in at the same time, which one do you think will take the most amount of time? Ask yourself questions such as there in order to effectively prioritize and plan your workload. The final tool to be used in the quest for effective time management is to delegate tasks to other people. This works at home: if you have decided to clean your house then delegate smaller tasks to your partner, house mates or children so that the job is done faster. When at work, delegate tasks to your team, if you have one, or if not, this is where imperatively precise prioritizing and planning is most useful. Effective time management is easily attained by simply allowing yourself time to breathe and taking each day at a leisurely pace, knowing that you have planned and prepared for all possible outcomes.
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Dodd, P. &Sundheim, D. (2005). The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How To Get More Done Without Driving Yourself Crazy. Ann Arbor, MI: Performance Press.
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