What is Time Management?
In a world that seems to be spinning faster everyday, time management is becoming increasingly important; and yet it seems to get more and more difficult to manage your own time. The gap between the need to manage one’s time and the ability to do so seems to growing by the day.
What most people remember from time management courses are a few tips on prioritisation and the little square you put next to a to-do ☐ and that you tick off ☑ when you finish a task. Interestingly, most people don’t seem to improve much by just using a new to-do system.
While it is difficult to say what time management is about, it is easy to say what it is not about: that little square. It is also not about the latest, flashiest app.
Here are two definitions of time management. Which one do you prefer?
“Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.” Wikipedia’s definition.
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it” ~ Henry David Thoreau.
Your gut feeling hasn’t let you down: time management is complex! And different people are at different stages of it. I have organised our resources starting from beginner to advanced. The last resource I offer you is a completely new approach to prioritisation and time management. But hold on, not too fast.
Here is how our pages are structured:
1. Fundamental time management skills: These articles are for people who start new on time management and those who like to or have to plan their time well.
2. Advanced time management skills: These articles are for those who have used time management methods for a while and feel they need to get better. Also, if you are not a fan of detailed planning, you can look at these principles. You don’t need to know any methods to get a lot out of these articles.
3. How to prioritise: In the new world time management needs to start well before anybody has the idea to assign the “wrong” task to you. This is a new, different approach that will help you to align your priorities with what you stand for at work.
If you are interested but think it is a lot, you can always get all our tips in two free pdf guides. Download all our tips in on fundamental time management skills as pdf ebooks (click here). You can also download our popular book on how to prioritise (click here).
(1) Fundamental time management skills in 3 easy steps
People new to time management generally start with some sort of app or a to-do list. There is no problem with it so long as that’s not the only thing you know about time management. By talking to people, I have found out there’s an excessive focus on flashy, new apps at the cost of other time management methods.
You can take the best to-do system and just stuff anything into it as it comes into your mind and think you have a good plan. What you will end up with is a huge mess. It is like putting everything randomly into your wardrobe and expecting to find things easily.
Daily plans and to-do systems are just the tip of the pyramid of time management, there are other important layers below. The following articles will give you an overview of important methods of time management. By following the articles in this sequence you will move the pyramid up from the foundation (priorities) to daily plans (to-do lists).
A weekly planner will help you protect your time for important tasks and separate it out from the time for urgent tasks, meetings, emails and so on. Learn how you can use it as a blueprint for a typical week.
(2) Advanced time management skills in 4 steps
Many people try out several of the methods above, and after some initial improvement, they get somehow stuck. The reasons are different for each individual. If you’re at this stage, what you don’t need is yet another time management method.
What you need is a framework that helps you to understand your own, individual problems and guides you through a cycle of improving from your own experiences.
Why? Basically, most time-management methods cover only the planning step. As you’ve experienced it hundreds of times, hardly any plan survives contact with reality, and that’s where the improvement cycle comes into play. It gives you tips for executing your plans and learning from both things that have worked well and what hasn’t worked.
Check out the articles below for each of the steps of the improvement cycle.
(3) How to prioritise – a new approach
This is a new, different approach to prioritisation that starts well before you get a task in your inbox. I believe the importance of classical time management methods diminishes in a world that is no longer transactional and increasingly disbursed and concurrent. In a world where employees need to understand better what they stand for and build their own personal brand.
Seth Godin points out that marketing needs to start well before product development. Similarly, time management needs to start well before anybody has the idea to assign the “wrong” task to you.
Check out our vastly popular article!
By Murat Uenlue, PhD, PMP, 2013.