Time Management
man trying to 'hold back time' on clock face

Time is finite and you can't get it back once it's gone.

Effective time management means doing what you need to do most, when you most need to do it.

To improve time management you need more prioritising, planning and preparation and less procrastination and perfectionism.

Unless you possess a crystal ball, you'd also be wise to maintain some flexibility to allow for the unexpected and to develop methods for minimising the disruption caused by those inevitable interruptions.

Time isn't Money - Time Costs Money

We use money as an analogy for time: expressions like 'saving time', 'making time', 'spending time' and 'time is money'. Time is something we spend but we need to remember where the similarity ends.

Rich or poor, we all have the same amount of time at our disposal. We can't create more, we can't carry some forward to another day, and if we run out we can't borrow some.

No Refunds

Time is something we spend, but it's more valuable than money. If you decide that you didn't spend some of it wisely, you can't get a refund.

As with money, people have different spending styles: some are impulse spenders, some are big spenders, some underestimate the amount of time that activities cost, and some want a quick return on their investment.

Procrastination and Perfectionism - Partners in Crime

There are many different reasons for procrastination but one factor is common to all of them: the longer you put off starting a task the worse you feel about it.

The bottom line is that tasks that don't get started, don't get finished. The biggest hurdle is making the commitment to start the task, yet once we do we often find that it wasn't anywhere near as bad as we'd imagined.

"The best way to get something done is to begin." - Author Unknown

Perfectionists believe that perfectionism is a virtue, it isn't. If procrastination is 'the thief of time', then perfectionism is the embezzler; passing itself off as working productively whilst secretly robbing you blind.

If you're a perfectionist you may put off starting a task until you can do it perfectly. What's worse - doing it imperfectly or not doing it at all?

Perfection is a moving target so perfectionism gets you nowhere fast; that's fine if all you need to do is stand still but most of us have deadlines to meet. Tomorrow may never come but deadlines have an uncanny knack of materialising.

Planning, Prioritising and Preparation

Effective time management doesn't mean planning every day as though it were a military manouevre, but it does require some forward thinking. If we put a little more thought into how we intend to spend our time, we'd have more chance of turning good intentions into results.

What's more important - finishing one important task or a dozen unimportant ones? Being busy is not the same as being effective. Prioritising the items on your To Do list enables you to determine what would be the best use of your time right now and in the future.

Your To Do list doesn't have to be on paper for you to decide what the best use of your time would be right now, but it can help you prioritise, and therefore plan, the most effective use of your time.

Some tasks require little or no preparation, others require a great deal. It's easy to lose motivation when you get part way through a task and realise how much easier or quicker it could be achieved if you'd thought it through first and done some preparation.

Handling Interruptions

Interruptions are inevitable. In the absence of a crystal ball it's wise to leave some room in your schedule for the unexpected. It often seems that more interruptions happen when the pressure's on than at any other time.

If your time management is good, then hopefully you'll have left some room for maneouvre. Whether they're unavoidable, unwelcome or just unexpected, how you handle interruptions determines whether you let someone or something else decide how to spend your time for you.

Technology - Hindrance or Help?

Technology can exacerbate our problems with time and stress management. Now that things can be done vastly quicker, we're expected to keep up the pace.

With shorter deadlines to meet and constant interruptions, technology can be a hindrance rather than a help. We can set our email program to check for new mail every ten minutes and alert us when it arrives, but would you tolerate the postman knocking on your door that often?

"Never let a computer know you're in a hurry." - Author Unknown

We can make technology work for us rather than against us. This doesn't mean having the latest technology or learning the advanced features of every software program, but it does mean being aware of what's possible.

If you knew that there was a feature of a program that could help you do a recurring task in a fraction of the time, or make light work of a tedious or difficult task, wouldn't you consider it a good investment of your time to learn how to use it?


See Also Quotable Quotes

Time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.

- Denis Waitely

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.

- William James

The most difficult part of attaining perfection is finding something to do for an encore.

- Author Unknown