By Kayla Bayens
Time Management. A dreaded and mysterious word that we just can’t seem to ever completely grasp. It slips through our fingers just as quickly as the time we try to manage. There isn’t enough time to finish what we need to in a day much less time to figure out how to use that time. Well that’s because everything you know about time management is wrong. Often when we hear these two words strung together and tremble in fear what is really being talked about is clock time. That being 60 seconds to a minute. Never changing, always the same, and never stopping. But in actuality what you should be worrying over is real time. Or time that is relative. That is the time that seems to either speed by or slow to a crawl depending on what we are doing. Ever been at work close to the end of the day and those last two hours seem to stretch on forever? Or how about out having fun with your friends and suddenly is six hours later?
So when I say time management I’m actually referring to managing your relative time. How you ask? Its actually quite simple, since we are talking about relative time you control it. Relative time is all in your mind. This lends itself to rather easily being controlled by you.
The Three Categories
Now during your day your tasks will fall into three broader categories. Thoughts, conversations, and actions. These three categories kind of explain themselves. Everything you do during the day will fall into one of these and will effect your relative time. In order to best use your time first take a week where you keep a scheduler with you and record everything that you end up doing with a tag for one of these categories. This will help you to review where your time goes, how it can best be redistributed, and where your focus needs to be shifted to.
A List for Everything, and Everything in Its List
You need to keep track of alot during your day, the best way to do that is through lists. They will help you prioritize tasks, keep track of meetings, give you a goal for each day, and just generally make your life easier. To help you keep your eye on the time management prize I suggest at least the following lists.
Personal Planner: This is for the entire year, day by day.
To-Do List: A basic “Things-to-Do” list organized by month, week, and day, prioritized as As, Bs and Cs.
To-Call List: A “People-to-Call” list, also prioritized alphabetically.
Conference Planner: A page for each person you interact with a lot, where you can jot down things you need to talk to them about as they occur to you.
Track Your Time Like a Scientist
Ever so often as a check in, time your tasks. How long does it take for you to check your email? How long does it take before you start feeling worn out? Do you waste time on social media? How much? Be your own Data Scientist! Gather all the information to be analyzed and reviewed in order to re-evaluate and rework your current time management system. Regularly doing this will let you easily adjust to better use your time. Management is always about constantly reviewing and adjusting and that is the same with time management.
Be Only Where You Are Needed
No one likes meetings. I absolutely hate them because 99% of the time they are a waste of time. You spend the time talking about doing or working on things rather then working on them. And alot of meetings just turn it allotted times for people to pat themselves on the back. I avoid these like the plague wherever possible. Of course there are some things you need meetings for like checking in with your department heads or having a collaboration meeting. For these unavoidable sessions try keeping things as short and sweet as possible. Otherwise you are just waiting everyone’s time, yours included. Also if you can get out of a meeting yourself by delegating someone who is actually effected by to go to it then do it. An example of this was given by beloved funny man host Chris Hardwick: “There are certain meetings where it doesn’t even make sense for me to go. I’m just going to turn to the production guy and say that we have to figure out what resources we need to get this production going, so it’s just as easy for him or her to go straight to that meeting and not me. In general, I’m fairly good at delegating and I trust people.”
Defend Your Time
Pre-schedule blocks of times to accomplish regular tasks as much as possible. This acts as a natural defense for your time. If you know you have a lot of regular phone calls to make every month then dedicate an entire day to doing nothing but those phone calls. Have it be the same day every month, and have that day blocked on your calendar for the whole year. Give yourself scheduled uninterrupted work days, regular meetings, and just about anything you can think of. Doing this allows you to keep from continuously bumping down things on your priority list because someone pops in with something for you. It keeps you from constantly interrupting your flow of work to jump around on things and keeps you focused on a task till its done.
The same however needs to go for your personal time. Work and home are two different things. Though given all the technology in our lives that often gets blurred. When you leave work, leave it at work. Don’t take it home or people will get in the habit of contacting you at home to do something. Even a multi-million dollar CEO needs some downtime from the company.
A Little Time is Alot of Time
Never think that time isn’t valuable. People take it for granted in all kinds of ways. Especially when it comes to wasting it. I have an 1 1/2 commute into the city when I go to work. That’s alot of time most people would waste by sleeping or zoning out. I use that time to stay up to date on the world through podcasts and TEDx talks, I also read multiple novels a month, and currently I’m working on writing a book during that time. I’m not the only one to use commute time this way Dan Kennedy, a man known for his book ‘No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs‘ uses his time to work on his next book as well. But it doesn’t have to be a long commute to be a productive one. Even if your commute is only 10-15 minutes, everyday that 30 minutes and every week that’s 2 1/2 hours. Imagine what you could get done if you utilized this time.
Now don’t get me wrong this time should not be used for things like work calls, catching up on email or messages. Because that would be you rushing them and if they are important then shouldn’t be rushed. Instead things like that should have allotted times during your day to do that.