Time management is the ability to use our time effectively in all the important areas of our life. The concept includes many different tools, from setting priorities, planning, using technology tools, effective communication etc. The key principles of time management will be briefly described below.
A clear definition of objectives (ideally in the form of SMART goals) can help to identify tools to achieve them. The goals should be long-term, medium-term and short-term and while working on them, the manager should revise the extent to which the goals are still relevant and adjust them accordingly. The manager should set goals at both levels – professional and personal, so that work-life balance can be achieved.
The everyday operational decision making process can be carried out with using the “Priority Matrix” technique which Stephen Covey described in his bestseller “7 habits of highly effective people”. The matrix divides activities into four quadrants according to urgency and importance. Of course, the leader should devote himself or herself to tasks that are urgent and important, but at the same time devote a substantial part of his/her time to activities that are not urgent but important (so that these activities do not move into the quadrant important/urgent). Tasks on the unimportant level should be recognized and eliminated.
The priority matrix serves as a planning aid, which should always take place at the end of the time unit (e.g. day, week, month) for the upcoming period. The manager should go through the plan for the next day before leaving work so as not to be surprised by the work-load the following morning.
The use of effective communication principles is crucial for functional time management. The manager should be able to effectively communicate information, manage conflicts, hold meetings, delegate, refuse unimportant tasks etc.
To avoid procrastination, managers need to understand what activities they tend to postpone, to recognize their procrastination activities and then use the tools to handle their procrastination.
The leader should identify the main “scarecrows” (tasks that he/she least wants to do) and start with them first. Setting a clear deadline for the activities is helpful as well as being aware of what the leader will accomplish when completing the task (or what he/she may lose if he fails to do the task). Making a small step, asking for help, avoiding perfectionism are also useful tools with handling procrastination.
It is important to always have a recording device with us, in which we can write or audio/video record a thought that has occurred to us, and not burden our mental capacity in order to remember the thought.
It is important that the manager realize that the human body is not always ready for maximum performance. Efficiency is also related to the ability to determine the time of the day we have the most energy and use this time for more complex tasks.
For efficiency, it is advisable to use various technological innovations that make data sharing and synchronization easier, or be interested in efficient use of software programs (e.g. Microsoft Office training). Frequently used time management programs are: Remember the Milk, Evernote, Wunderlist, ToodleDo, Todoist etc.
Author: Olga Lostakova, a lecturer at LIGS University
This article was made as a follow up to the open webinar on the same topic.