What is Time Management? The modern concept of time management is the act of planning the amount of time you spend on activities which really began with Frederick Taylor’s scientific management techniques. His goal was to increase worker productivity.
To do this, he conducted time and motion studies and began to focus on the best ways for jobs to be performed to maximize the work completed in a given amount of time.
Time management has come up as a subject in the management field to reach the goal of increasing productivity, especially among white-collar workers for whom work output may be hard to measure.
For example, an assembly line worker’s output of 60 widgets per hour can be compared to a factory average and deemed as acceptable or not; however, white-collar outputs tend to be difficult to compare to standards. So, modern managers in these areas look for ways to monitor worker productivity in terms of time use.
Understanding The Difference Between Urgent and Important
‘Urgent’ tasks demand your immediate attention, but whether you actually give them that attention may or may not matter.
‘Important’ tasks matter, and not doing them may have serious consequences for you or others.
- Answering the phone is urgent. If you don’t do it, the caller will ring off, and you won’t know why they called. It may, however, be an automated voice telling you that you may be eligible for compensation for having been mis-sold insurance. That’s not important.
- Going to the dentist regularly is important (or so we’re told). If you don’t, you may get gum disease or other problems. But it’s not urgent. If you leave it too long, however, it may become urgent, because you may get a toothache.
- Picking your children up from school is both urgent and important. If you are not there at the right time, they will be waiting in the playground or the classroom, worrying about where you are.
- Reading funny emails or checking Facebook is neither urgent nor important. So why is it the first thing that you do each day? See our page minimizing distractions to help you recognize and avoid other things that may distract you from getting your urgent and important tasks done.
The distinction between urgent and important is the key to prioritizing your time and your workload, whether at work or at home.
Remember, too, that you and your health are important. Just because you have lots to do doesn’t mean that doing some exercise, going for a 10minute walk or making time to eat properly is not important. You shouldn’t ignore your physical or mental health in favour of more ‘urgent’ activities.
What can you do if an important task continually gets bumped down the list by more urgent, but still important tasks? First, consider whether it is genuinely important. Does it actually need doing at all, or have you just been telling yourself that you ought to do it? If it really is important, then consider delegating it.
For some people, clutter can be both a real distraction and genuinely depressing. Tidying up can improve both self-esteem and motivation. You will also find it easier to stay on top of things if your workspace is tidy.
If you have a system where everything is stuck on the fridge or notice board pending action, then take off anything that doesn’t need action and/or has been dealt with! That way, you’ll be able to see at a glance what needs doing, and you’ll be less likely to miss anything.
Pick Your Moment
We all have times of the day that we work better. It’s best to schedule the difficult tasks for those times. However, you also need to schedule in things that need doing at particular times, like meetings, or a trip to the post office. Another useful option is to have a list of important but not urgent small tasks that can be done in that odd ten minutes between meetings: might it be the ideal time to send that email confirming your holiday dates?
Don’t Procrastinate, but Do Ask Why You’re Tempted
If a task is genuinely urgent and important, get on with it. If, however, you find yourself making excuses about not doing something, ask yourself why.You may be doubtful about whether you should be doing the task at all. Perhaps you’re concerned about ethics, or you don’t think it’s the best option. If so, you may find that others agree. Talk it over with colleagues or your manager, if at work, and family or friends at home, and see if there is an alternative that might be better.
Don’t Try To Multitask
Generally, people aren’t very good at multitasking, because it takes our brains time to refocus. It’s much better to finish off one job before moving onto another. If you do have to do lots of different tasks, try to group them together, and do similar tasks consecutively.
Stay Calm and Keep Things In Perspective
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to stay calm. Feeling overwhelmed by too many tasks can be very stressful. Remember that the world will probably not end if you fail to achieve your last task of the day, or leave it until tomorrow, especially if you have prioritised sensibly. Going home or getting an early night, so that you are fit for tomorrow, maybe a much better option than meeting a self-imposed or external deadline that may not even matter that much. Take a moment to pause and get your life and priorities into perspective, and you may find that the view changes quite substantially!
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