Drop into any office during peak working hours and you are sure to find people busy at their desks trying to get their day’s work done; yet, at the end of the day, it seems like there is still so much left undone.
Speak to any stay-at-home parent and you will find them complaining of always racing against the clock to get all their jobs done.
What’s the problem here? It’s obviously not a lack of effort because everyone works pretty hard; it is more likely to be a lack of an important skill – time management.
If you find yourself nodding in reply to the description of people stressed for time, here are a few ideas you may find useful in managing time better.
MAKE SPECIFIC PLANS
A good plan always includes an order of priority – what needs to be done first, and what can be done later. More importantly, it also has a deadline of when you ought to finish each of the steps involved as well as the entire job; but think carefully before you fill in this detail. Set realistic schedules by considering the amount of time you need, and leaving in a little extra time for all those unexpected things that come up to interfere with your schedule. If you are typing up a report for instance, make sure you figure in the time for collecting all the relevant information; leave extra time for delays because someone else is not able to immediately provide you with the info you need.
CONSIDER BEFORE YOU COMMIT
If taking on a task is up to you, make sure you think about whether you have the time for it. This is especially important for all those who have a problem saying no to demands on their time. Are you sure dropping your neighbor’s kid to hobby class every week is not going to eat into your cooking time? Do you really have the time to help a colleague with tomorrow’s presentation for a client? With jobs that are allotted to you, when you have no freedom to refuse, make sure you ask for some time before you commit to a deadline. Think of all the steps that job involves, calculate the realistic amount of time it will take to complete each step, add it all up and then add in a few more hours for exigencies. If you manage to finish well within this time, your boss is going to be pleased; at least you don’t run the risk of displeasing him by failing to meet the deadline.
DECIDE WHAT NOT TO DO
Unknown to us, there are several things we do day in and out that actually rob us of valuable time. Logging into your mail or Facebook page every time you use the computer may cause you to lose a significant number of minutes every day. Occasionally chatting with a neighbor or friend with no real agenda can be a good break; do it too often and it could be one way you feel drained and run out of time. Observe yourself for a couple of days, jotting down a minute to minute report of things you do and you will easily see what eats into your time. Put these activities on your “not to do” list and add a little more time to each day.
TACKLE UNPLEASANT STUFF
Each one of us has our own Achilles heel – the jobs that leave us drained out, or things we don’t like to do, but that have to be done anyway. Putting off such tasks may give you some momentary relief but ultimately, there is no getting away from them. And if you have to do them in a hurry or when you are rushed for time because other important things are waiting, they become doubly unpleasant. Set aside a particular time to tackle such stuff – preferably a time when you are high on energy and attention so that you get it done quickly. Many people also discover that it is the first step of starting that is difficult; once you get into the task, it no longer feels as unpleasant.
Many people think that possessing an electronic calendar or a scheduler is going to make them manage time better. While there is no denying that these tools can help, the fact remains that it is the individual who controls the tool. So, getting things done is more about the approach you use to schedule your time and stick to deadlines rather than the latest gizmo you have. It is important to not just work hard; you also need to work smart. Follow the tips outlined here and you will find you have the time to get more done. Equally important, you will find you still have the time and energy to spend doing the things that matter most in life to you.