An Introduction To Time Management
To succeed in business you need to spend your time wisely. By now you should have set yourself some goals and objectives; if you have set them correctly (SMART), they will be time based, so now the clock is ticking!
How can you be more effective and productive to not only complete your new goals but to complete them before the alarm goes off?
The key problem with completing goals (as part of any project or task list) on time is not what has to be done; it is usually YOU, the person responsible for achieving them!
The reality is, we all put things off from time to time, it is about understanding the impact of putting something off. We can all achieve anything with the correct plan and resources; from climbing a mountain to landing on the Moon.
Time Management Statistics
Emphasising the huge significance and opportunities to be gained through effective time management, a survey by Proudfoot Consulting (covering 2,500 businesses over four years and 38 countries), indicated that wasted time costs UK businesses £80bn per annum, equivalent to 7% of GDP. The primary cause of wasted time – labour inefficiency, in other words:
- Inadequate workforce supervision (31%)
- Poor management planning (30%)
- Poor communication (18%)
- IT problems, low morale, and lack or mismatch of skills (21%)
The report summarised the position as:
“Clearly, organisations are vastly under-utilising their people, and could be doing a lot more to enable more efficient working.
These failings of organisation and leadership make it all the more important for individual people to think creatively about time management, and particularly to start making changes to improve time management at a personal level.
Time Management Skills and Techniques
Effective time management starts with a commitment to change; it is easily achieved as long as you commit to action.
You can train others and improve your own time management through better planning, prioritising, delegating, controlling your environment, understanding yourself and identifying what you will change about your habits, routines and attitude.
The key to successful time management is planning and then protecting the planned time. People who say that they have no time do not plan, or fail to protect planned time. If you plan what to do and when, and then stick to it, then you will have time. This involves conditioning, or re-conditioning your environment. For people who have demands placed on them by others, particularly other departments, managers, customers, etc, time management requires diplomatically managing the expectations of others. It is chiefly about conditioning your environment, rather than allowing your environment to condition you. If you tolerate, and accept without question, the interruptions and demands of others then you effectively encourage these time management pressures to continue.
The man who discovered and described the ’80:20′ phenomenon was Vilfredo Pareto.
He first observed it when researching and analysing wealth and income distribution trends in the nineteenth century.
His first breakthrough was identifying that 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the wealth. This
led on to further research which has produced one of the key rules of effective time management.
According to the Pareto Principle, it will generally be the case (broadly – remember it’s a guide not a scientific certainty), that within any given scenario or system or organisation, the following relationships will be found to be true:
If you analyse the profit you make from your customers, you may find that 20% of your customers generate 80% of your profits.
If you analyse how much you spend with suppliers, you may find that 80% of your costs are spent with 20% of your suppliers, negotiate with these and you could make more profit.
How are you spending your time? You should be planning your time on effective work. 20% of your time should be creating 80% of your results.
To be a good Time Manager you must be able to prioritise your tasks and focus on those that give you the results you really want.
For example, if you had six weeks to live what would you do?
If you were going away for a month in just one weeks’ time, what tasks would you do first? Then what tasks would you do next?
What is the most valued use of your time right NOW?
It’s not just about doing things right, it’s about doing the right things! What’s the point if they are not important?
What are the things you can STOP doing that are not important?
Who are the people you can STOP seeing, those who are not helping you achieve your objectives?
Urgent: Important Time Management Matrix
The judgment as to whether activities are urgent, important, both or neither, is crucial for good time management.
The diagram below shows the Urgent: Important Matrix and describes the activities in each of four Quadrants.
Most inexperienced people, those who are not good managing their time or their environment, tend to spend most of their time in Quadrants 1 and 3.
Poor time managers tend to prioritise tasks (and thereby their time), according to who shouted last and loudest (interestingly, loudness normally correlates to seniority, which discourages most people from questioning and probing the real importance and urgency of tasks received from bosses and senior managers).
Any spare time is typically spent in box 4, which comprises only aimless and non-productive activities. Most people spend the least time of all in box 2, which is the most critical area for success, development and proactive self-determination.
Q1 – DO NOW
- real major emergencies and crisis issues
- significant demands for information from superiors or customers
- project work with imminent deadline
- meetings and appointments
- reports and other submissions
- staff issues or needs
- problem resolution, fire-fighting, fixes
- serious urgent complaints
Subject to confirming the importance and the urgency of these tasks, it would appear that these tasks need doing now. Prioritise tasks that fall into this category according to their relative urgency.
If two or more tasks appear equally urgent, discuss and probe the actual requirements and deadlines with the task originators or with the people dependent on the task outcomes.
Help the originators of these demands to re-assess the real urgency and priority. These tasks should include activities that you will previously have planned in Quadrant 2, which move into Quadrant 1 when the time-slot arrives
If helpful you may show your schedule to task originators in order to explain that you are prioritising logically and to be as productive and effective as possible.
Look for ways to break a task into two stages if it’s an unplanned demand – often a suitable initial ‘holding’ response or acknowledgment, with a commitment to resolve or complete at a later date, will enable you to resume other planned activity.
What could you start doing in Quadrant 1?
What could you stop doing in Quadrant 1?
Q2 – PLAN TO DO
- planning and preparation
- project planning and scheduling
- research and investigation
- networking and relationship building
- thinking and creating
- modeling, designing, testing
- systems and process development
- anticipative, preventative activities or communication
- identifying need for change and new direction
- developing strategy
These tasks are the most critical to achieve success, and yet commonly are the most neglected.
These activities include planning, strategic thinking, deciding direction and aims, etc., all crucial for success and development. You must plan time-slots for doing these tasks, and if necessary plan where you will do them free from interruptions, If you don’t do this, ‘urgent’ matters from Quadrants 1 and 3 will take precedence.
Work from home if your normal place of work cannot provide you with a quiet situation and protection from interruption. Break big tasks down into separate logical stages and plan time-slots for each stage.
Use project management tools and methods. Inform other people of your planned time-slots and schedules. Having a visible schedule is the key to being able to protect these vital time-slots.
What are you doing in Quadrant 2?
What could you start doing in Quadrant 2?
Q3 – REJECT
- trivial and ‘off-loaded’ requests from others
- apparent emergencies
- ad-hoc interruptions
- misunderstandings appearing as complaints
- irrelevant distractions
- pointless routines or activities
- dealing with accumulated unresolved trivia
- duplicated effort
- unnecessary double-checking
- boss’s whims or tantrums
Scrutinise these demands ruthlessly, and help originators – even your boss and your senior managers – to re-assess the real importance of these tasks. Practice and develop your ability to explain and justify to task originators why you cannot do these tasks.
Where possible reject and avoid these tasks immediately, informing and managing people’s expectations and sensitivities accordingly; explain why you can’t do these tasks and help the originator find another way of achieving what they need. This may involve delegation to another person, or re-shaping the demand to be more strategic, with a more sustainable solution.
Look for causes of repeating demands in this area and seek to prevent re-occurrence. Educate and train others, including customers, suppliers, fellow staff and superiors to identify long-term remedies. For significant repeating demands in this area, create a project to resolve the cause; this will be a Quadrant 2 task. Challenge habitual systems, processes, procedures and expectations, e.g. “we’ve always done it this way”. Help others to manage their own time and priorities, so they don’t bounce their pressures onto you. Question look at your policies are they are still appropriate.
What are you doing in Quadrant 3?
What can you stop doing in Quadrant 3?
4 – RESIST AND CEASE
- unnecessary and unchallenged routines
- ‘comfort’ activities; computer games, net surfing, excessive cigarette breaks
- chat and gossip; face-to-face and phone
- social and domestic communications
- silly emails and text messages
- daydreaming and doodling
- interrupting others
- reading nonsense or irrelevant material
- unnecessary adjusting, tidying, updating equipment, systems, screensavers, etc.
- over-long breaks, canteen, kitchen visits
- embellishment and over-production
- passive world-watching, TV,
- drink and drug abuse
- aimless travel and driving
- shopping or buying for no purpose
These activities are not tasks, they are habitual comforters which provide a refuge from the effort of discipline . They only serve to affirm the same ‘comfort-seeking’ tendencies in other people; a group or whole department all doing a lot of this Q4 activity creates a non-productive and ineffective organisational culture.
These activities have no positive outcomes, and are therefore de-motivating. Often they may be stress related, so consider why you do these things and if there’s a deeper root cause address it.
The best method for ceasing these activities, and for removing temptation to gravitate back to them, is to have a clear structure or schedule of tasks for each day, which you should create in Quadrant 2.
What are you currently doing in Quadrant 4?
What can you stop doing in Quadrant 4?
Chunking Your Time
Chunking your time is a very simple and effective way to manage and protect your time. Simply set aside time to carry out certain tasks or types of task. If you use MS Outlook for your calendar, use it to block out your time.
Discipline is the key to your success in time management
A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorisation of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, C, and D, hence the name.
Use the Task Manager Tool we provide, the instructions for use are below and are included with the tool.
Ask your coach for help if you require it
|Step 1||Make a list of your tasks|
|Step 2||Categorize the task as follows:A = TodayB = This WeekC = This MonthD = Delegate|
|Step 3||Sort data into types – Select the whole of the light grey area including the header – Go into data – Click on sort – Select sort by TYPE and click to sort|
|Step 4||Enter priority 1 = top priority|
|Step 5||Sort data into types – Select the whole of the light grey area including the header – Go into data – Click on sort – Select sort by TYPE and then priority click to sort|
|Step 6||Enter time the task will take in hours|
|Step 7||Enter the task owner|
|Step 8||Print out and distribute to task owners|
|Step 9||Manage the process|
If you would like to learn to manage your time more effectively then sign up for our next Time Management Workshop on February 18, 2016.