by Alberto Aleo
We don’t really think about this too much, but nowadays one of the main skills for managers and professionals is time management, for both personal and team productivity. Why so? Because we live in an constantly evolving world where changes and unexpected events affect our business with sudden changes of direction, new projects and internal reorganizations. Our working lives therefore become turbulent and force us to cover new roles, to work with different people in variable contexts and situations. So what is the secret to successful time management? Here are some considerations…
There is nothing more certain and unchanging than uncertainty and change.
J. F. Kennedy
Different symptoms, different disorders and different treatments
Before describing the management techniques we’ll try to consider the symptoms which can reveal how good we are at managing our time effectively and give us some useful information on how to improve our skills.
There are two main psychological side-effects of bad time management: anxiety and stress! The two do not coincide, in fact they are caused by different situations and behaviours. Anxiety is triggered when we are too focused on ‘what could happen in the future‘, especially because of our past ‘mistakes and bad experiences’. Basically it pulls us away from the present making us feel unstable and insecure. How to overcome anxiety? Keeping in mind that the past no longer exists and the future is yet to come, and that the only real thing is the “here and now”.
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From our past we can learn how to act NOW, and make decisions which will influence our future. Therefore both past and future are relevant only with regard to what we do today!
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On the other hand negative stress is related to a state of extreme tension in the present. Too heavy a workload, too many responsibilities, tasks which go beyond our skills… Keeping stress under control is not at all easy, however you might find useful some of the resources listed below – which are mentioned in several books dedicated to this topic (the best known is Get Things Done by David Allen) – combined with our personal experience.
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.
The 6 pillars of time management
In our opinion, effective time management should take into consideration the following topics. Here are the 6 Ps of the Master of Time:
- Presence – he ability of staying in the present, which is the only ‘place’ where we can act and find a solution to all our problems. Developing this ability is especially useful for anxious people. Need advice? Read our article The Courage to Change written by Serena Calderoni.
- Prioritisation – setting specific goals, both personal and professional. In this respect we advise you to read our article on defining your goals.
- Planning – moving from goals to actions, dividing the steps to be taken into different categories according to whether we need to complete them immediately, plan them or delegate them.
- Preparation – a set of actions forms a project. If we organize our actions as a continuum we can identify the preliminary steps and best manage our tasks and resources. If you are very stressed, this is one of the topics you should focus on.
- Prediction – Emergencies happen, so do interruptions and distractions. If they occur too often, though, we can no longer treat them as exceptions, but…try to predict them! Good time management therefore anticipates inefficiency and waste of time.
- Punctuality – Being punctual is a quality indicator and accustoms us to use two very important tools for time management: the clock and the calendar!
Each of these 6 topics would require a more detailed analysis. We will present each one of them during our Master Class dedicated to Time Management starting next February 22th. However taking them into consideration – even in minor detail – will allow you to consider time in an active (not only responsive) way. It will become more difficult to tell ourselves and others ‘I can’t help it, I have no time’, which is one of the most common alibis used to resist change.
The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.
G. B. Shaw
A post published a few months ago on Lauren Bacon’s blog delves into the different nature of the activities we carry out each day. It divides them into different categories according to how closely they align with our goals, or with those of other people (our boss, our partner or friend), and according to how pleasant they are for us. A four-quadrant matrix helps us distinguish among (Fulfillment) fun actions, which are enjoyable and rewarding for us, (Discipline) tasks we need to carry out efficiently in order to achieve our goals, (Expectation) work we do for others which imply a certain expectation of gratitude and (Reward) draining activities which we are forced to do and for which we expect a reward. You can list the activities that fill your week along the two axes to analyze your balance. Are they distributed homogeneously? If not you should try and place them into the different quadrants in a more balanced way. How to do it? By adding or removing the activities so that no category surpasses the others.
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than any hour.
Good time management means being efficient, a concept which is linked more to the quality than to the quantity of our actions. Carrying out many tasks doesn’t necessarily imply productivity. During our personal work experience as consultants we have witnessed that many projects fail as a consequence of bad time management rather than because of insufficient ideas, money or other resources. The most common mistakes result from poor discipline, self overestimation, disregard towards other people and…lack of time. This is because you need time to learn how to manage time. It may sound like a contradiction but in fact it is not. Unless you dedicate some time to learn how to best manage your life you will always feel overwhelmed!
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