Time management is an important and valuable skill for all of us. Originally a business concept used to design systems and tools for increasing business productivity, it was broadened to include personal activities with a view to improving our lives.
Everyone can benefit from learning time management and in this article we look at the range of skills, tools and techniques you can use every day to improve your productivity and make better use of your time. As a job seeker, you can use this advice to help speed up the process of getting back into work or if you are already in work, to help find that new job more quickly.
Experts agree that one of the first steps you can take for effective time management is to organise your work space and home. It is much easier to work well in a clean and orderly space and avoids wasting time looking for things in order to get started. Once you have cleaned, purged and reorganised your work or home the next step is to think about and write down a list of each of the tasks you perform on a daily and weekly basis and how much time they take. The more accurate you can be and the more detail you go into, the greater the benefit you will achieve from this exercise. Be sure to include both things you need to get done and time spent on entertainment and exercise.
The Pareto Principle
This principle, also called the 80:20 rule, states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In time management then, as a rule of thumb, it can be observed that roughly 80% of our unfocussed effort generates about 20% of the results. This means that 80% of the results we achieve come from only 20% of our efforts. You can see from this the huge benefits that effectively managing your time can bring. By focusing our time and energy on those tasks that have the highest payoff we get the biggest benefit from our limited resource of time.
Moving on with our list from above, the next step is to prioritise each task on a scale of 1 to 3 or 1 to 5 if you’re feeling ambitious. Then create a new list with the most important to-do’s at the top and on down to the least important. Many people dismiss this simple exercise but in fact it is usually the first important break-through people make in increasing their personal productivity. It is a way of concentrating your focus on the tasks that require immediate attention and avoiding those that can safely be left until later. Having this list also helps remind you of what needs to be done so you don’t forget anything important.
It is often useful to take this a step further and create an Action Plan which will enable you to juggle multiple projects going on in your life at the same time. It encompasses setting short, medium and long-term goals and provides a structure for fitting everything together into a meaningful plan of action. Write down everything you would like to accomplish in the next two years, big and small, personal and professional, urgent and not. It helps to do this on computer so you can make updates to inevitable changes that will occur from time to time. Your list might include such things as starting an after-school or after-work study course, collaborating with friends on private projects, community projects or something home-based.
Once you have your list, look at each item and decide if it really warrants action. Is it really relevant in the scheme of things? Is it worth your time to take action on? You might find this process useful in cutting down your list and what you are left with are the things you are really excited about and motivated to do. As with the to-do list each item can be organised and prioritised and then each one must be broken down into actionable activities before being scheduled and added to the Action Plan in the most appropriate place.
The outcome of all this is an Action Plan that you can refer to at any time and know what needs to be done next to maintain your progress towards your goals. It enables you to effectively multi-task different projects and will give you great focus and a real sense of achievement.
Let’s look at the wasteful things we have overcome in using time management to organise our day to day activities:
No more Procrastination – ‘the thief of time!’ – with your to-do list and action plan you always know where you are and there is no need to deliberate before you get started.
Less stress – by taking a few hours to set out everything you want and need to do into a realistic plan of action, you take all those worries about unknowns and known’s out of your mind. On paper they look a lot less daunting especially now you have planned time to tackle them.
Time killers killed – all those time wasting-activities have been rooted out or managed as past of your overall plan.
Let’s summarise the payoff you gained from your new time-management skills. By making an honest assessment of the important and unimportant activities you do on a day to day basis, you took control of your life, brought order to your days and planned for success. You saved time by acknowledging the wasteful activities and made a plan to minimise your time spent doing them. You increased your productivity by focusing on the tasks that bring the most valuable benefits and making sure more time is spent on these. You gained confidence and a sense of empowerment by setting goals and setting out the steps to achieve them. By organising your time more efficiently you will quickly find that you actually have more time to enjoy the things you love doing and that that time is more enjoyable because you are meeting your goals.
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