What Effective Time Management Really Is – Part 2 of 2

Part one of this article suggests a fresh paradigm that we cannot control time. Therefore, we cannot literally manage time. Rather, we can and should manage our work (i.e. our activities, our tasks), given a certain period of time.

Three tips to optimize our time and effectively manage our work:

  1. Prioritize your work;
  2. Stop procrastinating;
  3. Manage your energy.

Prioritize your work
The following is my favorite quotes from David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity”: “the mind is for having ideas not holding them.” Many of us are guilty for storing all of our activities and tasks that we have to do in our head. Believing that our mind is powerful enough to memorize all of them. Forgetting that some activities or tasks are more important than the others, some of them are more urgent than the others. Let us consider that some of us are blessed with the capacity to memorize not only the list of things to do, but also which activities or tasks must be completed first and why. Naturally, even in this case, we would end up with less than the optimal results for the highly important work requiring innovations, because the capacity of our mind to generate ideas is disturbed by the need to memorize them.

Therefore, periodically we need to free up our mind from storing all of these activities and tasks. One practical way to accomplish this is by transferring them onto a ‘To Do List’. Once you have your ‘To Do List’ ready, go through the list and set priorities on them.

One of my favorite prioritization method is the Eisenhower’s Urgent-Important Principle. Basically, you classify your work into one of the following categories:

  • Important and Urgent:
    the work that you ‘Must Do’ first.
  • Important but Not Urgent:
    the work that you ‘Should Do’ or schedule next.
  • Urgent but Not Important
    the work that you ‘Could Do’, however because it is unimportant, you may consider to delegate the work to one of your team members. Not only that these urgent activities and tasks get done and checked off from your list immediately, you get to develop your team members as well.
  • Not Important and Not Urgent
    the work that you ‘Don’t Do’.

If most of your work falls under the ‘Important and Urgent’ category, you need to plan better for the future. Ideally, you need to organize so that most of your work falls under the ‘Important but Not Urgent’ category.

Stop procrastinating
To optimize time, one must understand the following paradox: “To save time, we must use time.” Again, we cannot control time. Time goes on, if we do not use it. Therefore, to invest on time means to use it wisely. Do not let it slip away.

Unfortunately, whether we would like to admit it or not, procrastination is part of human nature. Personally for me, understanding this helps motivate me to fight it.

Remember this from Part 1? “20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions.” Familiarize yourself with the following common excuses of chronic procrastinators:

  • being overwhelmed by the size of the assignment or scope of work;
  • being uncomfortable or unconfident with unfamiliarity of the types of work involved (being outside the comfort zone);
  • being deviated or distracted by irresistible temptations.

I would like to recommend and give credit to the following video clip by WellCast, written by Kate Holzhauer and Lucy Mueller. This particular video clip addresses the above sources of procrastination in a straight-forward manner.

In summary, the WellCast video clip suggests procrastinators to:

  • break down the scope of work into smaller manageable tasks;
  • start the work immediately by choosing the tasks you like the most or you are most comfortable with;
  • block out any temptations (e.g. uninstall Instagram or Facebook from your gadget, put up ‘Busy’ or ‘Do not disturb’ status on your social media accounts) that might distract you from getting your job done.

Manage your energy

We know that it is not enough to work smart, we still need to work hard. Unfortunately, hard-working people tend to forget or neglect setting aside a certain period of time for having a quality rest. Again, people in general will deliver better quality of outputs when they feel fresh and energized.

Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy wrote an article: “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” in Harvard Business Review, October 2007 issue. Schwartz and McCarthy reminded the readers that organizations and their people need to maintain their mutually beneficial relationship. How? Organizations must “invest in their people across all dimensions of their lives to help them build and sustain their value.” In response, individuals have to bring “all their multidimensional energy wholeheartedly to work every day”, namely:

  • The Body: the physical energy;
  • The Emotions: the quality of energy;
  • The Mind: the focus of energy; and
  • The Human Spirit: the energy of meaning and purpose.

My intention in writing this article (both Part 1 and 2) is not to argue that the terminology ‘Time Management’ is not accurate. Rather, I would invite us to agree on the meaning, that effective time management essentially means time optimization. In addition, I believe the 3 tips above should help us utilize our time more effectively. Practicing these 3 tips religiously, should help us get more things done with better quality, given the same 24-hour per day time period. Why? The answer is time optimization.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *