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Time Management – How good are you at it?

  Mar 6, 2020

It was just the other day when we were wishing each other Happy New Year. The ushering in of a new decade was met with pomp and cheer by many people all around the world. The spirit of hope and goodwill seemed to permeate through society. And yet, by the time you read this article, it will probably be February 2020. Where does the time go? Has time started moving faster? Is there more to do than usual? I can bet you have asked yourself these questions.

Allow me to ask some more questions. We know that every day we have 24 hours. Out of those 24 hours, 7- 8 on average is spent sleeping. Of course, there are the outliers, some people can manage to survive on 4 hours sleep and others would need close to 10 hours of good sleep. So the time we spent sleeping, we can’t quite do anything else with it. Now, why is it that some people manage to get so much done on any given day whereas others struggle to complete the most basic of tasks? Generally, the answer is – they have more time. More time? We are all allocated the same amount of hours in a day. 

Time is one of the unique resources that cannot be saved. Once gone, you can never get it back. But it is interesting to note that many people do not value time. Occasionally they don’t value other people’s time. In the busy world of today, and with technology helping us to organize our lives, one would expect it to be easier to keep time. Keeping time is also a challenge. You agree to start a meeting at 10 am and at 10.15 am there is no one in the room because everyone assumes it will start late. This results in everything on the schedule getting delayed. You promise to meet your friend at 4 pm for a cup of tea. You arrive 2 hours late. Is this poor timekeeping or bad time management?

Time management and timekeeping aren’t the same even though there is a relationship between the two terms. Time management has been defined by many authors but most of them agree that it is a planning process that helps one to organize and plan activities and allocate the right amount of time for each of the specific activities. Therefore, it stands to reason that if one does not plan their time properly, it is unlikely they will be able to keep time.

Why bother to learn the skill of time management? Well according to an article published by Sandeep Kashyap in 2019 on ProofHub.Com, there are several benefits of time management, especially at the workplace. Kashyap argues that good time management will result in being productive and efficient at work. That, in turn, would mean better quality of work that is delivered on time. It sounds like a dream for any employer. This would also mean less stress for the employee and more time to engage in leisure activities thus improving one’s quality of life. That is a good thing for the employee. After all, life is short and one needs to spend every minute wisely and on things that make you happy.

Here are some tips that can help you with time management.

1. Prioritize

We all have so many things to do every day. Sometimes writing a to-do list can help. Other times when looking at the list, it all feels overwhelming. Pick the key things you need to accomplish and give them top priority. Doing the easiest things on your list don’t always mean you have completed the most important tasks

2. Single-tasking

The more familiar word is multitasking. It is even a frequent joke that men cannot multitask. But is very detrimental to productivity with some research indicating that productivity goes down by almost 40% when the brain switches from one task to the other. Focus on a single task and complete it, then move on to another task.

3. Avoid distractions

Distractions can come in many forms, the most common ones at the workplace include emails and cell phones. You could have your day all planned out and the minute you check your email, you come across something that throws your entire day into a spin. Or the email alerts that ping every 10 minutes making it impossible for you to concentrate on writing up your report or doing an analysis of sales figures. Avoid these by turning off notifications and scheduling times during the day when these are attended to.

4. Take breaks

Taking regular breaks between tasks means you can get a few minutes to recharge and recalibrate making you more productive. Just standing up to stretch or grab a cup of tea is a great way to separate the time between tasks.

5. Self Awareness

Are you a morning person or do you prefer evenings? When can you get the most done? When is your mind the freshest and able to process information at optimum speed? We are all different as human beings, but once we take the time in self-reflection we can then understand what works best for us and take advantage of this. Self-awareness could also mean understanding the things that impact our ability to learn. It takes time to learn or understand a new task, but over time and with practice, the speed increases and the task becomes less stressful.

6. Learn to say NO

Of all the tips so far, this must be the one that is the most challenging for many people. Being assertive is often a trait that is associated with having a forceful personality. However, being able to say no, is simply being assertive but in a nice way. Perhaps your boss is always giving you all the projects around the office. Or you are invited to every single meeting by every department head. As flattering as it may seem to be superhuman and as nice as it feels to be highly regarded, it is not possible to be the one doing everything. By saying no to some things, you will find that you free up your time for other more important tasks.

7. Get sufficient rest

Go to sleep? But this will mean even less time for things that need to get done! It sounds counter-productive but it has been shown that getting sufficient rest makes one much more productive when they tackle the relevant tasks. So relax and rest. It is just what the doctor ordered.

Bruce Lee, a well-known actor once said,” It is not the daily increase, but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” It makes you think about how best you can utilize your allocation of time. We are the masters of the time that is ours. Use your time wisely and be in the present. For this time, now, it can never be got back!

This article was written by Thrity Engineer- Mbuthia.

She is the current Acting Chair – Chartered Institute of Marketing Kenya. 

She is also a leadership coach with an interest in Personal Development at Strathmore University Business School.

This article was first published in the Marketing Africa magazine edition MAL/34/20


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