For the last few years I have been leading time management training for a wide range of organisations. I use a mix of established approaches ideas Covey, David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and Brian Tracey; and more innovative techniques involving the body, flow and emotions. One thing I have found is that simply knowing some useful time management ideas and concepts is a big step towards improving how one spends one’s time. It’s not enough in many cases as habits need to be built and there are often the deeper emotional blocks to things such as asking for help and saying no, but it’s a quick win and a good start. Here are some of my favorite time management ideas and concepts:
A-Z of Time Management Concepts
We live in an attention deficit and attention grabbing world. Attention management rather than time management is often the key.
Doing a number of similar tasks together makes you more efficient due to reduced pick-up time (see below).
We all need to keep calm and grounded in order to make good use of our time. This video shows how to “centre” in order to do this.
Most of what is referred to as time management is better understood as commitment management. You are as busy as the stuff you have said yes to and will be stressed if you’re not sure what that is.
The time in your day not booked out for things which “come up”. For most jobs at least 50% of the day should be like this to avoid the rest of your life becoming the crumple zone.
Avoiding doing two things at the same time and “contaminating” one environment by doing things there best done in another – e.g. e-mailing on your Blackberry while sitting in bed.
Efficient vs effective
Efficient is doing things right (e.g. getting quick at writing letters), effective is doing the right things (as defines by your “levels” – see later). If you are efficient but not effective you may be a “busy fool.”
Peter Drucker says managing their energy is the primary job of the leader and much of what is considered time management is better considered as energy management.
Most time management training and books have a distinctly uptight, planning and “male” flavor to them in my opinion. Flexibility, initiation, feeling and spontaneity are often ignored. I call time management that incorporates this “feminine flow” though of course it can apply to men as well and not all women will appreciate this approach.
Modern condition resulting from excess speed and rushing with emotional, relational and health consequences.
Intrusive reminder systems (From Getting Things Done – GTD)
Good time management systems include reminder systems which may be high (e.g. beeping I-Phone) or low tech (washing basket in front of door) that are hard to ignore and tell you what you need to remember at the correct time
Last responsible minute
The last time when you can do something well before quality is lost. Many people can operate very well on this principle.
Part of any good time management system. I recommend only putting next actions on them and separating them out from reminder systems.
Levels of operation (GTD)
A way of looking at your life and commitments from different “altitudes” (e.g. projects, roles, life goals) to establish priorities.
Meaning overload (GTD)
According to Getting Things Done time management guru David Allen it is the potential meaning of things such as multiple e-mails that can be stressful and needs managing.
A misunderstanding where fools switch quickly between things thinking they can do two things as once and wasting time and energy. The only way you can do this if you have practiced one activity to unconscious competence – e.g. driving and talking.
Next actions (GTD)
Concrete units of action, that only involve one step. E.g. “call John and ask for marketing company referral”, not “sort our marketing plan”.
Personality and cultural differences
People are different in terms of how they perceive time, how they enjoy flow vs direction, if they see the details of bog picture (see MBTI) and other factors which effect time management. This needs to be taken into account while making any improvements. In different countries time may be viewed differently too, for example what constitutes “late” varies wildly.
The time it takes to restart any activity after an interruption. E.g. the 1 min it takes to reorientate yourself to your e-mail and remember what you were trying to say after a phone call.
When you take a short-term reward in favor of the hard work to peruse a long term one (“discipline is remembering what you love”). This article gives some tips for overcoming this.
Doing things incorrectly or in the wrong order – not the same as fast.
People who you need to say no to quicker. This is your responsibility.
Urgent vs Important
Urgent needs doing now, important is a priority – from Stephen Covey. Some things are both – e.g being in a burning building, other things just one, e.g. a sales call interrupting you (urgent, not important) or exercise (important but not urgent).
How you manage all the work that’s coming in – e.g. the CORD system from Think Productive – capture and collect, organise, review regularly, do.
Also known as the Pareto principle. When applied to time management it means 20% of what you do will make 80% of the difference
I’m sure I’m missing some out here so please comment and I will improve this list as time goes on.
If you liked this article you may like to look at the following:
If your organisation is interested in how our coporate training can help in your workplace then call us on (+44) (0) 1273 906828.
Receive monthly newsletter for more articles like this and for free tips and news of events please click on the link below.