Time to manage ... time
Let’s be clear, “managing time” is, obviously, a figure of speech. There’s no way we can influence time. We do, however, have an impact on how we will use time. That’s why, a term ”managing your time” has been coined. That includes, on the one hand, the things you do, your plans, duties and responsibilities, but, on the other hand, pleasures and even laziness.
Yes, that’s right, even laziness. As productivity coaches (they do exist!) often say it’s not about increasing your work productivity constantly and it’s not about doing as much work as possible either to receive more money or to receive recognition from the boss. It’s not about the spiral of negative thinking of yourself or setting high expectations of yourself, either. It’s about the optimal use of your energy and stamina and about allowing yourself to have time for your private life, a hobby or just for being lazy.
To put it frankly, the key to properly manage your time is to prepare realistic plans and set realistic goals. Because, contrary to what we often say to ourselves while complaining about not having enough time, about too few hours in the day or too many tasks that use up most of our time, and so on and so forth, it’s not that there is not enough time. We are simply experiencing problems how to make better use of it.
And this is when a magic word comes in - planning. Planning which means making a list of priorities and assigning specific units of time to the particular items on the list. You can write a to-do list on a piece of paper, in your diary, put the information in your smartphone calendar or use an advanced application. But then, we all use some kind of a calendar, in one form or another. So, what is it that makes it truly effective?
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First of all, it’s about being consistent. It’s about building a permanent habit of organising your tasks with the help of a calendar, which, especially in business situations, is indispensable. Most of us are visual and the information included on the calendar goes straight to our subconscious; that information orders our thinking and directs our, otherwise freely wondering, thoughts into proper places.
Another secret of successful time management is flexibility. As experts say, a good calendar should also take into consideration unexpected events as well as positive surprises. We shouldn’t try to account for every single minute. We need to allow ourselves some extra time to handle problems which are much more time-consuming, so we would have more time to complete a given task.
It also works the other way around – a calendar should be like a map helping us with navigating, but also helping us with ongoing adjustments of our plans. If, for example, a task that we had originally allocated 30 minutes for was already completed within 15 minutes – we should just be happy about that. We should never try to make it last longer.
It’s essential to make the best use of your calendar. Unfortunately, there’s no universal method and all of us will manage time in a slightly different way. That’s why, we need to find our own method that will suit us best and we need to adopt good habits. It may be worthwhile to enrol for a special course or it may be enough to take small steps - patiently incorporating small changes. Let’s try to remember that the success resulting from those steps, even the smallest ones, can be really motivating and rewarding.
Should we create separate plans for work tasks and household chores? Definitely yes. In most cases work tasks and private things are carried out in quite different environments, in different groups and, what’s more, they refer to completely different topics. It’s advisable not to combine these two calendars because the outcome could be a waste of time instead of the expected savings.
So, does it mean that it only takes a few simple things and a bit of patience to reach the state when you can actually get a grip on your duties and responsibilities? Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
There are many obstacles awaiting us along the way. All those focus distractions like phone calls, chats, messengers, social media, games or even having coffee in a canteen aren’t mere breaks to catch your breath while doing your arduous work. On the opposite, they can destroy your plans, make you unable to meet deadlines, and, ultimately, they will increase the level of stress. Besides, they are closely connected with another nightmare i.e. procrastination – delaying or postponing things and with escaping from boring duties while turning to pleasant activities. That’s a threatening combination indeed.
How to resolve it then? The most important thing is to be aware of the threat and to avoid it by all means. If yet we believe in the power and significance of those rest breaks (e.g. coffee breaks, cigarette breaks and brief conversations with our colleagues), let’s find some time for them. But let’s put them on our to-do list.
What about unpleasant surprises?
Each of us has encountered this situation – the whole plan gets ruined when suddenly there is an urgent thing to do, being marked with the hated acronym “ASAP.” However, you need to remember that it stands for “as soon as possible.” So, it means that the thing will be arranged as soon as ... we are able to arrange it. And we will be able to do so when we have completed/ticked off the other items on our list. It’s just about giving priority. And being assertive as well.
But that’s another story…