“Oh dear, I’m running late!”

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Needless to say, we are in an age where time, in itself, is never enough (the ‘Jet-age’, time flies). The effects or consequences of Time Management, as we all know it, aren’t alien to us as we all have, at some point or another, had cause to be late for an appointment (or two.. okay, perhaps a few more). Without undue inclination to any particular point, all the ‘manuals’ (or articles, as they may be) on Time Management that I’ve come across expressly state its importance, followed by a long, and honestly, a tad boring list of do’s and dont’s.

Without further ado, I’ll quickly state the points that I think are most vital when planning your time. Errrr first up, I believe its imperative that I properly define the topic in view… Now, according to a particular online Encyclopedia Wikipedia, Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Big grammar aside, simply put, I’d define it as the way one plans and spends time over a given period, period! Time management encompasses a large scope – the long run, our entire lifetime. Now that’s done and over with, here goes:

Create a simple “To Do” list: This is where a Diary/Daily Planner or a simple notepad or Jotter will come in handy. Oh wait, we have Smartphones, scratch that. This simple activity should help you identify a few items, preferably in a chronological order and keep you in line with all you’ve achieved and all you’re yet to achieve within the stipulated time frame.

Get familiar with The Urgent/Important Matrix: This one right here is the mother of all time management techniques, as proper application guarantees time well spent. The Matrix is divided into four parts as listed below, as culled from an article I came across:

  • Urgent and Important: There are two distinct types of urgent and important activities: Ones that you could not foresee, and others that you have left to the last minute. You can avoid the latter by planning ahead and avoiding procrastination. Issues and crises, on the other hand, cannot always be foreseen or avoided. Here, the best approach is to leave some time in your schedule to handle unexpected issues and unplanned important activities. And if a major crisis arises, some other activity may have to be rescheduled. If this happens, identify which of you urgent-important activities could have been foreseen and think about how you could schedule similar activities ahead of time, so they do not become urgent.
  • Urgent and Not Important: Urgent but not important activities are things that stop you achieving your goals, and prevent you from completing your work. Ask yourself whether these tasks can be rescheduled, or whether someone else could do them. A common source of such interruptions is from other people in your office. Sometimes it’s appropriate to say “No” to people, or encourage them to solve the problem themselves. Alternatively, try allocating time when you are available so that people only interrupt you at certain times (a good way of doing this is to schedule a regular meeting so that all issues can be dealt with at the same time.) By doing this, you’ll be able to concentrate on your important activities for longer periods of time.
  • Not Urgent, but Important: These are the activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals, and complete important work. Make sure that you have plenty of time to do these things properly, so that they do not become urgent. And remember to leave enough time in your schedule to deal with unforeseen problems. This will maximize your chances of keeping on schedule, and help you avoid the stress of work becoming more urgent that necessary.
  • Not Urgent and Not Important: These activities are just a distraction, and should be avoided if possible. Some can simply be ignored. Others are activities that other people may want you to do, but they do not contribute to your own desired outcomes. Again, say “No” politely and firmly if you can. If people see you are clear about your objectives and boundaries, they will often not ask you to do “not important” activities in the future

There are many pointers to help manage your time effectively, what is most important is your mind set. We need to make conscious efforts to keep to time and perform tasks as and when due, bearing in mind that tardiness is a key characteristic of irresponsibility (write that down!) :D

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