Time Management – A Structured Approach


Introduction
This is a fast paced era – an era where each moment is as precious as a drop of water in a desert. As mankind has developed, humans have become more and more sophisticated and alongwith sophistication comes multiple diverging priorities. Take the example of children, when I was kid growing up a couple of decades ago, the only distractions available to me from my studies were sports with other children and an occasional TV serial on a Sunday. Look at today’s kids, there are studies, then further studies at tuitions, then there are dance/music classes, then there are sports coaching, then there are whole slew of TV programs and movies that they need to see etc. etc.

So suddenly growing up is so very complex!! The key to success in this fast paced era is Time Management – the term that is most used and abused by management scholars worldwide these days. So what exactly is Time Management and what is it that anyone is going to achieve through it. After all, there is only 24 hours in a day whatever you do!!

The Concept – Miracle or Just another Jargon
The concept of Time Management comes from the realization that there is in fact only 24 hours in a day. But, what we do with those 24 hours is what really makes it a fulfilling 24 hours or a wasted 24 hours. The goal of Time Management is to enable one to organize in order to achieve more than what the person is currently achieving.

Note: The goal is not to achieve everything possible, but to achieve a bit more than what you are currently achieving.

Understanding this fact, is the first step in actually understanding the concept of Time Management, as this is not a miracle therapy, rather this is an incremental technique towards betterment.

The Measure – What gets measured, can be improved!!
What gets measured can be improved” is a very powerful statement. Most people look at making things better, without first assessing what is it performing at currently and what are the aspects that can be bettered. The first and foremost activity in any Time Management technique is first assess what is it that is taking time and what are the activities that are eating your time. A simple exercise of first listing down what you think takes time and then systematically recording the time taken for each activity for a period of 1-2 months can be real eye-opener. You would find that how seemingly trivial tasks eat into your time without you realizing it.

Activity Note
1) List down all activities that you do and list down their expected duration for the next month.
2) Religious track these activities for the next month.
3) Compare this with the initial list you prepared.

The Improvements – One small step at a time
Now, you know where your time goes. So now you can start fine tuning some of your time wasting activities and channel that time to the other activities. One of the major mistakes that people do after attending the Time Management course is plan for too many changes and end up in a mess. Finally, they give up on the learnings from the TM training and go back to their timeless world. So be careful, start with one or two minor changes, then take more steps. For any kind of lifestyle changes, the changes should be made in a incremental way rather than a overhauling. Again the most important step here is to continue to keep track of your activities to notice and understand the benefit and build on it.

Activity Note
1) Identify the list of activities that you think are taking more time that they should.
2) Prioritize the list of activities if possible.
3) Fine-tune these activities one at a time and shift the gains to the activities having higher priorities.
4) Continue to track the activities.
5) At regular intervals compare with previous cycles and re-assess.

The Flexibility – If you are not flexible to bend with the wind, then you would be broken like the twig
When Charles Darwin coined the Survival of the Fittest theory, he was probably not aware of the complete implications of this simple theory. One of the keys of being Fit is the Flexibility aspect. If you look at the fitness programs for any athletes, more than half of them would be to make one’s body more flexible. Why is that required? Simple!! Things don’t always go according to plan, you need to be flexible enough to change course. Consider a simple example, suppose you have three tasks that you have scheduled for the day. You have scheduled task 1 to be performed first, and then task 2 and then task 3.

Unfortunately, you need to interact with a person for task 1 and he is ill and not going to come to the office. So are you stuck cursing the poor fellow who fell ill or are you flexible enough to take up the other two tasks and completing them? The key here is planning ahead of time for most tasks. If the deadline for task 1 is on that same day, then you can ill afford the dependant person being ill. So plan so that there is a possibility of an alternative. Remember, planning is absolutely necessary to be organized, Re-planning is necessary for successful completion!!

Activity Note
1) Plan and schedule activities keeping in mind various dependencies.
2) Wherever possible schedule activities ahead of time.
3) Constantly reassess and if required reschedule the activities.
4) Keep track of any persistent activities requiring rescheduling. Probably the manner in which the task is scheduled is not proper; you might want to revisit it.

Most Importantly – Value other’s time
The most important thing in Time Management is the understanding of the value of time especially other’s time. Remember that Time is a valuable asset for every individual and the first step in valuing your own time to value other’s time. So make sure that you honor your time commitments to others and you would find that others slowly and reluctantly but surely start to reciprocate your behavior.

Activity Note
1) Be on time for meetings.
2) Honor your commitments.
3) Intimate the concerned parties if you are going to be late.

Cheers!
Ram

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