The Importance Of Managing Time
How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?
– Dr. Seuss
I just don’t have time. It’s common for us to comment about how little time we have these days and how the demands on all of us are getting heavier. But do we lack time, or do we use our time badly?
I think we use our time badly. Like the now successful author Scott Turow, let’s not waste any more time. Scott wrote his first novel during his daily train ride to work. How about that?[lwptoc]
Why you should pay attention to managing your time
When it comes to managing time efficiently, the word time management is often heard. We know very well what is meant by it. Nevertheless, you cannot manage time. Every day has 24 hours, never more and never less. We cannot change those hours. Although we sometimes say: ‘I will make time for it, you cannot make 26 hours out of 24. And even if you say you ran out of time, you couldn’t have had less than 24 hours that day.
You can, however, have too many tasks. In short, you can have more tasks than you have hours available to do them.
The feeling of having too little time can also be traced back to:
- Not having concrete goals and therefore missing a clear focus.
- Difficulty making choices and decisions.
- Not being able to set priorities.
- Not knowing which tasks are essential to achieve your goals.
- Not having clear task descriptions and not using task lists.
- Poor, if any, planning.
- Are easily distracted or procrastinate so that you do not get your intended tasks done.
The result is no focus and no overview, but chaos in your head. This in itself makes it very difficult to lead your attention in the right direction and to concentrate on your tasks. So don’t just let yourself be ‘led’ by everything that comes at you from outside. Don’t let the delusion of the day be your guide.
Why does it not work?
It sounds very simple, consciously planning your time and using it more efficiently. Yet many people do not succeed. Why is that if time management is so important?
The reason may be that you are busy with anything and everything. Clients who expect an immediate response, an e-mail that needs to be dealt with ‘quickly’, and a colleague who is tugging at your sleeve asking whether those documents have already been processed. In short, you spread yourself too thin. The result? No overview and regularly, ‘really important’ things get sidelined. This chaos stops here and now. You will learn the best time management tips there are!
Therefore, here are a handful of tips on how to best manage your time
The importance of managing your time: Clear your head with a thought dump!
What is clearing your head?
It has become almost a standard phrase, “clearing your head.” But what is meant by that?
When I talk about clearing your head, I mean the process by which you stop your train of thought and stop the stress of busyness. You can do this in different ways. Some people use meditation, time management techniques, or sports to clear their heads.
Everyone needs to clear his or her head from time to time. If you have too many things on your mind, this can eventually feel like an obstacle. You know you have a lot of things to do, but what is more important? In addition, you may procrastinate, which can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
Why is it essential to clear your head?
Everyone probably has a slightly different idea of what it means to clear your head. That is why I want to emphasize why it is so essential to clear your head from time to time.
Of course, it helps against stress. For example, putting your thoughts on paper can help you to let go of things. The more things you have to remember, the more energy it takes. Moreover, the fear of forgetting things arises, which causes you to experience stress.
Someone who suffers from stress is likely to do a lot of worrying and mulling things over. This is another reason why it is vital to stop your train of thought from time to time. You have thoughts, you are not what you think. You are what you do. That thought alone can take away a lot of stress and anxiety.
I am a great believer in technological innovation. I find it convenient that I can almost always reach anyone via my mobile phone. It’s easy to keep up to date via Facebook wherever there’s a WiFi connection. But technology has a downside; there is so much information coming at us.
Your brain receives 200 times more information per day than it did 20 years ago. Think of all the forms of communication, such as WhatsApps but also billboards and other advertisements. Online you are bombarded with stimuli and information. This is difficult for the brain to keep up with. From an evolutionary point of view, the brain cannot develop nearly fast enough to keep up with technological advances. No wonder we sometimes feel that our heads are full!
By putting your thoughts in order once in a while, you can give them information that is important to you in a proper place. You wouldn’t want to forget the things that are important to you because of all the information. I can remember plenty of examples where I forgot important things because I was going through a busy period. Think of friends’ birthdays or important events in other people’s lives. It is simply a shame if today’s information overload deprives you of this. So it’s high time to learn how to stop this information avalanche.
To be able to relax optimally, it is necessary to clear your head once in a while. It doesn’t matter where you are, everywhere you are being stimulated and receiving information. The brain has to filter all incoming information and be very selective in what it lets through. Otherwise, it is simply too much for you to experience consciously.
No wonder it is so relaxing to go on holiday. Laptop off. Mobile phone off. Nothing for a while but the sound of waves and crunching sand.
But, what makes it so difficult to clear your head?
All our lives, we engage in an internal dialogue. We are constantly occupied with thoughts and emotions. Judgments almost always accompany this. Our brains are programmed to make judgments about things. “That person is not beautiful.” “You can’t do that.” “Just be careful.” Our thoughts go on and on. We judge and interpret throughout our lives. This is how our brain works, because it is programmed for survival. You might not always expect it, but this way of thinking is what makes us such good survivors.
This internal dialogue is also called the “monkey mind”. This is actually a metaphor for everyone’s rapidly distracted, uncontrolled flow of thoughts. The term “monkey mind” originates from Buddhism.
So the trick is to get your stream of thoughts under control.
Wanting to solve problems
Our brain is actually constantly busy with survival. That used to be very useful, but nowadays we don’t need to be busy avoiding wild animals anymore. The world around us has changed, but your brain still works largely the same. This leads to a number of limiting behaviors, such as constantly focusing on problems.
Your brain is preoccupied with survival most of the time. So it thinks about the danger that must be avoided. This also ensures that you keep thinking about problems. The brain thinks that if you stop thinking about the problem, the problem will never go away. You understand that this leads to worrying and fretting. In fact, by constantly thinking about your problem, you will be less inclined to find a solution. Unfortunately, the brain does not agree.
So wanting to solve problems is one of the obstacles that make it difficult to stop your thoughts. It makes it harder to clear your head.
Fear of losing control
The final obstacle to clearing your head is the fear of losing control. Again, the brain is concerned with survival. And it is easier to survive when you know how things will turn out, when you are in control. No wonder that many people repeat certain future scenarios endlessly in their heads. They are afraid they will forget things or make blunders. The underlying thought here is that unless you are constantly thinking, you will forget things and thus lose control.
Fear of losing control is a very understandable problem. It is difficult to relinquish control. It is even harder to admit that you are not always in control. Fortunately, there is a technique that allows you to feel in control while clearing your head.
Clearing your head: 4 techniques
Here they are, the 4 powerful techniques to clear your head
1. Realise that your head is not there
This simple technique is very effective. Sit down somewhere where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Now focus your attention on your thoughts. Follow each passing thought for a few seconds. Then ask yourself: “What will my next thought be?
What will happen? Do you now notice the short pause in your constant stream of thoughts? This is because you are aware that your head is not there. Because you are aware of this, you are then aware.
This trick will not change your life. It will help you to see how you can temporarily pause your thoughts.
2. Write everything down
No doubt you have come across this tip before. Nevertheless, I also want to pay attention to it. This is because I believe that it is one of the best techniques for clearing your head, even if you have a fear of losing control or a desire to solve a problem.
I myself am a big fan of ‘Getting Things Done, written by David Allen. In his book, Allen describes how it helps to clear your head in order to get more done. It is essentially a time management book, but the implications go far beyond just becoming more productive. I’ve been a fan of the Getting Things Done method for several years now, so I’d like to share with you how I get everything done.
2.1 Things I need to do
David Allen recommends having one place to keep all your to-do’s and action lists.
In David Allen’s words, “The head is for thinking things through, not remembering them.”
2.2 Ideas I don’t want to lose
Sometimes I have a lot of ideas. Some are downright absurd or unfeasible. Nevertheless, I like to give them a place. Then I can look at them again later, and if I am convinced that I am never going to implement them, I can delete them. It may sound ridiculous to write things down and throw them away again later.
But it creates so much mental space!
David Allen recommends going through your collection of ‘someday/perhaps’ notes as often as you need to. I often scan through these tasks every Friday. Sometimes there is an idea in there that is doable now. By checking in every week, I can sometimes resurrect ingenious ideas that I can implement the following week. Of course, you can check your list of ideas more or less often. You will see what you feel most comfortable with.
3. More space in your head with meditation
Are you a mindfulness person?
I am convinced that meditation is the way to create more mental space. More mental space means more peace and more relaxation. And that means a better and happier life.
4. Talk and get things off your chest
Finally, you can clear your head by talking to someone else. Someone who listens attentively and with full attention is a valuable ally. The most important thing is that you can open your heart. Sometimes it is enough for you to tell your story and for the other person to listen attentively. If you like, you can ask if the other person reacts to what you say. Maybe he or she is thinking from a different perspective, and that can help you to let go of things.
The importance of managing your time: Setting priorities
Which job has priority? It’s not always easy to determine. Everything seems to be in a hurry and many things need to be done, preferably yesterday. Prioritizing is an important time management skill. Prioritizing is nothing more than working on the things that are important. How can you manage your time efficiently and finish what you want to get done?
Eisenhower’s priority matrix
“Urgent matters are rarely important and important matters are rarely urgent,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower, former general and president of the US.
To back up his words, he developed the priority matrix, also known as the Eisenhower scheme. The concept has become particularly famous through time management guru Stephen Covey.
Eisenhower’s priority matrix consists of four quadrants that are created by opposing two opposites: important vs. unimportant and urgent vs. not urgent.
What is the definition of urgent and important?
– Important are things that catch the eye and/or affect many people.
For example, if you are an application manager, a repair to a system that is used by many users is more important than a repair to a system that has only ten users. Likewise, a job ordered by the director is often more important than dealing with a minor query from a colleague.
– Urgent matters are those that must be completed before a certain time. If you have to chair a meeting this afternoon, preparing the meeting documents before then is urgent. Also things that pose a danger are by definition urgent. For example, if a customer calls and says there are pieces of glass in the peanut butter, you have to take action immediately. The annoying thing about urgent jobs is that they cannot always be scheduled.
Time management quadrants
All your activities can be classified into one of four quadrants.
Quadrant 1: important, urgent
The first quadrant contains the tasks and work that require immediate attention. Think of incidents, deadlines, emergencies, accidents, equipment and installations that fail, acute requests from important internal or external customers. The tasks and activities in the first quadrant are ideal for ‘fire extinguishers’ and ‘adrenaline junkies’. But when you focus your attention on this first quadrant, you run the risk of filling it up until you are completely dominated by it. Tasks that are important, but less urgent, are then in danger of being snowed under; the real work is left behind. In addition, the (high) time pressure often does not benefit the quality of the work.
Quadrant 2: important, not urgent
The second quadrant contains activities that are important, but not urgent. They are the activities which have to do with achieving your own goals. Therefore, the second quadrant is also called “the quality and personal leadership quadrant”. Examples of tasks in the second quadrant are: carrying out planned work, networking, planning, administration, self-development, self-reflection and tidying up your desk. While in the first quadrant, you are mainly reactive – you react to things that are a priority for someone else – in the second quadrant, you are mainly proactive. The more you are focused on this quadrant, the fewer activities will end up in the first quadrant and the less stress you will have.
Quadrant 3: Unimportant, urgent
In the third quadrant are the things which are not important, but are urgent. These are mainly unnecessary interruptions, such as disruptions by phone calls and/or e-mails, unexpected visits and (unimportant) meetings. These are matters that are not actually your problem – they are unimportant for a reason – but do require your immediate attention. When you are busy with activities from the third quadrant, you are mainly occupied with urgent matters for others; you work according to the priorities and goals of others. You run the risk of losing sight of your own priorities. You can reduce tasks from this quadrant by saying ‘no’ more often, by delegating tasks and by practical solutions, such as transferring your telephone to a colleague, checking your e-mail no more than three times a day, or closing the door of your room.
Quadrant 4: Unimportant, not urgent
The fourth quadrant contains the tasks and activities which are neither important nor urgent. It is also called “the quadrant of waste”. It concerns matters that can keep you busy but do not contribute to the realisation of your own objective(s). Examples of such “time wasters” are: surfing the Internet, daydreaming, excessive checking of e-mail and attending meetings. Tasks in the fourth quadrant are often great fun, but if you spend the whole day doing them, you won’t get much out of them. Another name for the fourth quadrant is ‘the quadrant of flight’, because tasks are often ‘misused’ to postpone more important things or to take a breather. Taking a breath is certainly necessary, but it is better to choose ‘maintenance activities’ from the second quadrant.
The essence of Eisenhower’s priority matrix is that you have to get your priorities right.
If you do not do this, you run the risk of allowing yourself to be (too) much led by important and urgent activities from the first quadrant. You are always busy with things that require immediate attention and have to be taken care of right now; you put out fire after fire. If this takes too long, you run the risk of letting important issues from the second quadrant lie idle, although it is true that if you let things from the second quadrant lie idle long enough, they will automatically move to the first quadrant.
The trick is to get your priorities right and distribute your work across both the first and second quadrants. It’s about organizing your time in such a way that the majority of your work takes place in the second quadrant. This is where the real work is, and this ultimately determines the quality of your work and your results.
The importance of managing your time: Preventing procrastination
You know the situation. There’s something waiting for you that really needs to get done. Maybe it’s a report that you have to work on at the office and mail to your colleagues before next week. Or a meeting report from last week that you keep putting off. In principle, you don’t experience any stress, because you still have plenty of time. But for some reason, you just can’t bring yourself to actually do the task at hand. It’s a classic example of procrastination.
What is procrastination?
According to Wikipedia, procrastination is the postponement of tasks that you really want to or have to do and for which you know that the postponement will probably lead to extra difficulties or stress. In professional terms, instead of procrastination, we also talk about procrastination.
When it comes to students, we often talk about study-avoidance behaviour (SOG). Most people only start working on a task when the delivery point or the deadline of the task is insight. After all, why start on a task now when you still have plenty of time? Or why do something today if you can put it off until tomorrow? Procrastination is also very common in work situations. Think not only of postponing the writing of a report or the minutes, but also of having to deliver a negative message to a direct colleague.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent or eliminate procrastination in yourself. So here are seven useful tips to finally get all those tasks off your to-do list.
1. Divide your task into smaller pieces
Actually, the first tip is also the most important tip. If you find yourself procrastinating on a task, it’s a good idea to break it down into several small and simple tasks. In doing so, make sure that you take the steps you need to take concrete, simple and tangible for yourself. You will immediately notice how pleasant it is when you can finally cross something off your list.
2. Try to discover the cause of your procrastination
Why do you keep failing to do a certain task? Is it because of the task itself? Is it because you have enough time left and you think you can do it tomorrow? Or are you actually afraid that you won’t succeed? Only when you are really aware of the reason for procrastination, you can take targeted action.
3. Offer yourself a reward if you do start the task now.
Do you have children? Then you know this phenomenon. Sometimes they just don’t feel like tidying their room. But if you offer them a reward, such as a treat or a euro, they are more than willing to complete the task. You can apply the same trick to yourself. Offer a nice reward if you manage to complete a certain task. Then stick to the agreement and don’t reward yourself when you haven’t completed the task at all. This is how you build up your self-confidence.
4. Make a schedule (and stick to it!)
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. It can be smart to make a schedule for everything you need to do to complete the task. Write down exactly what you need to do and when you are going to do it. Actually, this is an extension of tip 1: chop the task into pieces. The most important thing here is that you also stick to that planning. So don’t procrastinate on each individual part. You will notice that, now you have chopped the task into smaller pieces, it is easier to complete the whole task.
5. Avoid distractions. In fact: eliminate distractions
Wherever you are, distractions lurk. Checking your social media, watching that funny video a good friend forwarded to you, doing the laundry if you’re working from home, or reading an email that comes in while you’re doing something important. Make sure you eliminate all these distractions. For example, turn off your e-mail or social media notifications for an hour. That way you won’t be tempted to do something else.
6. It may sound strange: but give yourself plenty of rest too
Do you put things off because you simply don’t have any energy, or are you just in need of a bit of rest? It is important to give yourself enough rest. If you’re only occupied with your work or studies, you’ll eventually break down. So make sure you schedule some time in your diary to relax, unwind or whatever. This will prevent you from feeling guilty when you are not doing anything. It will also give you enough energy to get on with your tasks the next day.
7. Learn to say no
A lot of procrastination comes from an overload of obligations. You have to solve a problem for a customer, you’re going to give extra explanations to a colleague who can’t seem to get the hang of the new software system, and when new paper is delivered for the printers, you help the delivery man get all the packages out of his van. There is a very simple solution for taking on too much. Just say no when others ask you to do something for them. All these tasks do not help you to achieve your own set quota, tasks and goals. Selfish? Not at all. You often have to take care of yourself before you can help someone else.
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to get that one job you had on your list done. So say goodbye to guilt and hello to the wonderful feeling of accomplishment.
SOME STRATEGIES FOR EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT
- Never rely on memory: set reminders, use lists.
- “Front-load” your work by doing the most important work early in the day and early in the week.
- Finish a few small tasks before tackling a big one.
- Instead of holding a meeting with one
person, try instead to take a walk and talk at the same
time. You can record your meeting if necessary.
- Write a list of priorities for the next day
before you go home.
- Answer emails only twice a day.
- Tidy up your desk. A cluttered desk can lead to a feeling of
- Don’t volunteer to do things that others can do better.
- Finish what you can before moving on to the next thing:
multitasking destroys focus
- Set an end time for each task so you don’t procrastinate endlessly.
- Do something you enjoy when you have completed a task.