Time Management is Actually Self-Management

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Woman Multi-Tasking, Time Management with Many Arms

How do you manage time?  Time is uncontrollable. It’s constantly moving forward, and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back.  The truth is, we can’t manage time, but we can manage ourselves. Time management is really all about making good choices. It’s managing what we do and when we do it.

The minute-to-minute, day-to-day choices we make have a huge impact on how we spend our time.  Good choices lead to efficient use of time.  So really, time management is self-management.

What Does Good Time Management Look Like?

Spending your day in a whirlwind of activity almost guarantees that you’ll actually get less done.  You go home thinking you had a tough day, and you did, but putting out fires isn’t productive.

Have you ever watched someone who is really good at their job?  They seem to get a lot done without much effort.  In fact, sometimes they make the job look easy. But really what’s happening is they’re doing the right things, the right way, the first time every time. Time management can happen inside a two minute task, or take an entire year of planning and preparation. It’s all about efficiency.

The Myth of Multitasking

So, time management is all about efficiency. Easy enough to understand. Now I’ll tell you what it’s NOT about. Multitasking. It’s impossible to multitask, or at least it’s impossible to multitask the way people typically think about it.

We usually view multitasking as doing many things at the same time. In reality, multitasking is switching back and forth between two different tasks, and it makes both tasks take much longer than they normally would.

For example, you could easily say the entire alphabet from A to Z in no time. Similarly, you could count out loud from 1 to 26 in a matter of seconds. However, if you try to do them simultaneously, A 1, B 2, C 3, D 4 and so on, it would take you a LOT longer than doing them one at a time. When we have to shift back and forth between tasks, we waste time and accomplish less.

Too Many Balls in the Air

Multitasking is a myth. In reality, you’re much better off sticking to one task or solving one problem at a time.

In any given day, you might have to get a new employee started, solve a customer complaint and send someone out to help with a vehicle breakdown. They’re all important, but they can only be done one at a time. If we try to do them all at the same time, we’re less efficient.  It may feel like we’re multi-tasking, but we’re really just doing one thing at a time and switching between the tasks. We lose efficiency every time we turn our attention from one thing to another. Trying to multitask is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time.  It’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and it depletes our energy.

Using A Planner to Manage Your Time

There are a few tried and true, simple ways to help us make better use of the time we have. One such strategy is utilizing a planner. Using planners is a must for a manager, supervisor or anyone that has a wide range of responsibilities. Whether you’re old school and use a Franklin planner or utilize newer software such as Outlook, Google Calendar or Trello, planners help you stay to task.

You should have a plan for your career, the upcoming year, month, week and day.  You should know ahead of time what you’re going to do, or least what you want to be doing. Planners are where you keep those plans.

If you come to work without a plan, you’re forced to spend the day reacting to the demands of the job.  Of course, reacting to demands is part of the job, but it shouldn’t be the whole job.  Plan each month a month in advance, even if it’s pretty loose. For example, a monthly goal might be to hire 3 new employees. Of course, for a larger undertaking like that, the planning doesn’t stop there.

Plan YOUR Plan Ahead of Time

Plan each week a week in advance. If your monthly goal is to hire three new employees, one week’s goal might be to tweak or increase your recruiting efforts. Another week you might have the goal of conducting several interviews with potential hires.

From weekly plans, you move to daily plans. Make a specific plan for each day and know what you’ll have accomplished by the end of the week. If your weekly plan was to begin the recruiting process, one of your daily goals might be to investigate where you currently recruit and decide if you need to advertise jobs in new places.

Then, look over tomorrow’s plan before you leave for the day.  It should already be written down or entered into your electronic or physical calendar. Your plan needs to be written, or it isn’t a plan.

This is just one way to more effectively manage your time. There are of course many more strategies but understanding that multitasking isn’t helpful and utilizing planners is a great place to start making better use of the time you have.