Managing Our Time

Time management is an important skill to possess. However, it also tends to be a skill that many people lack, including myself at times. Let’s be honest, managing our time properly can be a bit of a nightmare at times. Knowing effective ways to manage your time can make it a lot simpler though. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get everything done that we need to and still have time for ourselves? Well, it’s possible, but first we must learn to manage our time properly.

Check out these time management tips from Discover Business.

There are only 1,440 minutes in a day. Regardless of what fills those minutes, everyone only has a set amount of time in which to get things done. Managing time is not about finding or creating more time during your day. It’s about accomplishing the most important tasks in the most efficient amount of time, so you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy.


How to Become More Productive: The Problem of Time Management


When it comes to problems in managing time, most fall into one of two equally fallacious trains of thought: “I have so much to do, but I have so little time in which to do it,” or “I have so much time, I can do it later.” No matter which of these traps applies to you, you face the same ultimate problem: the idea that time can change. The first chapter will focus on helpful theories on time management and how to become more productive; these theories will provide a solid foundation upon which later chapters can build.


The problems associated with poor time management skills can’t all be solved with simple tips. The challenge for most people is developing a clear understanding of what time is and how it gets used. The things you believe about time will guide your understanding of how to use it, and in turn, how you ultimately spend time each day.


Thankfully, some modern theories will help you gain a better understanding of time and how to effectively manage it. There are three theories about time and time management that stand out from all of the rest, helping people develop stronger skills and prioritize more effectively. The three theories covered here are Pickle Jar Theory, the Pareto principle, and Parkinson’s Law. These theories each encourage thinking about the time you spend in a different way, rather than as a generic resource that counts down.


Pickle Jar Theory – The Cost of Small Time Consuming Tasks


The Pickle Jar Theory illustrates how relatively unimportant tasks or commitments can easily take up much of a person’s time. Filling one’s day with small trivial tasks that are not important prevents one from using that time to complete larger or more important tasks and projects.


The theory uses a pickle jar and its contents to represent time management. The inside of the pickle jar represents a person’s time, and all the different tasks and commitments that take up that time are represented by rocks, pebbles, sand and water that are placed into the jar.

•Rocks are the important things that require immediate, significant attention, and produce a huge benefit when they are accomplished.

•Pebbles produce a benefit, but they are not as important as the tasks represented by the larger rocks.

•Grains of sand signify small, time-consuming tasks that are relatively easy to do but are of little importance, filling in the leftover space. Things like text messages, constant email checking, and idle chit-chat all take time, but generate little benefit.

•The final component, water, fills in what little space remains, and represents the tasks and idle moments that fill all the remaining space.


The key to using the Pickle Jar Theory is to be aware of which tasks are “rocks,” providing large benefits and requiring immediate attention. Once you know which tasks are “rocks,” you can turn your attention to the “sand,” paring it away to make room for more rocks. Various techniques can be used to diminish the number of grains of sand in the jar.


This resource discusses a technique known as batching. Batching is a way to combine many small tasks into one block of time, such as reviewing one’s email inbox only once or twice each day instead of four times an hour, leading to less time wasted on “sand.” Techniques like batching, however, rely on an understanding of the Pickle Jar Theory. Being able to determine which tasks are unnecessary “sand” will allow you to focus your attention on the “rocks” and “pebbles.”


Pareto’s Principle: The 80/20 Rule – Focus on the Tasks with the Greatest Benefit


The 80/20 Rule is similar to the Pickle Jar Theory, in that it suggests people can work smarter by concentrating on the important things from which they derive the most benefit. Activities that reap the greatest benefit, represented by the rocks in the pickle jar, are the 20% of the activities that should consume 80% of your time in the 80/20 rule.


Economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80 percent of the wealth in his native Italy was held by 20 percent of the population. You might conclude that a theory regarding wealth distribution in a single country has nothing to do with time management, but the relationship between 80% and 20% holds true in several other areas as well, including time management.


The 80/20 rule, in its broader form, says that a small number of causes is responsible for a large percentage of the effect, in a ratio of about 20:80. In time management, you will often find that 20% of your tasks generate 80% of the results, or that 20% of tasks absorb 80% of available time. By finding the ideal 20% of your tasks to spend 80% of your energy on, you can avoid wasting time or effort.


Parkinson’s Law – Reduce the Time Assigned to Each Task


Parkinson’s Law is simple and straightforward: the time required to complete a particular task will expand according to the amount of time it is allotted. Giving yourself less time to do something will lead to faster completion. Slowly reduce the time allotted for any given task, and eventually you’ll find the sweet spot in which it gets completed without feeling rushed. Like the other theories, this changes the way you approach using your time, illustrating that less time can lead to better, more effective work.


Cyril Northcote Parkinson was a British author who once observed this phenomenon firsthand. Assigning two hours to complete a task that could be completed in less than one hour will result the two hours being consumed anyway, but with the excess hour spent on planning, worrying, and agonizing. People will almost always fill all assigned time, but what they fill it with changes if they have too much excess.


Interested in testing the theory? Try allocating half as much time each morning to a mundane task like checking your email. If necessary, set a timer. You will likely find yourself dealing with each item in your email account’s inbox a little faster. At the end of the time, look at how much you accomplished in the time you set. The odds are good that you’ll exceed your own expectations.


Before you go too far congratulating yourself for a job well done, try cutting the time again the following day. As you continue to allow yourself less time, you will likely begin prioritizing only those emails that actually matter, skimming subject lines and dumping spam, advertisements, or other meaningless messages. Your attention will zero in on the most important emails that must be addressed immediately.


This exercise helps people pare away unnecessary worrying, planning, and frivolousness, finding the tasks that truly need to be completed. Parkinson’s Law should help you maintain awareness of the truly necessary time to complete any task or project. Try allowing yourself a little less time than you think you need; the odds are good that you’ll only need the time you set aside.


Time Management and Productivity Techniques


Productive Techniques to Transform the Way You Work


A Google search will yield more than 42 million results for time management tips, so simply finding a system or a helpful tool is easy. Before you download the latest program or application that promises to turn your computer, smartphone, or tablet into an instant time management tool, though, look at the way in which you work and make time management decisions. Consider what changes really need to be made to become more productive.


Ultimately, your goal is to make better decisions about the way in which you use your time. Transforming the way in which you work takes a commitment from you, but the biggest impact you’ll make comes not from the system you choose, but from a few simple steps you take that don’t involve any system at all. These techniques are the 20% of your adjustments that will get you 80% of the results you want to be more productive.


Clear Your Head – Getting Rid of Those Annoying Reminders


Clearing your head provides some structure for all the tasks you need to do, and makes everything else that much easier. The first step in the head-clearing process is to create an “inbox,” allowing you to collect and sort all the things bouncing around in your mind. Sorting tasks does not require the task to be completed; rather, you start by putting the items currently locked in your psyche into an inbox to unclutter your mind. Once freed of the clutter, your mind is clear when you start completing important tasks.


Most people have many tasks bouncing around in their head all at once, with no sense of priority or gravity. These tasks range from getting the car washed to sending out multi-million dollar contracts to take your company to the next level. If you do not have a system in place that you trust to remind you when things need to be done, your mind will essentially create one on its own, reminding you of the importance of varying tasks from moment to moment.


Unfortunately, the system your mind creates on its own is completely arbitrary. These reminders do not always come at appropriate times, leading to increased stress and feelings of helplessness. Your mind may helpfully remind you of your need for a car wash, in the above example, while you sit at your desk at work making important phone calls regarding those contracts. The car wash, of course, is an impossibility at that moment, and thinking about the car wash doesn’t get your car any more washed. Instead, these thoughts divert your attention from the phone call, leaving you without important details or repeatedly asking for clarification.


Clearing your head of the “stuff,” as author David Allen refers to anything that requires your attention, is the first step in an effective time management method called “Getting Things Done.” According to Allen, the stuff taking up space in your mind is just like the data that piles up in the RAM of your computer. Eventually, the RAM can’t cope and it starts slowing down; your mind, without a system for organizing the “stuff,” will do the same.


Getting rid of the clutter starts by creating an inbox into which you may transfer it. An inbox can be an expandable folder, a loose leaf notebook, a program on your computer, or an application on your smartphone or tablet. Any format you choose for your inbox will work as long as it is one that you will use and which you are confident will remind you of tasks that need to be done when they need to be done. Your mind no longer needs to keep the car wash in “active memory,” as you are certain you’ll be reminded of anything important the next time you open your notebook.


Remember that the purpose of the inbox is to get the clutter out of your mind. It has to be a place you know you will use on a daily basis for it to be effective in changing how you store tasks.


The key to David Allen’s GTD approach to time management and productivity at work is to transfer the stuff in your mind to a safe place. A safe place is nothing more than a spot in an organized system in which you have confidence that you will be reminded when a task or commitment requires your attention.


Processing the items that you place into your inbox begins with identifying an item as being actionable. If an item is actionable, there are three things you can do with it:


•The two-minute rule: If it will take less than two minutes to complete, then it should be done right away while you are processing the inbox. Handling these small, quick tasks gets them out of the way and prevents them from getting in the way of more important things.


•Delegate the action: Some tasks can be delegated to other people for completion. Actions that are delegated make their way to a list composed of items waiting for something in in order for them to be completed. For example, if you have delegated the writing of a report to another employee who needs additional information in order to complete it, the item goes on your waiting list.


•Defer the action: Tasks that cannot be completed within two minutes go to your calendar or to a tickler file while you finish emptying your inbox. This allows them to be tracked in a reliable manner. If the item is one that you will be getting to in the near future, then it can go on an action items list.

Managing Our TimeImage Credit: askingsmarterquestions

To see the entire article as well as the rest of the tips, Discover Business

Author: Sean May

Sean May is the founder of Science of Imagery. Sean focuses on helping individuals and companies reach their personal and professional goals while working to make the world a better place, one smile at a time. He has over 10 years of experience in the Personal Development space, using many different modalities and techniques to help break through old belief patterns and focusing on making things as fun as possible to break through any negativity or seriousness.

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