Every semester students and others say they have no time to manage their work life, their school work, and their personal lives. I guess, because time management has affected me all my life, I am particularly sensitive to these requests for something to help time management.
Time management is much simpler than people realize. You should certainly study the people who are good time managers. They usually are goal-oriented people who know what they want out of life. Time management, in its simplest form, means making a schedule. To begin this schedule you should do the following without fail:
Think about: You don't want to list a dozen items, because you may become discouraged. Go for a few items done well and finished.
Think about: What are the A items? What must you accomplish or you will be fired or lose the respect of your professor? What must you do for your customers or your boss? What are the B items? What are the next ranked items that you need to complete, but the roof will not fall in it they are not done this second? What are C items? What would it be nice to complete if you have time? What would you like to accomplish just for fun?
Think about:: This log will be a pain in the neck to keep. You have to keep track of your personal time, your work time, and your study time. Everything! . . .
The next time management principle is highly controversial. Some people call this principle the art of manipulation. I don't accept that characterization. You look at your tasks each day and ask this question: "What will happen if I don't do this particular task?" If the answer is nothing, then you postpone that task until a more convenient time. The art of calculated neglect work can save you some stress.
Quite a few years ago Oncken, Jr. and Wass developed the monkeys-on-your-back concept. Monkeys constantly jump around on our back because we do not manage our time. Monkeys cause us to have pangs of guilt during the day. Oncken, Jr. and Wass developed an entire Harvard Business Review (November, 1974) article, "Management Time-Who's Got the Monkey?", on the subject as well as Oncken, Jr. wrote the book, Managing Management Time. They recommended that we do something about these monkeys. Some of their recommended guidelines for ridding oneself of monkeys included:
Comment: Your time management needs should either be taken care of or forgotten. You need to solve your "A" activities. The monkeys should stop hopping around on your back.
Comment: Appointments are a good way to save time. They assign a specific hour you will see someone. No longer are your visits with clients, customers, or friends simply occurring haphazardly. I met one student one semester who said he could never manage his time. I found out his clients and customers want him to drop everything when they call. They want immediate service. He could take advice from Oncken, Jr. and Wass about the management of time. I find I am more effective with students if I write down the appointment-time and day. They know when we need to meet; their time is also saved. I am not suggesting you should never create spontaneous time with friends or customers.
Comment: According to Oncken, Jr., managers should not have to take more than 15 minutes to feed a monkey.
Comment: The best communication device should be used to solve the problem in the quickest time.
Comment: Doesn't that make sense. No wonder we have executive summaries. Procter-Gamble practices this guideline all the time with their one-page memos.
Time management concerns all of us, but how do we manage time when we don't have time? Hal Lancaster in "Managing Your Time in Real-World Chaos Takes Real Planning" offers advice for the time-harried individual who cannot juggle several tasks at the same time.
With all the downsizing occurring in companies and people asked to take on more work with a reduced staff, it is no wonder time management becomes a top priority. If you add a demanding boss and unreasonable customers, you have the beginnings of a time management nightmare. Remember when I mentioned the art of calculated neglect earlier? Think of 100 items you must complete at your work. What 90 or so items can you "blow off" and still not have the boss looking over your shoulder? Further advice would include knowing which tasks were absolute emergencies and which ones were annoyances. Set aside some time for productive activity where you are not disturbed.
One semester I met a student who was answering customers even when he didn't have time. He had forgotten the time management principle of defining your limits. You cannot be all things to all people, even your customers. You must make a decision when to say no. The good person will not finish first in this world if you have no time to complete your tasks. Strike a balance. You can say no, gently, and still mean it. You always have to look at your priorities.
Delegate some of your lesser responsibilities, even if it hurts. A number of people in this world have not learned the art of delegation. They think they can do everything themselves. You can reduce some of that stress if you remember to delegate. Also, you allow your subordinates, your students, and your employees to grow by giving them more responsibility. Delegation is closely married to good time management. For more information about Lancaster's article, please see The Wall Street Journal, Marketplace, Section B, August 10, 1997, for more time management tips.
Sometime in your busy life plan a day where you don't plan. Get up and let the day happen. Whatever you want put some time in that activity. Read a book. Cook a special gourmet meal. Watch a TV program you never see. Go to an amusement park with your children. Attend a concert. Listen to a special CD. Visit an art museum. Whatever moves your mind should be tried. I know you may be saying you don't have such a day. Out of your busy life I suspect you could find one day during the year where you don't plan the day. Imagine how refreshed you will become after trying that experiment.
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