Mastering Time Management for a Productive Life


In today’s world, technology is arguably the greatest source of distractions which to a larger extent poses a challenge in effective time management. Online meetings, RSS News feeds, software updates, and conference calling among others make life less manageable if not utilized correctly.

Managing the use of time requires us to differentiate between quality and quantity. For instance, small business owners spend much of their time watching what the employees do and only a fraction in managing their own time.

Effective time management requires that you retool your kit with the right strategies to get fulfilment from each day.

How Can You Get More Time?

The desire for more time grows by day as our schedules become crammed with lots of tasks. It is common to find people running from one task to another and trying all they can to accomplish more within the time they have.

When it comes to time allocation, the playing field is even. Every person gets the same number of hours in a day as everyone else. Even with riches, you cannot buy an extra minute in a day. This leaves you with only but one thing, managing yourself and your activities effectively.

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Learning how to manage your time and being proactive instead of reactive can help create more time for you. However, this is largely a behavioral attribute that you can work on. Planning and prioritizing can save you a lot of time more than you can imagine.

Estimate Your Time

Observing the work of engineers and construction professionals, you will find that estimations are part of their life. They use complicated mathematical equations to try and figure out how much time a project will take to completion and the cost to be incurred.

“If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”
― Steve Maraboli

Due to miscalculations, some of these projects repeatedly run over budget and cost the parties involved a lot of money. Time estimation is a tricky affair not just to the professionals, but also to you as you order your tasks. The best approach to estimate your time is through the following factors.

  • Experience – Ask yourself the time you took to complete a similar task sometime back. Then, find out if there is any difference between that time and now. Changes in technology, processes, and logistics may affect the time you need to complete a task.
  • Reference – Looking around, how long do such projects take. You can use this as a benchmark for the task you have on hand.
  • Dependent Factors – Are there other tasks or people that the project is dependent on? Factor this in when making your time estimates.
  • Components – Breakdown the task into smaller parts which are easy to allocate time to. It becomes more manageable and realistic that way.

Plan Your Time Well

At least on a weekly basis, have a planning appointment with yourself. The best time for this is at the end of the week. If you can do it on Fridays the better before you break for the weekend.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Planning is an activity that will require immense concentration, which is completely understandable. With planning, you can put an entire week of activity into perspective by simply taking 2 or 3 hours to plan and schedule.

At first, your strategic blueprint of activity may not work, but if you become persistent in the planning process, you will gradually get it right. In the planning process, there are 3 faces of time.

  • Prime Time – This time falls within the typical 9 to 5 for most people. Within this time, you are to perform activities that produce your livelihood.
  • Secondary Time – This is the space in time between your prime time and tertiary time. You can choose to spend this time either as prime time or tertiary time.
  • Tertiary Time – This is replenishment time. You are to exercise, eat, relax, sleep, and do all sorts of other non-core activities. According to research, it is the most spent time and can be useful in supporting both prime and secondary time.

There are no definite dividing lines between these times and at some point, they may overlap. However, to get the most out of these time bands, activate the OUT strategy. This means optimum use of time. You will be able to reach your purpose in the most effective and efficient way possible.


Taking Control of Your Time

Planning your time is not complete if you are not going to prioritize your tasks. Ensure you arrange your tasks from the most desirable to the least desirable. If you ever find difficulties in prioritizing, try to imagine the consequences of completing or not completing a particular task. This will give you the importance of the task.

Go for tasks that make sense. In your list of priorities, goals, and objectives, the task you do should contribute to the bigger picture. Try and estimate the time the task will take and then reason out what you can do with that time if the task were to be cancelled.

Do not take tasks just as being urgent, try and reason why those particular tasks are urgent. If the urgency is caused by mistakes, try rectify the mistakes so that your in-tray of urgent tasks nears empty.

Organize Your Workspace and Processes

Organization skills though important, are among the most undervalued traits. Today’s environment requires you to manage lots of information from a number of sources. When you are organized at a personal level, everything else that you contribute to will fall in place.

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Organizing your workstation makes it easy for you to access resources as and when you need them. Simple tasks such as filing of documents and putting every item in its place can influence your productivity. Your computer desktop should be clean and all icons and folders placed in their respective corners.

Finally, take charge of your decision-making process. If you spend lots of time making decisions, you can interrupt the different time bands. If you spend sleepless nights, your tertiary time will be inevitably affected. Before you make a decision, have all the information that you need, think about the timeliness, and the consequences of not taking the decision.

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