Definitions

during time

Time management

Time management is commonly defined as the various means by which people effectively use their time and other closely related resources in order to make the most out of it.

But in a 2001 interview, David Allen observed:

You can't manage time, it just is. So "time management" is a mislabeled problem, which has little chance of being an effective approach. What you really manage is your activity during time, and defining outcomes and physical actions required is the core process required to manage what you do.

Time management can refer to all of the practices that individuals follow to make better use of their time, but such a definition could range over such diverse areas as the selection and use of personal electronic devices, time and motion study, self-awareness, and indeed a great deal of self-help. As narrowly defined, it refers to principles and systems that individuals use to make conscious decisions about the activities that occupy their time.

Different Uses of the Term

The label "time management" cannot predate the widespread use of the word "management" in our sense at the beginning of the 20th century. Concerns about the wise use of time have a longer history, reflected in the large number of proverbs concerning time and its utilization.

As Part of Project Management

Time Management is one of nine knowledge areas identified by the Project Management Body of Knowledge, produced by the Project Management Institute. The "Guide to the PMBOK" defines project management as entailing management of scope, cost, time, human resources,risk, procurement, etc. Time Management, as a project management subset, is more commonly known as project planning and/or project scheduling.

Contemporary Time Management

Stephen R. Covey and his co-authors offered a categorization scheme for the hundreds of time management approaches that they reviewed:

  • First generation: reminders (based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible) can be used to alert of the time when a task is to be done.
  • Second generation: planning and preparation (based on calendar and appointment books) includes setting goals.
  • Third generation: planning, prioritizing, controlling (using a personal organizer, other paper-based objects, or computer- or PDA-based systems) activities on a daily basis. This approach implies spending some time in clarifying values and priorities.
  • Fourth generation: being efficient and proactive (using any tools above) places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favors importance over urgency.

Time management literature paraphrased:

  • "Get Organized" - paperwork and task triage
  • "Protect Your Time" - insulate, isolate, delegate
  • "Achieve through Goal Focus" - motivational emphasis
  • "Work in Priority Order" - set goals and prioritize
  • "Use Magical Tools to Get More Out of Your Time" - depends on when written
  • "Master the Skills of Time Management"
  • "Go with the Flow" - natural rhythms, Eastern philosophy
  • "Recover from Bad Time Habits" - recovery from psychological problems underlying, e.g. procrastination

But in contrast, some of the recent general arguments related to "time" and "management" point out that the term "time management" is misleading and that the concept should actually imply that it is "the management of our own activities, to make sure that they are accomplished within the available or allocated time, which is an unmanageable continuous resource".

Personal Time Management

Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set goals. These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For individual tasks or for goals, an importance rating may be established, deadlines may be set, and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list or a schedule or calendar of activities. Authors may recommend a daily, weekly, monthly or other planning periods, usually fixed, but sometimes variable. Different planning periods may be associated with different scope of planning or review. Authors may or may not emphasize reviews of performance against plan. Routine and recurring tasks may or may not be integrated into the time management plan and, if integrated, the integration can be accomplished in various ways.

How We Use Time

Time is similar to money in how we use it: We spend time; we save time; we invest time. When we spend time, there is no improvement in efficiency, productivity, or effectiveness. The time is gone without a return. We save time when we perform tasks in less time or with less effort than previously. We use shortcuts and processes that streamline activities. We invest time when we take time now to save time later.

We spend time when we go to a movie; however, if we are a screenwriter, the time spent in the movie is an investment since it will help hone our writing skills. If we invest time to learn screenwriting software, we will save time in the future when we compose our scripts.

Delegation is a valuable investment of our time. When we delegate, we teach someone to perform tasks we usually perform. While the training process takes time now, the investment pays off later since we free our time to perform higher-payoff activities.

Our goal is to look for ways we can save and invest time.--PatHaddock (PatHaddock) 07:04, 7 October 2008 (UTC)

Task list

A task list (also to-do list) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory.

Task lists are used in self-management, grocery lists, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.

When you accomplish one of the items on a task list, you check it off or cross it off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Numerous digital equivalents are now available, including PIM applications and most PDAs. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.

Task list organization

Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish, and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list.

Task lists are often prioritized:

  • An early advocate of "ABC" prioritization was Alan Lakein (See Books below.). In his system "A" items were the most important ("A-1" the most important within that group), "B" next most important, "C" least important.
  • A particular method of applying the ABC method assigns "A" to tasks to be done within a day, "B" a week, and "C" a month.
  • To prioritize a daily task list, one either records the tasks in the order of highest priority, or assigns them a number after they are listed ("1" for highest priority, "2" for second highest priority, etc.) which indicates in which order to execute the tasks. The latter method is generally faster, allowing the tasks to be recorded more quickly.

Alternatives to Prioritizing:

A completely different approach which argues against prioritising altogether was put forward by British author Mark Forster in his book "Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management". This is based on the idea of operating "closed" to-do lists, instead of the traditional "open" to-do list. He argues that the traditional never-ending to-do lists virtually guarantees that some of your work will be left undone. His approach advocates getting all your work done, every day, and if you are unable to achieve it helps you diagnose where you are going wrong and what needs to change.

Software applications

Modern task list applications may have built-in task hierarchy (tasks are composed of subtasks which again may contain subtasks), may support multiple methods of filtering and ordering the list of tasks, and may allow one to associate arbitrarily long notes for each task.

In contrast to the concept of allowing the person to use multiple filtering methods, at least one new software product additionally contains a mode where the software will attempt to dynamically determine the best tasks for any given moment.

Task list applications may be thought of as lightweight personal information manager or project management software.

Resistors

  • Fear of change: Change can be daunting and one may be afraid to change what's proven to work in the past.
  • Uncertainty: Even with the change being inevitable, one may be hesitant as being not sure where to start. Uncertainty about when or how to begin making a change can be significant.
  • Time pressure: To save time, one has to invest time, and this time investment may be a cause of concern. Fearing that changing may involve more work at the start -- and thus, in the very short term, make things worse -- is a common resistor.
  • Lack of will power: Why change if one really does not need to? The greatest problem is a lack of will.

Drivers

  • Increased effectiveness: One may feel the need to make more time so as to be more effective in performing the job and carrying out responsibilities.
  • Performance improvement: Time management is an issue that often arises during performance appraisals or review meetings.
  • Personal development: One may view changing the approach to time management as a personal development issue and reap the benefit of handling time differently at work and at home.
  • Increased responsibilities: A change in time-management approach may become necessary as a result of a promotion or additional responsibilities. Since there is more work to do, and still the same amount of time to do it in, the approach must change.

Caveats

Dwelling on the lists

  • According to Sandberg, task lists "aren't the key to productivity [that] they're cracked up to be". He reports an estimated "30% of listers spend more time managing their lists than [they do] completing what's on them".
  • This could be caused by procrastination by prolonging the planning activity. This is akin to analysis paralysis. As with any activity, there's a point of diminishing returns.

Rigid adherence

  • Hendrickson asserts that rigid adherence to task lists can create a "tyranny of the to-do list" that forces one to "waste time on unimportant activities".
  • Again, the point of diminishing returns applies here too, but toward the size of the task. Some level of detail must be taken for granted for a task system to work. Rather than put "clean the kitchen", "clean the bedroom", and "clean the bathroom", it is more efficient to put "housekeeping" and save time spent writing and reduce the system's administrative load (each task entered into the system generates a cost in time and effort to manage it, aside from the execution of the task). The risk of consolidating tasks, however, is that "housekeeping" in this example may prove overwhelming or nebulously defined, which will either increase the risk of procrastination, or a mismanaged project.
  • Listing routine tasks wastes time. If you are in the habit of brushing your teeth every day, then there is no reason to put it down on the task list. The same goes for getting out of bed, fixing meals, etc. If you need to track routine tasks, then a standard list or chart may be useful, to avoid the procedure of manually listing these items over and over.
  • To remain flexible, a task system must allow adaptation, in the form of rescheduling in the face of unexpected problems and opportunities, to save time spent on irrelevant or less than optimal tasks.
  • To avoid getting stuck in a wasteful pattern, the task system should also include regular (monthly, semi-annual, and annual) planning and system-evaluation sessions, to weed out inefficiencies and ensure the user is headed in the direction he or she truly desires.
  • If some time is not regularly spent on achieving long-range goals, the individual may get stuck in a perpetual holding pattern on short-term plans, like staying at a particular job much longer than originally planned.

Set goals for oneself and work on achieving these goals. Some people study in different ways so you are to find out how you are able to study and put that into action. Some people are able to understand their work if they can see it. Some need to touch and feel whatever is being spoken about in the book. Some people need to see what they are studying in order to understand what is coming out of the book.

Techniques for setting priorities

ABC analysis

A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, and C—hence the name. Activities are ranked upon these general criteria:

  • A – Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important.
  • B – Tasks that important but not urgent.
  • C – Tasks that are neither urgent or important.

Each group is then rank-ordered in priority. To further refine priority, some individuals choose to then force-rank all "B" items as either "A" or "C". ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups. ABC analysis is frequently combined with Pareto analysis.

Pareto analysis

This is the idea that 80% of tasks can be completed in 20% of the disposable time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time. This principle is used to sort tasks into two parts. According to this form of Pareto analysis it is recommended that tasks that fall into the first category be assigned a higher priority.

The 80-20-rule can also be applied to increase productivity: it is assumed that 80% of the productivity can be achieved by doing 20% of the tasks. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.

Fit

Essentially, fit is the congruence of the requirements of a task (location, financial investment, time, etc.) with the available resources at the time. Often people are constrained by externally controlled schedules, locations, etc., and "fit" allows us to maximize our productivity given those constraints. For example, if one encounters a gap of 15 minutes in their schedule, it is typically more efficient to complete a task that would require 15 minutes, than to complete a task that can be done in 5 minutes, or to start a task that would take 4 weeks. This concept also applies to time of the day: free time at 7am is probably less usefully applied to the goal of learning the drums, and more productively a time to read a book. Lastly, fit can be applied to location: free time at home would be used differently from free time at work, in town, etc.

POSEC method

POSEC is an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing. The method dictates a template which emphasises an average individual's immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one's personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities.

Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization which mirrors Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of needs".

  1. PRIORITIZE-Your time and define your life by goals.
  2. ORGANIZING-Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful. (Family and Finances)
  3. STREAMLINING-Things you may not like to do, but must do. (Work and Chores)
  4. ECONOMIZING-Things you should do or may even like to do, but they're not pressingly urgent. (Pastimes and Socializing)
  5. CONTRIBUTING-By paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference. (Social Obligations)

The Eisenhower Method

All tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and put in according quadrants. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent are dropped, tasks in important/urgent are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant/urgent are delegated and tasks in important/not urgent get an end date and are done personally. This method is said to have been used by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is outlined in a quote attributed to him: What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

See also

Tools:

Systems:

References

Further reading

  • Allen, David Getting things done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Viking.
  • Covey, Stephen (1994) First Things First. ISBN 0-684-80203-1
  • Fiore, Neil A The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt- Free Play. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Forster, Mark Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. Hodder & Stoughton Religious.
  • Lakein, Alan How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.. New York: P.H. Wyden.
  • Morgenstern, Julie Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule--and Your Life. 2nd ed, New York: Henry Holt/Owl Books.
  • Le Blanc, Raymond Achieving Objectives Made Easy! Practical goal setting tools & proven time management techniques.. Maarheeze: Cranendonck Coaching.

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