Time management techniques are essential for business and the management of any project. Time is an important resource and its management is critical in order to achieve the goals of a project. Time pressures have become commonplace and people struggle desperately to cope with time and the demands pressed on them. Thus, the techniques of time management are essential in any organisation.
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What is time management
Time management is the process of planning and organising how time will be allocated to given tasks and activities. Therefore, good time management techniques allow for more to be done in less time. Some of the techniques of time management are, the pareto principle, the pomodoro technique and the Eisenhower matrix to name a few.
The Pareto Principle
The pareto principle is one of the most effective techniques of time management. Also known as the 80/20 rule this technique encourages people to focus on the most important few tasks that give results instead of thinly spreading out time. This means that 80% of the results could come from 20% of one’s time. This can be attained from;
- Reviewing and frequently evaluating one’s tasks in order to determine the ones that are important, since 80% of the impact is a result of 20% of the tasks
- Continuously assessing goals and activities that need to be accomplished because 80% of the goals can be attained by 20% of the necessary activities (determining which 20% of the activities that will get an organisation closer to achieving the majority of its goals)
- Determining One’s prime time (Everyone has specific times during the day when they are most productive, an employee can use their prime time to do 20% of the necessary work so that 80% of the results can be attained)
The figures 80 and 20 are a simple guideline to illustrate the lack of symmetry that often occurs between the time one puts in and the results s/he attains. It may be that 15% of time spent can result in 85% of the returns.
This popular time management technique has proven to be effective in both the business environment and in the day to day lives of many. This simple technique is useful when it comes to considering the long-term outcomes of daily tasks. It also helps in determining what will make a person effective and not just productive. The Eisenhower matrix can assist employees in visualising tasks in a matrix of urgent and important quadrants. All the daily tasks and projects can be organised inside the matrix. Where;
- Urgent and Important tasks/projects are to be completed immediately
- Not urgent and important tasks/projects are to be scheduled for
- Urgent and Unimportant tasks/projects are to be delegated to someone else
- Not urgent and unimportant tasks/projects are to be deleted
– Tasks with clear deadlines and consequences if no immediate action is taken for example,
Finishing a client’s project
– Anything that does not have a deadline but can bring one closer to company goals, For example, strategic planning
– Tasks that need to be done but do not require specific skills for example, responding to emails
– Distractions such as social media, or video games
The Pomodoro Technique
The pomodoro time management technique uses a timer to divide work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks. Each time interval is called a pomodoro. This technique encourages people to work with the time they have at their disposal. It has been reported by many to have helped with focusing and improving productivity. Using the technique helps employees instil a sense of urgency. That way, workers will not feel like they have all the time to get things done only to spend the workday on distractions and unimportant activities. Furthermore, the forced short breaks help ease the exhaustion many people experience toward the end of every workday. In fact, working continuously may bring more harm than good. In order to perform optimally it is imperative to take breaks. The mind needs to refresh in order to refocus. The pomodoro time management technique enhances productivity, that way the optimal amount of time is spent on each task.
To Do Lists
To do lists are one of the most utilised techniques of time management. They help in organising the activities of a given day. These lists can also be used to prioritise tasks so that essential items are tackled first. It is important to note that, to do lists should be planned out practically. Planning for the unplanned events that may interfere with the tasks should be taken into account. Employees should be realistic about their capabilities as well as the time required to fulfil certain activities. The following help in creating an effective to do list.
- Not putting too many tasks and activities (It is important to be realistic in ones expectations and time estimates, important tasks that no one else can do should be put on the list)
- Planning for any inconveniences that may negatively affect one’s plans (more time should be allocated to each task in case of external disturbances, for example overestimating travelling time in case of traffic. Taking Murphy’s law into account will help plan for any possible outcomes)
- Scheduling each activity. (Assigning time slots to each task is important, that way there is a high chance that all the tasks and time will be managed effectively)
(GTD) Getting Things Done Technique
Developed by David Allen, this method works like To do lists only that each task is broken down into actionable items. This means that smaller tasks are finished first and the bigger ones are broken down into smaller tasks. This time management technique also helps in organising tasks in order to manage them easily. The GTD technique has been proven to better manage work and time.
Time management Software
Utilising project management software or any other computer software to aid time management is another useful technique. Microsoft project, Fasttrack schedule and OmniPlan are a few examples of the various software that can be employed in an organisation. Time management software helps improve workflow, compared to a manual system based on note cards and written lists. The techniques mentioned above can be implemented with the help of time management software.