“I never have time” “I am always running behind the clock” “I need 10 extra hours in my day”….These examples are what we hear from clients when asked how they manage their day.
Indeed, in this age of abundance, no matter how rich or poor, no matter how successful you are, time is a constant and limited factor and yet a most valuable resource to all of us. That’s perhaps the reason why Google receives 111 million searches per month on time management. Therefore, the reality of time management affecting one’s professional and personal life will be discussed further to elaborate on the two factors it depends on; In addition, a Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey will be explained in order to prioritize the tasks that you must complete versus the ones that you desire to complete.
The notion of time is a great concern to most of the respondent of the survey on work life balance with 84% answering time management as a contributor to their work life harmony.
First and foremost, time management depends on two factors:
External factor: your work and life environment
Internal factor: the self
External work life environment:
It is essential to first acknowledge the variety of the actions you are involved in during your day-to-day life. Often times, one under estimates the amount of activities one undertakes mechanically, and to a certain extent unconscious, whether they are positive or negative for your wellbeing. That’s the reason why the first step to getting the control back of your life is to gain full awareness of all the different activities structuring your day/week/month. A good exercise is to list them by creating a log and reviewing your log at the end of each week for a period of four weeks. This exercise can be applied to different components of your professional and personal life as long as you target what you need to accomplish.
Internal Factors are to be found within your inner self:
1. Awareness that time is distributed between thoughts, conversation and action. Depending on your external factors, decide which proportion of time should be allocated to each and how. That way, you become conscious of the most productive and satisfactory activities, as well as to the time wasters, and activities that lead you to procrastination. The purpose of self-awareness is to align you closer to your values and objectives and to gain harmony.
2. Self-management – it is the fundamental realization of responsibility by taking control of your own state of mind.
- Recognizing disturbing impulses and gain control over them by resisting urgencies, procrastinations such as time waster pleasures or distractions i.e. checking your mail too frequently, wandering on social media or the net to avoid dealing with a difficult task at hand…
- Resisting to stress and negative emotions. A helpful insight is to focus on your productivity level keeping in mind the objective at stake. Another insight is to diffuse positive thoughts to yourself and others.
- Implement efficiency: prioritize your tasks matching them with your objectives.
- Complete tasks at 100% by focusing on the present moment in order to optimize your time qualitatively. Focus is a skill that you can acquire over time with practice like a daily workout.
- Use of your inner resources: build your talent into your strength and use it to optimize your time management.
3. Motivation is a key skill to learn, develop and implement in order to gain harmony. In this perspective, time management becomes an ally and a self-improvement tool to reach your standard of excellence. Setting your objective while measuring your accomplishment is an excellent way of motivating yourself. Motivated people have enough optimism to get them going during time pressures and stress.
4. Manage your energy in order to manage your time. While time is a limited resource, your energy is a renewable one. It is the fuel that keeps you going and it is your responsibility to change your habits and develop new rituals to gauge it, as well as to replenish it. Make sure you get enough sleep, exercise and access to healthy nutrition. Likewise, alternate a cycle of high concentration of 90 to 120 minutes (the ultradian rhythm) with short breaks of 10 minutes to oxygenate your mind and lungs.
The Time Management Matrix
One of the tools we suggest is the Time Management Matrix by Stephen Covey to put first things first with the purpose to – reflect, strategize and prioritize in order to
- Schedule your agenda according to your priorities and strategies listed by quarter
- Overcome the habit to focus on urgent activities
- Create and leave time to focus on what is really important
The Time Management Matrix includes four quadrants to determine what is 1) important and urgent, 2) important not urgent, 3) urgent not important, and 4) not important not urgent. According to Covey, tasks in quadrant 1 are usually met because this is human nature to focus on what is important and urgent. Tasks in quadrants 3 and 4 must be eliminated or minimized because they are time wasters with little value
In order to reach work life harmony, the focus must be on quadrant 2 in order to better plan for long-term objectives that are important for your personal and professional development. The first step is to begin to minimize items from quadrants 3 and 4 before you focus on quadrant 2.
By profiting from the times found in those two quadrants, will allow you to make better decisions and to set priorities to the quadrant 2 items that matter the most for a more harmonious life.
Time management is trivial to reach a work life harmony only if you are in control of it. You are the only one that can make the necessary change to set personal and professional goals and realistic expectations, and to evaluate the progress in order to achieve the greater focus to your life.