Did “manage my time better” make it onto your list of New Year’s resolutions?
If it did, join the club. A basic Google search on “new year’s resolutions” brings up the issue of time management time and again (sorry). And if this didn’t make it onto your list, perhaps it should. Because as tired as this term is, chances are we could all be tackling our time constraints more effectively – and increasing not just our efficiency, but also our mental wellbeing. After all, running ourselves ragged without much result is hardly conducive to calm.
But what does “time management” really mean? PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda dislikes the term: “For me, it’s far too vague,” she says. Instead, she deconstructs it as “being efficient, effective and organised”. “And that’s where changing your behaviour is critical,” she explains. “It all comes back to keeping it simple: there’s no point trying to follow elaborate time management principles when you haven’t got the basic behaviours right first.”
And these are? “There’s two key parts to the concept,” continues Anda. “One is to prioritise. The other is to organise. These two skills alone underpin everything we teach at PEPworldwide:nz.” So far, so straightforward – but like so many things, what sounds simple in principle can be more challenging in practice. So read on for a friendly reminder about how to apply these two essential disciplines (and the key word here? Yep. Discipline.)
This is about defining what’s important versus what’s urgent. Note the distinction between the two. Exercise, for example, is always important, but not necessarily urgent (although post-holiday season, this is debatable). If you haven’t already come across it, it’s worth checking out the matrix created by Stephen Covey (author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to explain this idea. Twenty-six years on, this matrix is just as relevant. And once again, clarity is key to your ability to prioritise. “You must be clear that you’re actually working on the right things,” says Anda.
Can you access exactly what you need, when you need it and how you need it? “It may sound obvious to have everything to hand, but statistics show that on average we waste the equivalent of about six weeks a year simply searching for the information we require,” points out Anda. “And both the speed at which we’re receiving information and the sheer volume of information we’re receiving are only increasing. So setting yourself up to be able to find what you need when you need it is more essential than ever.” Taking a bit of time to organise your email inbox and your electronic and paper files may seem tedious, but it’s not half as tedious as scrolling through your inbox or sifting through papers on your desk in pursuit of an elusive file or document.
Prioritise. Organise. Going forward – and we mean this both literally and figuratively, because now you really will make progress – this shall be your mantra. Let’s not hide behind vague terms like “time management” and nail down these two specific behaviours instead. And let’s make that resolution one of the first ones you tick off in 2018.
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