I wrote about time management earlier in the 52 Tips series. However, most of the content asks you to focus on long-term goals. While this works for some, it does not sufficiently address immediate crises or coping with immediate disruptions. Long-term thinking often fails in these situations when unexpected, external forces cause emotional responses, thereby deviating us from our long-term goals. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that long-term goal orientation and motivation can turn out to be detrimental to immediate objectives derailed by disruptive events. But there are techniques for coping with immediate time management issues.
There are 24 hours in a day and 168 in a week. It sounds silly, but when you look at the hours and book your time at the daily or weekly level, your availability becomes clearer. It is a terrible idea to turn your days into a micro-managed calendar; failing to meet your daily objectives is not only disheartening, but also psychologically disruptive. Essentially, you are more likely to focus on your daily shortcomings rather than adapting to time allotment for the remainder of the week. Look at chunks of hours instead of prescribed days. Not every day is the same, and your obligations vary.
Analyze and Organize
Study your weekly events, responsibilities, and other tasks. Scrutinize your needs and differentiate them from your wants. If you can separate the essentials from the non-essentials, you can start to prioritize your time and adapt to unexpected events.
Organize all of these factors and clean up your personal task matrix. Once you are organized, you are better prepared to manage your time.
Yes, you can put something off for later. Not everything carries an immediate deadline; map out what activities and responsibilities must happen in a sequential order. When crunched for time, the cliché better late than never is apropos. It is easier to give up on something if it disrupts your routine than to appraise your situation and assign priorities to your tasks. Task appraisal and problem solving will be a continual process in life, so you might want to start practicing now.
You don’t have to be a Pavlovian test subject to engage in a personal reward system. We are all multi-faceted creatures with hobbies and interests we find enjoyable. Leverage your fun activities as a reward for completing tasks that are not outwardly fun. For example, if you complete tasks A, B, and C, take a break and savor something you enjoy. Repeat the same behavior for tasks D, E, and F.
With any great commitment comes great sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to make the difficult doable? If you’re able to be flexible, you might not have to give up anything at all. Adaptability is exigent to both emotional and financial health. Understand that you cannot predict what circumstances might arise, but you can control how you behave in the advent of sudden change. Many people tend to assign these sudden intrusions to the highest priorities; often, this is not the correct behavior. Again, be aware of the innate emotional response to turn sudden change into a false crisis.
Become an agent for continual time management improvement. Figure out the tangible outcomes in your life and measure them each week. How well did you sleep? Did you have time to turn in a quality paper and do the laundry? Were you able to afford yourself with downtime? Regular assessments of your personal time management outcomes are a learning experience. It gives you evidence to support claims and execute tweaks to your time management plan.
Executing your tasks and managing your time are not just about working smarter; it is a balance between your effort and the steps you take to accomplish each task. If you put in a strong effort but exercise the wrong steps, your outcomes will be less favorable. Doing requires both hard work and well-devised actions.
View the rest of the 52 Tips in 52 Weeks series here!