Have you ever sat down and formally analyzed how you spend your time with the goal of becoming more efficient? Here is a guide.
Note: This information is offered to help determine priorities, analyze time budgets, and maximize outcome and efficiency.
What is Time Management?
- Drawing out a proper schedule for using time.
- Doing the right things at the right times.
- Having a goal which directs how time will be spent.
- Being aware of how much time is being spent on certain activities.
- Taking action to control the use of time.
- Saving time in a smart, efficient ways.
Why Should We Learn About Time Management?
- The basic purpose is to organize and manage our time well.
- We can distinguish what is important and what is not, then we can make better decisions about priorities.
- We can finish everything we need to do.
- Saving time allows us to do more of what we want or need to do.
- We can develop a more efficient and restful life.
What Do We Really Need?
- A Quality Life – I need more time!
- Value Assessment – What will we choose to do, given a limited amount of time?
- A Channel for Desire – We want to control circumstances and lead a leisurely life, but instead, the busy demands of life seem to control us and make us tired.
- Time Assignment – Important to find time to spend with friends, family and self, while finishing everything else.
- Avoid Procrastination and Postponements – Poor work habits, and a poor job balance leads to reduced productivity and more stress. – I need to work successfully and have a personal life. How can I give fair time to each one?
- Awareness of Priorities: “Urgent versus Important” – What should I spend my time on? How do I decide?
- Stress Control – We get stressful by being too busy and having too many things to do.
- External Factors – People or things in your environment or your schedule that create confusion or inefficiency.
- Internal Factors – Things about yourself that make you lose focus or become distracted.
Several examples of these factors are listed.
- The sudden or time-consuming phone call.
- An invitation or conversation with a friend.
- The sudden customer, or other demanding people.
- Banquets or social occasions.
- Personal habits, sickness or emotional needs.
- Responsibilities to family.
- Homework, or covering work for coworkers.
- Time needed for transportation.
- No clear goal and no order of priorities.
- Lack of discipline. No daily work plan.
- Lack of a deadline to finish your goals.
- Lack of order, the workplace is always in a mess.
- Too many cares about small things.
- Being resistant to changes.
- Too many interesting subjects in your vicinity.
- Don’t know how to reject a temptation.
- Lack of information and communication.
Divide Your Time into Blocks
- Sleeping – 8 hours/day
- Working hours – 8 hours/day
- Meals and cooking – 2 hours/day
- Spare time or hobbies – 2 hours/day
- Dressing and physical care – 1 hour/day
- Coffee break or quiet time – 1 hour/day
- Reading and study – 1 hour/day
- Transportation time – 1 hour/day
- Time with friends and family – 8 hours/week
- Housekeeping and maintenance – 3 hours/week
- Banking, bookkeeping, planning – 1-2 hours/week
How much time do you spend on each block?
How Should Time be Spent?
Life is short. We mortals can only expect to live around 70 years in this body. It may be simpler and more practical to look at life one day at a time. Each day, we sleep around 8 hours, we work around 8 hours. We spend about two hours cooking and eating. Another hour cleaning, washing and bathing. Most of our time is already preallocated, so people only have 2 to 4 hours of free/leisure time each day. Most people have even less than that. How you choose to use this golden time is critical to your life. So the point here is that time is of the essence.
What should you spend your time on?
- Decide what is important to you. What are your top priorities.
- Divide your time to do different things at set lengths of time, and then try to finish each task within the time period.
Making your schedule work is the trick.
The following table is a helpful guide to determine what to prioritize, and how to spend one’s time. It divides various tasks into two dichotomous categories, Urgent vs. Not Urgent, and Important vs. Not Important.
Keys to Time Management
Going on the table above, the key to managing time wisely is to…
- Focus on the second box: ”Important but Not Urgent”
- Put less time on the fourth box: ”Not Important and Not Urgent”.
After a while, we see improvements…
- The first box becomes smooth and easy.
- The second box becomes enjoyable.
- The third box becomes exciting.
- The fourth box becomes relaxing.
Control Your Time
- Set goals, follow a daily schedule.
- Keep the workplace in order.
- Set out your purpose at first, whenever you call someone or hold a conference.
- Before making promises or commitments, carefully consider if you really want to spend your time on this. Ask yourself, “Is this really essential for me to do?”
- Set a deadline for everything on-hand.
Control Your Environment
Learn how to do the following when necessary…
- Lock your door; value your right to privacy.
- Use lights and shades effectively.
- Turn off the computer and/or the telephone.
- Direct focused conversations; say “NO” to people.
- Save time by devising conveniences, or by making appointments and/or arrangements with people.
- Consider spending a little money on things that can save your time.
Organize the Logistics
Reduce your commuting time and reduce stress by living close to those places you go to frequently.
- Your place of occupation.
- The homes of important friends and family members.
- The market or grocery store.
- Any other places where you are committed to spend your time.
- Consider the cost/benefit analysis to using a car or motorcycle, as opposed to public transportation. I have found that using a motorcycle is 1/10 of the total cost of using a car (including the initial purchase, fuel, maintenance, taxes, registration, and parking fees), and it is faster and more convenient as well.
Whenever I have moved to a new location, I first make a map and place pins on all the places that I need to go each day and each week. Then I will choose to live in a place that is towards the geographic center of all these places.
Improve your workplace by organizing documents, tools, and other resources in an orderly and easy-to-find manner.
- Lab technicians, mechanics, and handymen should keep their work area clean and orderly, and use a storage system (e.g. file cabinet, pegboard, toolbox, etc.) to promote fast, easy accessibility.
- Recent research has suggested that standing is more healthy and efficient than sitting. So many newer companies place workstations on high tables rather than on traditional office desks. The benefits of this approach depend on the nature of the work.
- Office workers and blue collar laborers may find an L or U shaped workstation is conducive to productivity, because it reduces the frequency and extent of physical motion.
- Those who work primarily on a computer can use a large screen monitor, which allows more than one document or webpage to be viewed at a time with greater clarity. Personally, I use and recommend a 32″ monitor.
- Use adequate and well-placed lighting. Something as simple and easy as getting a polarized desk lamp can significantly improve concentration and productivity.
- Lay out a basic schedule for each day, week, quarter, and year.
- You should have clear goals.
- Devise a planned order of the whole process, start to finish.
- Choose your endeavors carefully. Don’t let circumstances or other people choose for you.
- Consider how you will arrange your time to accommodate a given endeavor, so that you can do the right thing at the right time.
- Always be aware of what your priorities are, and how much time you are spending on any particular activity.
Get your act together. A well maintained time management will be good for your life.