Time management is a critical skill in modern times. People are constantly under pressure to try and get more done in the same, or less, time. We live in a world which has developed a productivity and efficiency mindset. Companies are constantly pushing for more. New technology is coming on the market every day specifically aimed at improving productivity. However, getting more done is not necessarily the answer. A productivity mindset is not the same thing as a time management mindset.
A time management mindset focuses on completing quality work whereas a productivity mindset focuses on completing an increased quantity of work. Under a productivity mindset, results are measured by the volume of work but with a time management mindset, results are measured in terms of progress made towards your key goals and objectives. When you have a time management mindset, you realise that there is no point in filling your day with extra work if that extra work adds little value. That approach just leads to you becoming a busy fool who is of no use to anybody.
Elements of a time management mindset
Adhering to the following principles will help you to develop an effective time management mindset:
1. Have a clear vision
People have a tendency to confuse change and improvement. Just because you change does not mean you have improved the situation. Unfortunately, most time management solutions focus on changing behaviour rather than improving the situation. If the changes do not make you more effective, and help you to make faster progress towards your goals, then they are not an improvement.
To make sure that your changes are an improvement, you need to have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve. You wouldn’t set out on holiday without knowing your destination, so why would you try to manage your time effectively without knowing what your end result should look like? In both cases it is possible to achieve a successful outcome but it is highly improbable that you will do so.
2. Know your priorities
A lot of time can be wasted trying to choose which task is more worthy of your attention. There may be many important tasks competing for your attention, so which do you choose? When you are unclear, you procrastinate or you flip between tasks without completing any of them. The solution is to be crystal clear on your priorities. Clear priorities are a key foundation stone of a time management mindset. When you are clear on your priorities, you know which tasks add most value, thus making decisions becomes a lot easier.
3. Focus on value
The late Richard Carlson pointed out that even on your deathbed; your in-tray will not be empty. There will always be new tasks coming your way; tasks which will steal your time, if you let them. You need to remember that you do not have to get everything done. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t do it. So, rather than focus on the quantity of work, identify the most important task, the tasks which add real value, and focus on them. When you focus on the tasks which add value, you add value to your life. When you look back on your life in years to come, are you going to remember the quantity of work, or the quality of the experience?
4. Lose the urgency
Urgency is an incredibly powerful motivator. It can cause you to take action without properly considering the choice you are making. Marketers use urgency to influence buying decisions. Urgency can also influence you to change your schedule to complete a task which is not really that important. When these tasks are added up, you find that they have taken a great deal of time which you could have spent performing tasks which would have added real value. When you find yourself faced with urgency, you need to remember the words of form US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower:
‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.’
Determine the real, long-term value of the task and the long-term consequences of not performing the task. When you take the time to put urgent tasks in perspective, you will stop being influenced by urgency and focus on importance and value.
5. Stop struggling
You may have important tasks in your life which you struggle to complete. This may be due to a training need or a lack of enjoyment. If you need to be the one to complete it; source the relevant training and get yourself up to speed. If it is a matter of not enjoying the task, see if you can automate it, delegate it, or outsource it.
6. Purge the waste
It is important to conduct a regular review of your work practices. This can be done monthly. Take the time to review the work which you have completed in the previous month. Identify the tasks which have been a waste of time or have added little value. For each of these tasks, ask yourself the following:
- Can I eliminate this task?
- Can I automate this task?
- Can I delegate or outsource this task?
- Can I reduce the frequency with which I perform this task?
Treat these tasks like a pushy salesman; make them earn your time. Too often, people approach time management with the mindset of ‘how can I get this done?’ An effective time management mindset asks ‘Why should I be doing this?’
7. Schedule your escape
Taking time to escape from your busy schedule by enjoying some of your favourite activities allows you to restore your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional energies. For the best results, you should include some active (e.g. jogging) and passive (e.g. meditation) activities. Find the activities which work best for you and include them in your schedule.
Improving your time management is one of the most effective ways to improve your quality of life but it requires the right mindset. Too often, people focus on getting more done but this is pointless if the extra work is of little value. A proper time management mindset is essential if you want to make lasting and valuable changes. A time management mindset focuses on the most important tasks; tasks which add real value. The value and importance of these tasks is determined by your vision for your life. These tasks allow you to make real progress towards your goals and objectives. With a time management mindset, your life is a lot less stressful, you are happier and healthier, and you achieve superior results. Don’t waste time, apply the steps above and ensure that you have a powerful time management mindset.
Image credit: Chance Agrella