Why is time management important? Why do we need to manage our time? One of the most important reasons to manage time is to feel in-balance. As part of the modern workforce, we all struggle to maintain balance between our work and personal life. Certainly, everyone wants to achieve success in the workplace, and at the same time, have a satisfying personal life. Let’s face it, sometimes that can be a challenge. How do we give our best to one part of our life and still have time and energy left over for the  other important parts of our life?

There have been numerous studies dedicated to the benefits and outcomes of time management. These studies have shown time and again that the way we manage our time influences almost every aspect of our lives. Many of these studies, including The Self-Report Questionnaire and The Time Management Intervention Experiment, have found many benefits to Time Management. Among these benefits are reduced procrastination, better mental health and psychological well-being, and a reduction of work-family conflict. (Aeon, B., & Aguinis, H., 2017)   While individual performance doesn’t rely strictly on time management, when we are able to spend more uninterrupted and quality time researching and studying a specific task, we are far more likely to create a more complete and informed outcome.

How many times a day do we say ‘I don’t have time for this’, or ‘I’ll do it if I have time’? Is it really the lack of time, or poor management of our time? While it’s true that there are a limited number of hours in the day, we sometimes fail to recognize that we spend a lot of this time doing things that not only don’t help us achieve our goals, they sometimes hinder our efforts. To help us understand how to achieve a work/ life balance, we first have to look at how we spend our time. Think of time as currency. Just like we have to budget our finances, we also have to budget our time. We have 24 hours in a day, and we have specific things we want to accomplish. How do we stretch our time to allow us to do the things we need to and want to do within that time frame?  Essentially, time management is about making choices about what we do with our time. (Aeon, B., & Aguinis, H., 2017)

Before we delve into time management methods, there is one thing we need to do, and that is to track how your time is spent during your days and weeks. This should be very detailed and include personal time as well, including such things as physical exercise and home projects such as cleaning and yard work. This is the only way to determine what you can cut out to make room for the important things in your life.  I did this myself and was shocked to discover how much time I spent doing things that were time-wasters. Of course I knew that Pinterest and Mahjong were not exactly the best use of my time, bu I had no idea how much time I was actually spending on them. There are also things we do to sabatoge our time without even realizing it; like moving clutter around from spot to spot instead of finding a place for it or just getting rid of it altogether. I have discovered time to do things that I enjoy and never ‘had the time’ to do.

There are several established methods of time management to choose from. What works for some, may not work for others. We can experiment and fine what suits our work-style and personality best. Probably the most well-known method is the to-do list. This is pretty self-explanatory; you make a list of things that you need to do, and cross them off as you complete them. But, did you know there is also a to-don’t list? The to-don’t list is often coupled with the to-do list and includes things that sabotage your productivity or things that can be delegated to others. We need to make considered decisions about not only what you need to do, but what you need to stop doing. (Bregman, P., 2012) And, the things on your to-do list do not have to stay there forever. What is important today may not be important tomorrow.

A similar method to the to-do list, is working from a calendar or planner. The idea is the same, you write the things you need to do on your calendar or planner. The benefit of this is, you can add deadlines and see exactly how much time you have before your projects are due. There are also methods that are not quite as well-known, such as The Pomodoro, The Agile and The Kanban techniques. The Pomodoro technique is an interesting concept, especially for those of us who find it difficult to concentrate on one task for an extended amount of time. Using this method, you set a timer and work on a task for a set amount of time, and when the time goes off, take a short break from the task. When the break is over, reset the timer for a longer time frame and when the timer goes off, take another short break. Do this until the project is complete. (Cirillo, F., nd) This is something I have done throughout the years and just found out it was a technique used by many others.

There are also online time and project management systems that are available for purchase such as the Kanban Project Management system, and numerous books on time management methods like the Agile Project Management System. You can also find videos on YouTube and articles on blog sites like this one. It is worth looking into the various ways to manage your time.

There are other issues to take into consideration when we talk about time management. Not only is every person and personality different, we must also think about culture and generational ideals. Studies have been done to determine how different cultures think of time and how that effects they way they manage their time. There are two ways to view time, as monochromatic or polychromatic. A culture that views time as monochromatic, places great importance on deadlines, appointments, and scheduling of projects and meetings. The culture that views time as polychromatic may focus more on the relational aspect of time. It is more important to this culture to meet the needs of the other people involved than it is to have a project completed by a set date. (Nonis, S. A., Teng, J. K., & Ford, C. W., 2005) While we may not understand why another culture views time the way they do, we do have to accept that there is a difference, and we need to be mindful that others don’t always value the same things. This is also something to keep in mind when dealing with co-workers and peers. Even if they are similar to you culturally, that does not mean they have they have the same values with their time. Focus on how we can make a difference in our own lives, and when we are able to achieve balance, we will not be as focused on what others are doing or how they are doing it.

Once we find something that works for us, how do we keep it up? This is a question we can ask for almost every aspect of our lives, like healthy eating and exercise. It is easy to fall back into bad habits. Maybe you have a bad day and completely ignore your time management goals. Don’t let one bad day, or even one bad week, ruin your efforts. Remember why you started and what you want to accomplish. Take a deep breath and start again. It will be worth it.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, ”It’s not enough to be busy… The question is, what are we busy about?”

References:

Aeon, B., & Aguinis, H. (2017). It’s about time: New Perspectives and Insights on Time Management. Academy of Management Perspectives,31(4), 309-330. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://doi.org/10.5465/amp.2016.0166.

Bregman, P. (2012, June 6). What’s on Your To-Don’t List? The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 5, 2019, from https://blog.wsj.com

Cirillo, F. (n.d.). The Pomodoro Technique® – proudly developed by Francesco Cirillo: Cirillo Consulting GmbH. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

Nonis, S. A., Teng, J. K., & Ford, C. W. (2005, July 18). A cross-cultural investigation of time management practices and job outcomes. Retrieved August 7, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S014717670500043X        International Journal of Intercultural Relations