I was going nuts and had fears of getting fired!

When I was fresh out of night school, I got a break and got hired by a large corporation called TRW. My job was fixing personal computer problems during the personal computer assault on mainframe corporate America. I was busy solving personal computer problems every day, and I could not keep track of all my voicemails, inter-office memos (this was before email), and assigned tasks from my manager. I was going nuts and had fears of getting fired!

Some Challenges Of Time Management

Managing Multiple Priorities

The most challenging part of managing time is managing ourselves to accomplish our priorities. If you are good at what you do, then maintaining your workload priorities is often the most challenging part of your job. The need for time management and skilled people always seem to go together.

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.” John C. Maxwell

Managing the amount of time we have, and prioritizing our tasks are part of any career, and learning how to do it effectively is a vital part of being productive.

Being Consistent Each Day

Keeping relaxation and personal entertainment time controlled so that we can consistently accomplish our goals is always a challenge. If you work for someone else on the clock each day, then some of the obstacles are mitigated. You need to be at your workplace each day at a specific time, which helps build a routine. Starting the work day with your leftover tasks from the day before and integrating them into today’s list each day is an essential routine for managing your time. Finishing the day reviewing tomorrow’s list is also a good practice to prepare our hearts and minds for what is coming.

Conquering Procrastination

Procrastination is “the action of delaying or postponing something.”

According to Psychology Today, “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort. There are many reasons, but one of the most significant challenges of time management is procrastination. We often put off the more significant or more challenging tasks while we focus on those most familiar. Consistently working on those tasks we struggle with is one of the tools of effective time management.

Here are Five Essential Time Management Principles that I have used successfully:

1. Use A Systematic Approach

Choose A Proven System

Managing multiple priorities is nothing new and utilizing the time-tested principles that others have developed makes good sense.

Adapt The System To Fit Your Needs

Using a time-tested system is essential, but often what works for others needs to be adapted to your personal life and energy cycle. Some people need to do things a bit differently. For example, you may structure your priorities by a number system and get them done in order. Others may use due dates to structure priorities.

Stick With Your System

The most important thing about any system you choose is that you use it and stay consistent. Routines work well in organizing work and creativity works well to accomplish the work you have just prioritized. If too much time is spent organizing tasks, then actually doing the work will be hindered.

2. Schedule Task Management As A Daily Task

Time Management Is Part Of Any Career

Time management should be a regular part of our daily responsibilities. Allocating time at the start of every day to manage our tasks and schedule is critical. Reviewing priorities at the beginning and end of each day will help the craziness of managing multiple priorities. Just remembering and organizing different tasks from different clients or customers each day should be part of any career and needs attention each day.

Keep And Maintain A Task List

First of all, writing our tasks in a list allows your mind to let go of the burden of thinking about them.  Then when it is time to do them we can focus all of our energy and mental ability on that one single task. Our quality of work will dramatically increase because we are not trying to remember all we need to do for that day.

Second, this task list will enable us to prioritize our workload making us more effective.

So what finally happened to me at my first corporate job at TRW? Well, my manager sent me to a training seminar called “Managing Multiple Priorities” by Fred Pryor Training Solutions. They still have the Seminar to this day. The central principle I learned was that of keeping a task list you read and accomplish every single day. Each day I was to carry over the undone tasks from yesterday while prioritizing the remaining tasks with the new ones.

As I look back now, this process worked well for me on a paper system because prioritizing the list each day became a physical writing routine. My task list needed to be manually rewritten each day and became my daily guide to being productive. Now with digital task lists, this process can go too quickly, so the process of prioritizing tasks and working through our list is even more critical. We need to mentally think through our daily tasks keeping in mind what is most important on this list.

3. Break Projects Into Smaller Tasks

Project Planning Made Simple

The process of breaking down larger projects into smaller tasks is a proven method of reducing procrastination and an essential tool in effective time management. We do this unconsciously all the time. Most of us have a daily routine each morning that is like a simple project plan.

Let’s call this project “Getting Ready For Work.” The following steps are organized to complete the project each work day:

The Day before – (1) set the alarm clock, (2) verify clean clothes are available, (3) charge mobile.

The Morning of – (4) brush teeth, (5) shower, (6) shave for men or make-up for women, (7) get dressed, (8) eat breakfast, (9) drive to the office. While this example may seem elementary, many complex tasks that tempt us toward procrastination are not much more difficult.

So, breaking larger projects into smaller tasks will help us complete the responsibilities that often cause stress.

4. Complete Important Tasks First

Big Rocks, Gravel, Sand

Most of us have heard of the illustration by Steven Covey that we are to get the big rocks in the jar first or we will not get them in at all. You can read about it here if you haven’t. But the point Steven Covey illustrates for us is how important it is to work on the most important task before anything else. Otherwise, we will not get the most important things done and other time-stealing activities will “fill the jar” before the big rocks get in.

5. Delegate Responsibly

Crossing The Desert With 50 Pounds Of Gear

Delegation is “the act of giving control, authority, a job, a duty, etc., to another person.”

If you were responsible for getting you and four other people across a desert with 50 lbs of food and water needed for the journey, how would you do it? Would you carry all 50 lbs and have the others follow you? Or would it make sense to divide it up for the trip and have each one take 10 lbs of food and water? Since you are responsible for each one making it alive and all 50 lbs of food and water were essential to survive, wouldn’t you check in on each one along the way to assure everyone’s survival?

This simple illustration describes what proper delegation is all about. That is, having others share in your responsibilities and managing them along the way is healthy delegation.

If You Can, You Should

If there is something that you can delegate, you should. Delegating will allow you to increase your capacity and enable a greater focus on the most important tasks you should work on. But remember, proper delegation involves communication with the one to whom you have delegated tasks, to ensure successful completion of your responsibilities.

Conclusion

Learning useful Time Management Principles takes only a few minutes to grasp, but a lifetime of daily attempts to perfect. Each day we get a fresh new opportunity to master our process, so we can save our precious energy to accomplish great things in our work.

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