Many people believe that time management is a useful skill to be powerful and effective in building their lives. Therefore, they spend much time investing in tools, courses, and workshops to better manage their time. And yet they fail to be more effective and productive.
It isn't because they are wrong about the importance of time management, but how they see the topic and try to find solutions.
Time Management is not driven by logic but by emotion
The truth is that there is not such a thing as time management. No matter how you see it, time goes on, second for second. You can't manage the time. You will always have 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86 400 seconds every single day. You can't have more time one day and less on the other, you can move some hours around, it's not possible.
Logically it is impossible to manage time. And still, you can manage time. But from the emotional perspective. You can't control the time, but you can control how you spend your time. You can decide when you want to do things and when you want to do other things or even none at all. So time management is more self-management.
You will find time if you have to
There is no excuse about not having time. You can control all 86 400 seconds of your day. Let me give an example.
Last year, during winter, our engineering team went out for a little field trip. It was cold. Still, it was a wonderful trip. But when I returned, I got the shock of my life.
When I entered my apartment, it was freezing cold, and my boiler wasn't working. And when I went into the kitchen where the boiler was installed, I saw a huge mess. My boiler has been leaking water the entire weekend, and it had flooded the kitchen.
Without any further delay, I dropped my stuff and started cleaning the kitchen. I called my landlord to inform her, called the guy in charge of the boiler, arranged an appointment for the next morning before work and ensured that he could enter my apartment while I was at work. It took me like 4 to 5 hours on a Sunday, but I got things fixed in the end, and it wasn't too bad.
If someone had called me that Sunday to ask if I had four or five hours, do you think I would have said that I had the time? Definitely not. But still, I had the time to do unexpected things.
Time management is about priorities
I did find that time because I had to find it. If I had waited longer, it would have ended worse and have cost me much money. When I saw that mess, it instantly became my highest priority, and thus I had to make time to do things that had to be done.
And like I found time to fix the boiler in my apartment, you can also make time to do the things that matter. Put those things on top of your schedule and do them first.
How to find the priorities?
So to manage your time correctly, you need to find the right priorities. How would you do that?
First of all, you need to find out your overall goals. What do you want to achieve? What are your desires? Think not only about professional goals but also about personal.
Every quarter of a year, I have a small session that I call a life review. I spend some time on my couch, and I go through my little notebook in which I note down all my thoughts and ideas. I check if I followed what I wanted to do, look for reasons why things went well or why they didn't and come up with some action points for the next months. I also adjust my goals if needed.
I have three different types of goals: Professional goals, personal life goals and relationship goals. And I try to keep each of those types on track with tasks daily.
What is priority
If you know your goals and what you have to do to reach them, it is time to execute. Execute the highest priority tasks first, and then go down the list. But how exactly do you find the correct priority? Many of you have heard of the Eisenhower principle. That principle focuses on effectiveness and efficiency.
There are two questions that you ask:
- Importance: How much does it matter?
- Urgency: How soon does it matter?
Every task that has been identified as essential and urgent are the highest priority, followed by the ones that are important but not that urgent. Then you do urgent but not that important tasks, and in the end, you can check the unimportant and not that urgent tasks.
The third dimension: Significance
While the Eisenhower principle works fine, something is missing that makes the difference between people that manage time pretty well and those who seem to have more time than others. It is the third dimension that should define your priority:
- Significance: How long does it matter? This additional dimension will make sure that you work on things that will make you more effective and efficient in the very long term. Especially in the modern world, this third parameter becomes more and more critical.
Spend time on things today that will leave you more time tomorrow
How does the third factor work? After answering the first two questions, ask yourself how long that task will matter. How long will I see the impact of the task? Can I do it differently so that it matters longer? If two tasks have the same importance and urgency, but one has a long term impact while the other is just short term, then do the one with the long term impact first.
The four questions loop
Daily, it would be best if you went through the things that are on your list and filter them using the following four questions:
Can I elimiate this?
Is this even important enough to it or did it became obsolete over time? Don't do things that do have any impact.
Can I automate it?
Is there a way that you can automate the task? So that you don't have to do it in the future anymore? Especially nowadays many things can be automated, use the technologies.
Can I delegate it?
You don't have to do every single thing. It might be hard to get into it initially, but you do not always have to do things on your own. The best example for freelancers is bookkeeping: Yes, you can do it yourself; it is not that complex once you understood it. But is the money you save worth it compared to the time you spend on it? Most of the time, it is better to delegate the task to someone specialising in that topic.
Another example is when software companies start building internal tools instead of just using an existing service. It is more efficient in almost all cases to go for an existing solution and invest the saved time and money in the product you sell.
Does it have to happen now or can it be done later?
Decide whether you have to do the task immediately or you can postpone it. If it doesn't have to happen now, then put the task back on your list and check the next one. Maybe in a week, this task does not matter anymore, and you can eliminate it.
Time Management is not about managing time but managing yourself. You have decided what does matter to you and do those things first. And if you set the priorities of your tasks, make sure that you think about their long-term impact.
“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” — Steve Jobs