Time Management Skills
There are some tips about your time management skill. Time management is a skill that you should know and use for yourself.
Have you ever wondered how it is that some people seem to have enough
time to do everything that they want to, whereas others are always rushing from task to task, and never seem to finish anything?
It cannot just be that some people have less to do. It’s much more likely that they are using their time more effectively: in other words, showing good time management skills.
Time management skills is the ability to use your time productively and efficiently. You could also think of it as the art of having time to do everything that you need, without feeling stressed about it. It sounds simple, but it is much harder in practice. This page explains some of the principles behind good time management.
Time management skills are essential because few, if any, of us ever have enough time to do everything that is asked of us, or that we want to do.
Time management skills is defined as using your time productively and efficiently—but what about when you are working as productively as possible, and you still can’t get everything done? It may be better to think about time management as a combination of working productively and prioritising your time.
In other words, people who are good at time management are good at getting on and doing things. They are also, however, better at prioritising, and working out what really needs doing—and then discarding the other things.
They can do this because they understand the difference between urgent and important.
‘Urgent’ tasks demand your immediate attention, but whether you actually give them that attention may or may not matter.
‘Important’ tasks matter, and not doing them may have serious consequences for you or others.
Answering the phone is urgent. If you don’t do it, the caller will ring off, and you won’t know why they called—and it might be important. It may also, however, be an automated voice telling you that you may be eligible for compensation for having been mis-sold insurance. That’s not important.
Going to the dentist regularly is important (or so we’re told). If you don’t, you may get gum disease, or other problems. But it’s not urgent. If you leave it too long, however, it may become urgent because you may get toothache.
Picking your children up from school is both urgent and important. If you are not there at the right time, they will be waiting in the playground or the classroom, worrying about where you are. You may also inconvenience others such as teachers who are waiting with your children for you to arrive.
Reading funny emails or checking Facebook is neither urgent nor important. So why is it the first thing that you do each day? See our page minimising distractions to help you recognise and avoid other things that may distract you from getting your urgent and important tasks done.
This distinction between urgent and important is the key to prioritising your time and your workload, whether at work, at home or when studying.
It enables you to work out what to do first, and what can be left either until later, or not done at all. For example, if you leave an urgent but unimportant task, you may find that it becomes unnecessary.
a grid like the priority matrix below can help you to organise your tasks into their appropriate categories:
The Priority Matrix helps you categorise tasks depending on their urgency and importance.
Using the Priority Matrix
To use the priority matrix, it is best to review your tasks on a daily basis. Each day, ask yourself:
Which of my tasks needs doing within the next 48 hours?
Those are the ‘Urgent’ tasks.
Of the urgent tasks, which ones are more important?
It is a good idea to list your tasks in order of importance, rather than giving them an absolute ‘important/not important’ distinction.
Of the non-urgent tasks, which ones are more important?
Again, it is a good idea to list them in order, rather than giving them an absolute distinction.
Now use the answers to these questions to allocate your tasks to the boxes in the priority matrix, following these rules:
Each box should contain no more than about seven or eight tasks.
Start with the ‘Do Now’ box.
Crucially, don’t put off urgent or important things just because they are unpleasant. They won’t get any better for procrastinating.
Advantages: means that you can deal with both, with a realistic view about urgency.
Disadvantages: can get quite complicated.
It is really up to you which you choose—the key is to make it work for you.
Further Principles of Good Time Management
The priority matrix is therefore key to prioritising your workload. However, time management is more than just prioritisation: it is also about being able to work more productively. There are a number of other ways in which you can improve your efficiency and productivity.
For some of us, clutter can be both a real distraction and genuinely depressing.
Tidying up can improve both self-esteem and motivation. You will also find it easier to stay on top of things if your workspace is tidy, and you keep your systems up to date.
Create three piles of your stuff: Keep, Give Away, and Throw Away.
Keep, if you need to keep it for your records, or do something with it. If it needs action, add it to your task list.
Give away, if you don’t want it, but someone else might be able to use it, and/or it is work that can and should be delegated.
Throw away (or recycle) for things that have no value to you or anyone else.
Use A ‘To Do’ List
Whether electronic or paper, lists are a good way to remember what you’ve got to do, and to see at a glance what you’ve forgotten.
Consider highlighting the most important items in some way, and remember to take things off your list when they are complete and/or no longer need doing.
Pick Your Moment
All of us have times of day that we work better. It’s best to schedule the difficult tasks for those times.
However, you also need to schedule in things that need doing at particular times, like meetings, or a trip to the post office.
Another useful option is to have a list of important but non-urgent small tasks that can be done in that odd ten minutes between meetings: might it be the ideal time to send that ema