Time management has never been so difficult and this is no mystery to any of us. We also are very well aware that if we could control the time it takes to get things done then we would no doubt be successful. Everybody for ages has said the same thing about time management, be disciplined, get up early in the morning and plan for the day or week ahead, etc. Most importantly, learn to manage time. In fact, a 2022 research study highlighted the following:
- Over 80% of people rely solely on emails to manage their time
- Dealing with whichever challenge comes up first is the standard approach to problem solving
- 1 in 8 people (12.5%) never feel under control at work
- Only 20% ( 1 in 5) people carry out a monthly time audit to review how they are spending their time
Yes, these are not so surprising facts but rarely are we truly in control of how we spend our time. We depend on people around us to get things done and their time management skills impact our own! So how do we get unstuck. What is it that we can do to better execute on managing time?
WINNING at managing time means to
- Knowing it will take time and commitment to mastering time
- Being open to iterating, start small and then grow
- Building new anchors for people
- Focusing on achieving targets, even at the peril of missing out on other activities
- And most importantly, planning!
Know it will take time
Malcolm Gladwell famously popularised the concept that it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something. While there have been numerous follow up articles that debunk this concept, it was largely accepted as we inherently know, from experience, that repeating tasks gets us to be better at something. And we tend to repeat tasks either because we are forced to or because we want to. Keeping this in, if you really want to improve your time management skills know it will take just over 60 days on average to make a new habit stick (for more details you can read this amazing article – How Long Does It Take for a New Behavior to Become Automatic?).
Be open to iterating
In our haste to get things done quickly, we have forgotten the value of iterating. Learning any new skill takes time. Every time we attempt at doing something, we learn something more about how we are attempting to get the job done and do it better the next time. When it comes to tasks, scheduling and time management we tend to use calendar applications, emails or scheduling platforms like Calendly or Latom. But these only work when we get our planning done right, which means it is necessary to break down an expected result into minute tasks, schedule them and complete them on time.
Initially you might not finish on time – this is ok and normal. To improve on this, see if you need to break down the task further or if the people involved need more time to help you execute – manage this and get a win. Then REPEAT. Do this repeatedly for over 60 days, and my friend you now have a new habit.
Build new anchors for people about how you manage your time
We all have clients or bosses that need you to execute on tasks at certain timelines. If you can’t then they find new people to work with. This is also true for people who you need work done from. If you build a reputation of being slacker and/or are one, then people who work with you will also be the same. In order to change your habits, you will need to create a new anchor point for others on your ability to execute on time. As highlighted above begin with small wins and iterate. Noticing your wins others will reciprocate, if not you will in most probability move up the chain and thus change your circle.
Focus on achieving targets, even at the peril of missing out on other activities
Keeping an eye on the ball is the most important aspect of being an excellent manager of time. This ensures that even if there are other things that happen, you are able to prioritise and focus on getting the task at hand completed on time. Learning new skills or being good at something else requires a change in behaviour. There were benefits of slacking at completing your tasks – quick dopamine hits (small wins) like being able to sneak in a smoke or a coffee or spending time with friends or colleagues. But these wins ensured you were never able to go big! Focus on goals that matter and help build the person you want to be.
And most importantly plan
Plan to win!
Cliched it might be, but planning is essential to this recipe for success. Plan at the beginning of the week and at the start of the day. It’s the only way you know you have been making progress else all your effort is moot. Use scheduling and task management tools like Todoist, Latom, or Google Tasks to get ahead of the game.
I hope this has been a fruitful read. Please let me know your thoughts by tweeting at me @ahoylatom