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« Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 3 | Main | Beer and Beer Wholesaling »

Time Bandits – Managing Corporate Time - Part 4

Personal Time Management Issues

“Time is the cruelest teacher: first she gives the test, then teaches the lesson”

“Don’t wait.  The time will never be just right”

Then there is of course time management from a personal perspective.  Much has been written on personal time management and it seems its failure rate is about as high as for most fad diets.

Psychologists will tell you that your personal space mirrors your mental space.  Now what the heck does that mean?  If you are a linear thinker with a well organized mental space, then the odds are your personal space, be it at work or at home, will also be well organized.  If you are more of a non-linear thinker, both your mental space and your physical space will be less organized.  Most failures in personal time management result from attempting to implement some time management system that is in conflict with how your brain is organized.  This is the path to CERTAIN failure.  Instead find some method of time management that compliments your brain.  Regardless of which solution you attempt, there some musts of any personal time management system. They are:

1.                  Focus on results, not being busy

2.                  Write it down

3.                  Whenever possible, handle it only once

4.                  Use some form of “to do” lists

5.                  Implement a simple organizational/filing system – Some find the standard IN, OUT, and TO DO Boxes useful.  I find a useful and simple organizational tool in manila folders.  Number them 1 – 31 (for days of the month) and place documents, notes, etc. in them.  At the beginning of each day, open that specific file and act on each item.  If not completed, move material forward to the next day you plan to work on it.  Nothing is ever lost in this filing system.

6.                  Technology can be great but don’t get caught up in using technology for technology’s sakes.  Technology can turn out to be a tremendous time waster. Use the simplest, easiest method that works for you. 

7.                  Plan to plan – take time out of every day to pause and plan.  Five minutes of planning can “find” hundreds of minutes of extra time.

8.                  If you are in management or on a team you MUST plan.  It is next to impossible for your employees or team members to plan if you don’t since your lack of planning will flow down to impact their planning.  Sooner or later most employees simply give up trying to plan and just react to the crisis of the hour.

One final and VERY important aspect of personal (and organizational) time management) is the need to differentiate between degrees.  The tea kettle whistling is much different than the fire alarm wailing.  Any activity has at least two characteristics:

1.                  Relative time importance – urgent or not urgent

2.                  Degree of importance or value – important (valuable) or not important (not valuable)

By looking at all activities from this perspective you can correctly prioritize activities.  As an organizational leader, you must also help your employees learn to prioritize (don’t assume most people just know how to prioritize, they don’t – and generally the squeaky wheel does get the grease, even though that might not be the wisest use of time).

In general you end up with four types of activities:

1.                  Important and urgent – DO IT NOW

2.                  Important and not urgent – second in line after all #1’s are completed.  Don’t procrastinate or these too will become urgent

3.                  Not important but urgent – why do it?  These can be real time bandits since we respond to their urgency rather than their importance (or lack of).  The telephone ringing is an excellent example of something that’s urgent.  The stupid thing rings until you answer it, but the call may or may not be important.

4.                  Not important and not urgent – why do it at all?

Help your employees learn to prioritize.  The first action taken when confronted with any new task should be this type of mental prioritization.


And finally remember - if what you are doing isn’t working… change it!  Keep changing until you find the system which works best for you.


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