Time management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities, and these include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Usually time management is a necessity in any project development as it determines the project completion time and scope.
Main themes of time management
The major themes arising from the literature on time management include the following:
- Creating an environment conducive to effectiveness
- Setting of priorities
- Carrying out activity around those priorities
- The related process of reduction of time spent on non-priorities
Time management has been considered to be a subset of different concepts such as:
- Project management. Time Management can be considered to be a project management subset and is more commonly known as project planning and project scheduling. Time Management has also been identified as one of the core functions identified in project management.
- Attention management: Attention Management relates to the management of cognitive resources, and in particular the time that humans allocate their mind (and organize the minds of their employees) to conduct some activities.
- Personal knowledge management: see below (Personal time management).
Professor Stephen Smith, of BYUI, is among recent sociologists that have shown that the way workers view time is connected to social issues such as the institution of family, gender roles, and the amount of labor by the individual.
In recent years, several authors have discussed time management as applied to the issue of digital information overload, in particular, Tim Ferriss with "The 4 hour workweek", and Stefania Lucchetti with "The Principle of Relevance"
Stephen R. Covey has offered a categorization scheme for the time management approaches that he reviewed:
- First generation: reminders based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible; can be used to alert a person when a task is about to be done.
- Second generation: planning and preparation based on a calendar and appointment books; includes setting goals.
- Third generation: planning, prioritizing, controlling (using a personal organizer, other paper-based objects, or computer or PDA-based systems) activities on a daily basis. This approach implies spending some time in clarifying values and priorities.
- Fourth generation: being efficient and proactive using any of the above tools; places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favors importance over urgency.
Creating an effective environment
Some time management literature stresses tasks related to the creation of an environment conducive to real effectiveness. These strategies include principles such as -
- "Get Organized" - paperwork and task triage
- "Protect Your Time" - insulate, isolate, delegate
- "Achieve through Goal management Goal Focus" - motivational emphasis
- "Recover from Bad Time Habits" - recovery from underlying psychological problems, e.g. procrastination
Writers on creating an environment for effectiveness refer to issues such as the benefit of a tidy office or home to unleashing creativity, and the need to protect "prime time". Literature also focuses on overcoming chronic psychological issues such as procrastination.
Excessive and chronic inability to manage time effectively may be a result of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Diagnostic criteria include a sense of underachievement, difficulty getting organized, trouble getting started, many projects going simultaneously and trouble with follow-through. Some authors focus on the prefrontal cortex which is the most recently evolved part of the brain. It controls the functions of attention span, impulse control, organization, learning from experience and self-monitoring, among others. Some authors argue that changing the way the prefrontal cortex works is possible and offers a solution.
Setting priorities and goals
Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set personal goals. The literature stresses themes such as -
- "Work in Priority Order" - set goals and prioritize
- "Set gravitational goals" - that attract actions automatically
These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For individual tasks or for goals, an importance rating may be established, deadlines may be set, and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list or a schedule or calendar of activities. Authors may recommend a daily, weekly, monthly or other planning periods associated with different scope of planning or review. This is done in various ways, as follows.
A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, and C—hence the name. Activities are ranked upon these general criteria:
- A – Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important,
- B – Tasks that are important but not urgent,
- C – Tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
Each group is then rank-ordered in priority. To further refine priority, some individuals choose to then force-rank all "B" items as either "A" or "C". ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups.
ABC analysis is frequently combined with Pareto analysis.
This is the idea that 80% of tasks can be completed in 20% of the disposable time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time. This principle is used to sort tasks into two parts. According to this form of Pareto analysis it is recommended that tasks that fall into the first category be assigned a higher priority.
The 80-20-rule can also be applied to increase productivity: it is assumed that 80% of the productivity can be achieved by doing 20% of the tasks. Similarly, 80% of results can be attributed to 20% of activity. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.
It depends on the method adopted to complete the task. There is always a simpler and easier way to complete the task. If one uses a complex way, it will be time consuming. So, one should always try to find out the alternate ways to complete each task.
The Eisenhower Method
A basic "Eisenhower box" to help evaluate urgency and importance. Items may be placed at more precise points within each quadrant.
All tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and put in according quadrants. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent are dropped, tasks in important/urgent are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant/urgent are delegated and tasks in important/not urgent get an end date and are done personally. This method is said to have been used by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is outlined in a quote attributed to him: What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
POSEC is an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing.
The method dictates a template which emphasizes an average individual's immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one's personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities.
Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization which mirrors Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of needs".
- Prioritize - Your time and define your life by goals.
- Organizing - Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful. (Family and Finances)
- Streamlining - Things you may not like to do, but must do. (Work and Chores)
- Economizing - Things you should do or may even like to do, but they're not pressingly urgent. (Pastimes and Socializing)
- Contributing - By paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference. (Social Obligations).
Time management literature in relation to implementation of goals frequently centres on the creation and management of task lists.
There are also time management approaches that emphasise the need for more focused and simple implementation including the approach of "Going with the Flow" - natural rhythms, Eastern philosophy. More unconventional time usage techniques, such as those discussed in "Where Did Time Fly," include concepts that can be paraphrased as "Less is More," which de-emphasizes the importance of squeezing every minute of one's time, as suggested in traditional time management schemes.
A task list (also to-do list or things-to-do) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory.
Task lists are used in self-management, grocery lists, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.
When one of the items on a task list is accomplished, the task is checked or crossed off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Task lists can also have the form of paper or software checklists.
Writer Julie Morgenstern suggests "do's and don'ts" of time management that include:
- Map out everything that is important, by making a task list
- Create "an oasis of time" for one to control
- Say "No"
- Set priorities
- Don't drop everything
- Don't think a critical task will get done in one's spare time.
Numerous digital equivalents are now available, including PIM (Personal information management) applications and most PDAs. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.
Task list organization
Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish, and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list.
Task lists are often prioritized:
- A daily list of things to do, numbered in the order of their importance, and done in that order one at a time until daily time allows, is attributed to consultant Ivy Lee (1877-1934) as the most profitable advice received by Charles M. Schwab (1862-1939), president of the the Bethlehem Steel Corporation.
- An early advocate of "ABC" prioritization was Alan Lakein, in 1973. In his system "A" items were the most important ("A-1" the most important within that group), "B" next most important, "C" least important.
- A particular method of applying the ABC method assigns "A" to tasks to be done within a day, "B" a week, and "C" a month.
- To prioritize a daily task list, one either records the tasks in the order of highest priority, or assigns them a number after they are listed ("1" for highest priority, "2" for second highest priority, etc.) which indicates in which order to execute the tasks. The latter method is generally faster, allowing the tasks to be recorded more quickly.
- Another way of prioritizing compulsory tasks (group A) is to put the most unpleasant one first. When it’s done, the rest of the list feels easier. Groups B and C can benefit from the same idea, but instead of doing the first task (which is the most unpleasant) right away, it gives motivation to do other tasks from the list to avoid the first one.
- A completely different approach which argues against prioritising altogether was put forward by British author Mark Forster in his book "Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management". This is based on the idea of operating "closed" to-do lists, instead of the traditional "open" to-do list. He argues that the traditional never-ending to-do lists virtually guarantees that some of your work will be left undone. This approach advocates getting all your work done, every day, and if you are unable to achieve it helps you diagnose where you are going wrong and what needs to change.
Various writers have stressed potential difficulties with to-do lists such as the following:
- Management of the list can take over from implementing it. This could be caused by procrastination by prolonging the planning activity. This is akin to analysis paralysis. As with any activity, there's a point of diminishing returns.
- Some level of detail must be taken for granted for a task system to work. Rather than put "clean the kitchen", "clean the bedroom", and "clean the bathroom", it is more efficient to put "housekeeping" and save time spent writing and reduce the system's administrative load (each task entered into the system generates a cost in time and effort to manage it, aside from the execution of the task). The risk of consolidating tasks, however, is that "housekeeping" in this example may prove overwhelming or nebulously defined, which will either increase the risk of procrastination, or a mismanaged project.
- Listing routine tasks wastes time. If you are in the habit of brushing your teeth every day, then there is no reason to put it down on the task list. The same goes for getting out of bed, fixing meals, etc. If you need to track routine tasks, then a standard list or chart may be useful, to avoid the procedure of manually listing these items over and over.
- To remain flexible, a task system must allow for disaster. A company must be ready for a disaster. Even if it is a small disaster, if no one made time for this situation, it can metastasize, potentially causing damage to the company .
- To avoid getting stuck in a wasteful pattern, the task system should also include regular (monthly, semi-annual, and annual) planning and system-evaluation sessions, to weed out inefficiencies and ensure the user is headed in the direction he or she truly desires.
- If some time is not regularly spent on achieving long-range goals, the individual may get stuck in a perpetual holding pattern on short-term plans, like staying at a particular job much longer than originally planned.
Modern task list applications may have built-in task hierarchy (tasks are composed of subtasks which again may contain subtasks), may support multiple methods of filtering and ordering the list of tasks, and may allow one to associate arbitrarily long notes for each task.
In contrast to the concept of allowing the person to use multiple filtering methods, at least one new software product additionally contains a mode where the software will attempt to dynamically determine the best tasks for any given moment.
Many of the software products for time management support multiple users. It allows the person to give tasks to other users and use the software for communication
In law firms, law practice management software may also assist in time management.
Task list applications may be thought of as lightweight personal information manager or project management software.
Time Management Systems
Time management systems often include a time clock or web based application used to track an employee’s work hours. Time management systems give employers insights into their workforce, allowing them to see, plan and manage employees' time. Doing so allows employers to control labor costs and increase productivity. A time management system automates processes, which eliminates paper work and tedious tasks.
Elimination of non-priorities
Time management also covers how to eliminate tasks that do not provide the individual or organization value.
According to Sandberg, task lists "aren't the key to productivity [that] they're cracked up to be". He reports an estimated "30% of listers spend more time managing their lists than [they do] completing what's on them".
Hendrickson asserts that rigid adherence to task lists can create a "tyranny of the to-do list" that forces one to "waste time on unimportant activities".
- ^ Project Management Institute (2004). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). ISBN 1-930699-45-X. http://www.pmi.org/Marketplace/Pages/ProductDetail.aspx?GMProduct=00100035801
- ^ Buck, M. L., Lee, M. D., MacDermid, S., & Smith S. C. (2000). Reduced load work and the experience of time among professionals and managers: Implications for personal and organizational life. In C. Cooper & D. Rousseau (Eds.), Trends in Organizational Behavior (Vol. 7). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- ^ The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferris, Crown Publishing Group 2007
- ^ The Principle of Relevance, Stefania Lucchetti, RT Publishing, Hong Kong 2010 http://www.stefanialucchetti.com
- ^ Covey, Stephen (1990). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside. ISBN 0-7432-7245-5.
- ^ *Covey, Stephen (1994). First Things First. ISBN 0-684-80203-1.
- ^ Driven to Distraction, Edward Hallowell, M.D.
- ^ Change Your Brain Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness 1998
- ^ a b Lakein, Alan (1973). How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.. New York: P.H. Wyden. ISBN 0-451-13430-3.
- ^ "14-Day Action Challenge". 14-Day Action Challenge. http://davidguest.com.au/14-day-action-challenge/. Retrieved April 25, 2011..
- ^ Where Did Time Fly, John Swift, CreateSpace, 2010 http://wheredidtimefly.com
- ^ a b c Morgenstern, Julie (2004). Time Management from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule—and Your Life (2nd ed.). New York: Henry Holt/Owl Books. pp. 285. ISBN 0-8050-7590-9.
- ^ "TodoBrew". http://www.todobrew.com. Retrieved May 3, 2011. Todobrew.com, free online to-do list web application
- ^ Mackenzie, Alec (1997) . The Time Trap (3rd ed.). AMACOM - A Division of American Management Association. pp. 41-42. ISBN 081447926X. http://books.google.com/books?id=tkTOSmAtuKMC.
- ^ LeBoeuf, Michael (1979). Working Smart. Warner Books. pp. 52-54. ISBN 0446952737. http://books.google.com/books?id=1tlaAAAAYAAJ.
- ^ [|Nightingale, Earl] (1960), "Session 11. Today’s Greatest Adventure", Lead the Field (unabridged audio program), Nightingale-Conant
- ^ "Time Scheduling and Time Management for dyslexic students". Dyslexia at College. http://www.dyslexia-college.com/schedule.html. Retrieved October 31, 2005. — ABC lists and tips for dyslexic students on how to manage to-do lists
- ^ http://myhappierlife.com/2011/08/02/how-to-end-procrastination/
- ^ Forster, Mark (2006-07-20). Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management. Hodder & Stoughton Religious. pp. 224. ISBN 0-340-90912-9.
- ^ Horton, Thomas. New York The CEO Paradox (1992)
- ^ "Tyranny of the Urgent" essay by Charles Hummel 1967
- ^ "ToDoList 5.9.2 - A simple but effective way to keep on top of your tasks - The Code Project - Free Tools". ToDoList 5.9.2. http://www.codeproject.com/tools/ToDoList2.asp. Retrieved October 3, 2009. — Features, code, and description for ToDoList 5.3.9, a project based time management application
- ^ "Time Management Software - Email Management Software - Trog Bar". Features of the Trog Bar. http://www.priacta.com/trog/Software_Features.shtml. Retrieved October 3, 2007. — Description of features in the Trog Bar including "TaskSense," the feature which automatically prioritizes tasks.
- ^ "doTask! - unique instant messenger for business". doTask!. http://dotask.megaterrain.com/. Retrieved October 1, 2008..
- ^ Sandberg, Jared (2004-09-10). "Though Time-Consuming, To-Do Lists Are a Way of Life". The Wall Street Journal. http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/cubicleculture/20040910-cubicle.html. — a report on to-do lists and the people who make them and use them
- ^ Elisabeth Hendrickson. "The Tyranny of the "To Do" List". Sticky Minds. http://www.stickyminds.com/sitewide.asp?ObjectId=6656&Function=DETAILBROWSE&ObjectType=COL. Retrieved October 31, 2005. — an anecdotal discussion of how to-do lists can be tyrannical
- Allen, David (2001). Getting things done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Viking. ISBN 978-0-670-88906-8.
- Fiore, Neil A (2006). The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt- Free Play. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-58542-552-5.
- Le Blanc, Raymond (2008). Achieving Objectives Made Easy! Practical goal setting tools & proven time management techniques.. Maarheeze: Cranendonck Coaching. ISBN 90-79397-03-2.
- Secunda, Al (1999). The 15 second principle : short, simple steps to achieving long-term goals. New York: New York : Berkley Books. pp. 157. ISBN 0-425-16505-1.