Management of Time


Management of Time

Time is a basic resource and hence it need to be spent judiciously. Management of time 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 as well as for carrying out the activities effortlessly in a natural way. Management of time may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and complying of goals within the due date. Management of time is required not only for business or work activities, but it also includes personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Time management is a necessity when a given task is to be completed in a specific time.

Since time management is a management process just like any other, it must be planned, monitored and regularly reviewed. The absence of time management is characterized by last minute rushes to meet deadlines, meetings which are either double booked or achieve nothing, days which seem somehow to slip unproductively by, crises which loom unexpected from nowhere. This sort of environment leads to inordinate stress and degradation of performance.

Poor time management is often a symptom of over confidence. The techniques which used to work with small projects and workloads are sometimes simply reused with large ones. But inefficiencies which were insignificant in the small role are ludicrous in the large.

Time management includes the following:

  • Creating an environment conducive to effectiveness.
  • Setting of the priorities.
  • Carrying out activity around the set priorities.
  • The related process of reduction of time spent on non priorities.

Time management covers how to eliminate tasks that do not provide an individual or an organization a value. According to Sandberg, task lists are not the key to productivity and time management. He reports that an estimated 30 % of listers spend more time managing their lists than completing the tasks listed 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.

Stephen R. Covey has given the following categorization scheme for the time management approaches.

  • First generation – It is a reminders based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible, it can be used to alert a person when a task is about to be done.
  • Second generation – This scheme is planning and preparation based on a calendar and appointment books and includes setting of goals.
  • Third generation – The scheme consists of 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 – After being efficient and proactive using any of the above tools, the scheme places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favors importance over urgency.

An environment which is conducive is needed for effective time management. The strategies for an environment to be conducive are as follows:

  • To get organized and to set priority for paperwork and for tasks.
  • To protect one’s time by insulation, isolation and delegation
  • To achieve time management through goal management and through goal focus.
  • Not to procrastinate on a decision until it reaches a crisis.

Time management strategies are often associated with the setting of personal goals with respect to tasks. These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For every task or goal, 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. The planning periods can be daily, weekly, monthly or other planning periods which are associated with different scope of planning or review. This is done in various ways which are as follows.

  • ABC analysis – This is a technique that has been used for the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, and C.  Activities are ranked upon these general criteria namely (i) Tasks A which are perceived as being urgent and important, (ii) Tasks B which are important but not urgent, and (iii) Tasks C which are neither urgent nor important. Each group is then ranked in order of priority. ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups. ABC analysis is normally combined with Pareto analysis.
  • Pareto analysis – Pareto analysis is also known as 80-20 rule. It indicates that 80 % of planned tasks can be completed in 20 % of the time available for disposable. The remaining 20 % of planned tasks usually takes 80 % of the time available for disposable. This principle is used for sorting out the tasks into two parts. The tasks that fall into the first category are assigned a higher priority.
  • POSEC method – POSEC is an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing.  By prioritizing one plans his time and defines his goals for the different tasks. He organizes things which he has to accomplish for getting success. He streamlines those things which he may not like to do but must do and he economize on those things which he should do or may even like to do, but these things are not pressingly urgent. Finally he only contributes attention to the few remaining things that makes a difference.
  • The Eisenhower method – 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’. A basic Eisenhower box to help evaluate urgency and importance is shown in Fig 1. All the tasks are evaluated and placed in appropriate quadrant of the box based on their importance and urgency. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent quadrant are dropped, tasks in important/urgent quadrant are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant/urgent quadrant are delegated and tasks in important/not urgent quadrant get an end date and are done personally.

Eisenhower box

Fig 1 Eisenhower box

Task lists

A task list 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 normally used for management of time in case of self management, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.

Time management in relation to implementation of goals frequently centres on the creation and management of task lists. There are also time management approaches which emphasize the need for more focused and simple implementation including the approach of natural rhythm. More unconventional time usage techniques include concepts which de-emphasize the importance of squeezing every minute of one’s time.

Do’s and Don’ts

Julie Morgenstern has suggested ‘do’s and don’ts’ of time management which includes the following:

  • To map out everything that is important, by making a task list.
  • To create ‘an oasis of time’ for one to control
  • To say ‘No’.
  • To set priorities.
  • Do not drop everything.
  • Do not think that a critical task can be getting done in one’s spare time.