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 Time Management in a Time Challenged World | PM Tools - PM Tools

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Time Management in a Time Challenged World

Time management is a decades old concept that has been taught in many different flavors by many different experts.  It is also a topic taught by hundreds of organizations to their employees.   Yet this continues to be one of the most challenged areas in people’s lives.  How can something so well taught and so common be so misapplied?

Many business professionals have significant challenges managing their time in an extremely busy and distraction filled world.    Not only do they manage a work calendar, they often have family calendars as well.  Family obligations may often occur during business hours or business obligations may occur during evening, non-traditional work hours. 

Finding a system that works for you is essential to managing your schedule and ensuring all priorities, both professional and personal, are addressed. 

I decided recently to take my own life as a case study into how challenging it can be to implement a time management system.  I am hoping my challenges and lessons learned can be applied by others in shortening the learning curve to successful time management.

I am a married man with 3 children.  I am also an IT professional who travels often for my job.  In fact, every billable hour I have works for 2 years has been worked in the road. 

I have taken almost every time management course throughout my 20 + year professional career.  From Covey to off shoots to company tailored training, I have taken almost a dozen variations on Time Management techniques.  I began using the Covey system – complete with the heavy, leather binder and the daily 2 page systems about 15 years ago.  I practiced the prioritized task lists, copying each list forward daily, and even mapping the tasks to my value statements.  I always wound up ‘falling off the wagon’ though.  The effort required to follow the disciplined Franklin Covey system was just too much for me to follow on a daily basis. 

I am also a technical IT consultant – residing in a technical, mobile world.  The techniques of 15 years ago don’t work well today.  The purpose of this article is to covey some of the challenges and some of the lessons learned I have discovered through my journey.

I have tried to apply a non-technology solution to a technology based life – it is doesn’t work too well. 

I no longer have the desk area and file area to help support an organized time management solution.

Thus, there are several common themes that are challenges for me.  These challenges include:

There are several changes I have made in my life to make the application of a time management solution easier and more effective.  These changes include:

Stick to a routine that includes 30 minutes at the start of the day to plan the day.

Being in a different time zone, meetings are often scheduled before 8 AM or over the typical lunch time.

Comparison between my mom and my wife. 

I was raised to be a multi-tasker.  I was taught the human mind can handle many simultaneous tasks and can accomplish them with equal quality.  Experience has taught me the folly of this theory.  I am now much more of a linear thinker and doer.  If I manage m task list one task at a time, I feel I am much more productive and much less stressed. 

Tools I have used in my life

The changes described above carry with them some implicit tools that have also helped in my journey.  The tools I have found most useful include:

I used to be a “messy desk is a sign of a hard worker” person.  I now subscribe to the organized desk is a productive desk person.

This activity was a challenge.  I did find that I was wasting time when I would try to multi-task – as I was having to ‘shift gears’ more often. 

I do my best thinking during linear events.  When I am able to focus on one activity and devote my entire energy towards that activity. 

This was also a challenge to implement.  It requires you to give more thought to each task on your to do list – as you need to understand the anticipated effort to complete a task.

I need to better implement a time management/task management system and properly apply the discipline of interacting with the system to help my time management. 

·         Getting things done by putting them off till tomorrow

This is an effective email management system that involves organizing your emails into a couple of different batches.  Respond to today and respond to tomorrow.

I have found that making too many changes to quickly only makes the likelihood for success lower.  Small changes, properly and effectively applied help much more that drastic changes. 

There are many obvious benefits to using a disciplined, effective time management system.  Some of these benefits include:

·         Peace of mind

·         Less stress

·         Better productivity

·         Appearance of competence – the more organized you are, the better (more affective) you look. 

Conclusion

Time management is a must.  Finding the right combination of tools and methods is key to keeping time management a reality in your professional and personal life. 

Sean Pritchard is a 40 year old business professional residing in Sacramento, California.
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