How many times have you wished you had a time machine or maybe just a Delorean to drive to work on time?
Ok maybe that is too much. Maybe we just want to be a bit like Hiro Nakamura, coding while doing some time and space bending whenever it is needed, specially when that project deadline is just around the corner. Science fiction aside, since we can’t yet manage time travelling, what we can actually do is learn to manage ourselves! Time is money and in business you don’t want to waste your clients’/company’s money.
First things first, one problem I’ve come across in training people on time management is that they usually neglect or get stuck on the most basic things like:
So all we need, is just to tell people to be “S.M.A.R.T.”:
Specific – normally we have a general idea, but objectives need concrete and observable goals that can answer: “what needs to be done? And how will you know it is done?” Which leads to the importance of the definition of done.
Measurable/Measurement – if you are able to measure what you propose to do, you are already on a good way to eliminate abstraction from your goals list. Ask yourself and your team what measure fits best: quantity, quality, frequency, costs, deadlines, etc, and which are the standards you´re required to follow. Convert them into numbers to be aware of your achievements and to improve on your failures.
Achievable- This is where it comes to committing -can you reach your objective in the given time frame? Can your expectations be achieved given the team’s knowledge, experience, resources and capability?At the beginning this may require some practice, but as time goes by you will get more experienced.
Relevant- Not everything you set as a goal is relevant. So you should ask why it is important to achieve an objective and what impact it will have.
Time-oriented- there are no endless projects or tasks when setting goals. Deadlines, end points, “due dates” need to be defined. Besides giving you the ability to give your client a time table, setting limits also helps setting up the human mind towards fulfilling a certain amount of work.. It creates a sense of urgency that helps people to finish their tasks.
Doing good planning implies getting to know yourself, know your strengths and your weakness. As Mao Tse Tung said “It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well”. So people’s instinctive behavior around planning usually involves:
Try to use a planner -whether it’s digital or on paper is a matter of personal choice. Just don’t use both for the same purpose, you will end up losing time by doubling your work or even worse losing information. Even though I’m a technology fan, I still like good old fashion paper and I always take my time when picking the right planner for each calendar year. Monthly views always allow me to have a broad view of when I have more work and better place when to do what. Also having a detailed space to take notes see your day hourly, using colors, bookmarks and a pencil is a plus.
How can we look at our task and have a clue of what’s going on? Personally I like to use and teach Stephen Covey’s system, which is divided into four quadrants.
If prioritization is still not an acquired skill you can also use other tools to assess tasks e.g. MoSCoW Method of prioritization (Must, Should, Could, Won’t).
Yeah, having a big plan is great and defining objectives is essential but what happens if you are not aware where you may waste your time? We can speak of three types of time wasters: environmental, human and administrative. Lets take a look at what those are:
The only thing that is certain in project management is that time is limited. Try not do deal with all tasks at the same time and delegate as much as possible so each team member can work autonomously. Be clear on who’s doing what and know that good practices takes time and continuous effort.
If after reading this you’re thinking that you don’t even have the time to start planning your tasks differently, just start gradually. Start today, you don’t have to implement change all at once and it is easier to change you habits slowly. As Stephen Covey said “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions”.
Since you just took about seven minutes to read an article on time management, you can most likely also take the next seven minutes to determine importance and urgency of some of your tasks. Time to stop procrastinating and to start effective planning! Also, if you are already a time management master remember to do some monitoring from time to time, so that you don’t end up overloading your schedule.