Warren Buffet, world’s most famous billionaire and investor once said; ‘Time is the only commodity I cannot buy’. It was the great modern management Guru, Peter Drucker who warned; ‘Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.’ According to the famous English novelist Arnold Bennet; ‘Time is the most precious of possessions.’
However, all are too much concerned about their money and try to manage it well without any waste. But how do they manage their time even though it is more precious than money? Time is the only commodity which is given equally to all; to the richest and the poorest, to the employer and employee, to the king and the beggar, to the master and servant, to the executive and worker, to the politician and the poster boy. All have the same amount of time; i.e. 24 hours per day, 60 minutes per hour, 60 seconds per minute, totally 86,400 seconds per day. No one has a single second more or less. You cannot buy or hire time from others. You cannot store it or save it in reserve for future use; you cannot sell or lend your excess time to others. You have to use it, or lose it at the rate of 24 hours per day. If you fail to plan the use of your time wisely, you plan to fail in your life and profession.
According to Benjamin Franklin, the famous American author, inventor and politician, ‘Time is the stuff of which life is made’. So wasting time is wasting your life itself and killing time is equivalent to suicide. There is a popular saying that the greatest sin in this world is to waste time. Unlike other resources, time once lost is lost forever; it cannot be recovered at any cost. If you are unable to be the master of your time, time will take charge of your life and you will become a helpless slave of time. So it is essential for everybody who wants to be successful, to learn and practice some effective time management strategies and techniques.
Effective strategies for managing time
It was Benjamin Franklin who told us; ‘To have enough time is the greatest luxury one can have’. Here are some most effective strategies that can be learned and practiced for enjoying the luxury of time in your life.
- Firstly set your goals
As the great Japanese management Guru Lee Iacocca said; ‘If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got’. The first step in effective time management is to set your goal clearly.
- Analyze the present use of time
Keep a time log to record the activities you are now doing from morning to night for two weeks. Observe what are the activities actually required for achieving your goal. What unimportant tasks could have been avoided? What could have been entrusted to others? How much time is wasted per day? Find out the opportune time when you are most creative and productive in a day. Are you investing your time for the most important activities? All these things can be analyzed and assessed. This analysis will be an eye-opener and motivation for restructuring your life plan.
- Plan the daily activities and prioritize them
Based on the goal you want to achieve, plan the activities for the next day. You can make daily ‘to do’ list and prioritize them according to the importance and urgency.
According to Pareto’s principle (80/20 rule), 80% of results are achieved from 20% of actions and 80% of actions will produce only 20% results. So, highly successful people will identify that 20 % of activities that can give 80% results and give top priority to them.
As the famous writer, Stephan Covey suggested, activities or tasks can be classified into four categories and placed in four quadrants as below.
- Important and urgent: Quadrant I
- Important and not urgent: Quadrant II
- Urgent but not important: Quadrant III
- Not urgent and not important: Quadrant IV
Activities which are important and urgent must be given topmost priority. Important but not urgent activities should be given next priority. It is always better to complete the important tasks before they become urgent and become a real crisis. Remember that crisis management is much more costly and strenuous. So, Covey advises the executives to give more focus and attention to quadrant 2 to avoid the crisis. Activities which are not important, whether urgent or not, can be entrusted with others capable of doing them or avoided.
Based on these, one can prepare a priority list for the day. Only after completing the top priority activities one by one, you can go to low priority activities. Every day, important activities can be planned and prioritized and accomplished in this way.
Delegation is assigning a task to someone else who is capable of doing it. You can save a lot of time through delegation and that can be used for doing more important tasks that require your special aptitude, expertise, and creativity. As Peter Drucker suggested; ‘Keep the unique and delegate the routine’. There can be a differential advantage when you are delegating a task to a subordinate who is capable of doing it in a better way. Moreover, through delegation, you are empowering your subordinates and developing their leadership skills. As the famous English television presenter and author Anthe Turner advised; ‘The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try to do everything yourself because you can’t.’ But, just remember one thing; delegation without follow up may not fetch results.
- Avoid time wasters
You are wasting time whenever you spend time doing something less important than what you could otherwise be doing.
Time wasters can be categorized into two:
- Environmental time wasters
- Self-generated time wasters
Environmental time wasters
Environmental time wasters are much easier to handle than self-generated time wasters. The following are the major environmental time wasters
Insignificant Telephone calls
Long drawn Meetings and Conferences
Waiting for something
An executive can plan and implement suitable strategies for reducing these time wasters, such as fixing a particular time for visitors, attending only important calls, reducing the number of meetings and conferences, fixing clear-cut agenda for discussion, seeing only important emails selected by your subordinates etc.
Self-generated time wasters
Self-generated time wasters are related to your habits and personality. Psychological intervention and de-conditioning are required to get away from some of these. The following are the major self-generated time wasters
Disorganization is the number one time waster and stress inducer for many. Get rid of the clutter and get organized. You can master the chaos and reduce stress by getting organized and systematic.
Procrastination is putting off the doing of something important to a later date. This habit is a serious and detrimental time waster. As the famous English writer Charles Dickens warned; ‘Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him’.
‘Perfection is the enemy of performance’. Perfectionism normally leads to unwanted delay and waste of time. A perfectionist cannot be satisfied with his own work as well as that of others. He cannot tolerate even minor mistakes. Researchers say that one can change the perfectionist tendency by seeing mistakes as learning opportunities and replacing self-criticism with self-compassion. Always remember the words of Ryan Holiday, the famous American author and entrepreneur ‘Perfectionism rarely begets perfection or satisfaction; only disappointment’.
If you fail to take a decision without delay, especially in urgent matters, you may end up in a disaster. Hence the famous German professional golfer, Benhard Langer advised; ‘Be decisive. A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision’. By practice, you can overcome the fear of making decisions.
Inability to say ‘No’
If you accept all the tasks and responsibilities offered to you, you won’t get time to finish your most important works. So be bold enough to say ‘no’, if required. Warren Buffet once said; ‘The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.’
Smartphone/ social media addiction
Several studies have shown that smartphone and social media addiction have become a serious modern malady and impediment upsetting the goals and plans of many people. Are you spending too much time on social media or with your smartphone, while you have to accomplish more important tasks? Then, this can be a major time waster for you and it is high time to control it. As the renowned American internet entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian aptly pointed out; ‘It takes discipline not to let social media steal your time’. Let us not allow it to piggy ride over you.
- Optimum utilization of committed time
There will be several hours per day that can be considered as committed time. We cannot avoid that, for example, traveling time, meal time, waiting time in airports, railway stations, and bus terminals, meal time, time used for bathing, dressing etc. cannot be avoided normally. Such committed time can be utilized for productive activities such as making phone calls, preparing lists for purchasing, reading books, planning future activities etc.
Many great men have shown examples of this. When California University president, labor relations expert, and writer, Clark Kher was once asked how he could find time to write and publish so many books in spite of his busy schedule, he confessed that he did all these writings in the airport lounge during his travels. Nehru wrote many of his famous books when he was in prison. Gandhiji used to learn the Bhagawat Geeta verses by heart while he was brushing his teeth. For this, he wrote them in a paper and pasted on the bathroom wall. The well known British poet, Tennyson kept a notepad in the bathroom to write down the lines of poetry coming to his mind instantaneously while bathing. The famous author GK Chesterton used his waiting time in railway stations to write some of the best fiction ever written in English.
I know some of my friends who regularly read the morning newspaper or listen to the radio while in the toilet. If you have a pocket radio, you can listen to morning news or informative talks when you are shaving, dressing, eating, watering your garden or ironing clothes.
- Maximum use of your ‘Primetime’
For every individual, there is a time when his energy, efficiency, and creativity will be at the peak level. This is usually termed as prime time. Very important and creative tasks can be done during this time when your body mind and intellect are most active and at peak performance. Highly successful executives and administrators take steps to protect their prime time from all kinds of distractions like visitors, phone calls, meetings etc.
- Avoid multitasking
Many executives and managers think that multitasking will save time. But research studies have shown that you actually lose time when switching from one task to another resulting in a loss of efficiency and productivity. Also, multitasking can cause to diminish the power of concentration and focus. The quality of your experience is considerably reduced due to lack of attention and self-awareness.
- Take timely breaks
Studies have shown that to take timely breaks during work will boost your productivity and reduce your stress. As Arianna Huffington, the famous American author and editor- in- chief of Huffington Post, says; Even if you take 20 minutes for a break, it’s more recharging than what so many of us do which is eating lunch while working’.
Also, reserve some time for the unexpected when you schedule your tasks according to your priority so that you can avoid unnecessary hurry and worry.
- Invest time to stay healthy and disciplined
As Arien Specter, the famous American author and politician rightly pointed out; ‘There is nothing more important than our good health; that’s our principal capital asset’. Whatever you do for saving your time and improving your skills, you cannot accomplish much in your life and profession, if you are not healthy. Ill health is the greatest time waster. The world-famous English billionaire, business magnate, author and philanthropist, Richard Branson once said; ‘I definitely can achieve twice as much by keeping fit’. He regularly wakes up at 5 am to get time for working out the schedule for his health. Self-discipline is essential for healthy eating, drinking, sleeping, exercise etc. You can nourish your body mind and soul by walking, swimming, gardening, yoga, meditation etc. The time spent on this is a great investment for improving the quality of your life.
Former Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi found time to do daily yoga and meditations even in her very busy days despite the overwhelming demands for time. Napoleon was very particular to do his meditation and prayer even during the wartime. Gandhiji always gave priority for his daily meditation, prayer, and observation of silence. By investing time for their health and well being, these great personalities could improve their energy and productivity considerably and achieve great things in life.
Similarly, you can also invest some time daily to improve the quality and productivity of the rest of your time. You can make each moment of your life happy sweet and meaningful. Thus you can change the popular saying; ‘Time is money’ to ‘Time is honey’ by adopting the great lessons of time management. Let us not neglect the wise advice of Philip Stanhope, the famous British statesman, and diplomat; ‘Know the true value of time, snatch, seize and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination, never put off till tomorrow what you can do today’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. JOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:
‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(CSS, Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.
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