Can we manage time in reality? - Maven Academy
Maven Musings

Can we manage time in reality?

Published by Director, Maven Academy - 1 year ago

Successful people value time as their most valuable resource more than anything else because they understand full well that they can never generate more time.  

Value of Time: We live in an era where our life is filled with distractions and an ever-greater demand is placed on time at our disposal. Our days are filled with a myriad of things that engage us and force us to get involved in many different activities simultaneously. We have no choice but resort to multitasking with the result that we fail to focus on any one thing for an extended period. Consequently, whatever gets done is done with partial concentration, and the quality of work is below expectations. Our ‘To-Do Lists’ get drowned in an avalanche of emails, cell phone messages, Facebook posts, Instagram updates, Tweets, and YouTube Reels. To reproduce a quote from BBC:” the addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds—the same as that of a Goldfish”. These distractions compete for our attention and eventually result in low productivity and a lot of wasted time.  

One may be obsessed with efficiency and timesaving in everything. But what I’ve learned over the years is that just focusing on saving time alone doesn’t help. You also need to focus on optimizing your time. Even though the term “time management” is widely used, the pertinent question is “Can we manage time in reality?” At the beginning of every single day, we are all presented with precisely the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds, and then it starts ticking away – tick-tock, tick tock — into the past never to be reclaimed again. We have no control over that time, and the only thing we have control over is how we use it by managing our actions wisely within the time allotted to us. 

Tracking your time usage: Can something be done about the situation we are in? Yes, of course. The first step is to do a time audit and document how much time you are spending on various tasks during a week or month. This can be done by recording the actual time spent on various tasks during the time you are awake. Categorize the tasks under various heads, viz., work-related, personal/family related, and leisure time and rank them according to priority. Track the actual time spent on each one using a spreadsheet or a notebook to keep records. You can also use a time tracking app on your smartphone or computer, which will automatically track the time spent on different tasks. Analyze the data to find trends and patterns on how you spend your time. Mark areas where you may be spending too much or too little time. Use the insights gained from your time audit to adjust your daily routine. This could include setting aside specific times for certain activities, delegating tasks, or eliminating time-wasting activities. If you prefer using an app for time tracking, there are several options available. Some popular time tracking apps include Toggl, RescueTime, and HoursTracker. These apps automatically track time spent on different tasks and provide detailed reports and insights to help you optimize time. 

Lost wealth can be regained. With current advancements in the medical field, it may be possible to regain lost health as well. But time once lost, is lost forever. It can never be regained, and therefore, is the most valuable.

Prioritizing The Tasks: Additionally, apply a task prioritization matrix which is a tool used to identify tasks or activities that are most important and should be given priority over others. The matrix helps rank tasks based on their level of urgency and importance and identify tasks you should focus on first and the ones that can wait. One example of a task prioritization matrix is the Eisenhower Matrix, which is named after the former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix), that helps you categorize tasks based on their level of urgency and importance. 

Here’s an example of an Eisenhower Matrix: 

 Urgent Not Urgent 
Important Complete immediately Schedule for later 
Not Important Delegate Eliminate 

Optimizing Your Schedule: Time of Day and Task Delegation – Another detail we need to be aware of is that we tend to view time at our disposal as linear by giving equal value to each hour of the day, but that’s not the case. In reality, our productivity varies over various times of the day, and it varies from one individual to the other. A lot of work could be carried out on the first day of the week after a relaxing weekend outing with friends and family, while the same may not be possible on a Friday afternoon after a week fraught with conflicts and unfulfilled expectations. Taking the above into consideration, rearrange the tasks and the time allotted for those tasks so that more time is allotted to the tasks that are a high priority. Keep the difficult tasks for the time when your focus and concentration are the highest. Do the difficult tasks first. Break down long complex tasks into smaller portions that make them seem a lot simpler and do not appear like a gargantuan job. Whatever jobs can be delegated, find someone from within your team of employees or find talent from the pool of freelancers available online so that these jobs could be outsourced. Practice this reworked schedule strictly until it becomes a habit and second nature to you.  

The Pomodoro Technique: One of the serious challenges we all face in this age of the internet is to keep our focus on the task at hand owing to the many distractions, which we deliberated on earlier. The Pomodoro Technique is a valuable tool that enables focused work sessions with frequent short breaks to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue. It involves setting a timer for a fixed duration of 25 minutes, followed by a short break of 5 minutes. You can either use a timer on your phone or computer, or you can use a physical timer as well. During the 25-minute work session, eliminate all distractions that can interrupt your focus. Turn off your phone, log out of your social media accounts, and close any unnecessary tabs or applications on your computer. After completing a 25-minute work session, take a 5-minute break to stretch, walk around, or do something else that relaxes your mind. At the end of every four “Pomodoros” the individual is encouraged to take a longer break of say 25 to 30 minutes duration to help stay focused and avoid distractions. It may sound too simplistic and silly at first, but millions of people (which includes yours truly) swear by the life-changing power of the Pomodoro Technique. By the way –Pomodoro is Italian for tomato!!!  

Learn to Say NO: One key aspect of managing our actions wisely that we need to learn from successful leaders is to choose “Saying No” to those activities that do not help get closer to our goals. Steve Jobs once said, “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Categorizing the tasks that occupy you and prioritizing them, which we discussed in the earlier section, should help us in deciding what to say No to.  

Simplify Tasks: Moreover, we generally tend to attend to the smaller tasks at once and procrastinate on those that we consider complex and have the potential to engage us for extended periods. We perceive them to be difficult and beyond our normal abilities, and therefore, tend to stay away from them as long as possible. My suggested approach to tackle such tasks is to break complex tasks into smaller more manageable chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to help you make progress. 

Make it A habit: Overall, effective use of time is the goal that we should all work towards and there is no dearth of techniques that aid us to achieve this goal. However, the trick lies in finding that set of techniques and tools that work best for the specific needs of an individual. Experiment with different strategies until you find what works best for you and apply them to your workday with diligence to gain all the benefits. Eventually, you will get habituated to them and it will become second nature. What are your experiences and which of the techniques described here helped you achieve your specific objectives in this area? We would like to hear your stories and feedback. Please do write back to us. 

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