“I don’t have time for this”, “I shall try to do it later”, “I cannot complete this within the deadline. I should ask for extension”, “I spent so much time on Task A that I don’t have time to do Task B”… These statements seem too familiar? And how about the ever favourite - “I’m too busy”? Can you hear yourself saying all this? Can you hear your friends or colleagues repeat these quite so often? Whichever category you fall into, eventually it is your work that’s getting hindered, and your bread and butter is at stake.
While we are on the subject of bread, the phrase “to separate the wheat from the chaff” strikes a chord. In any sphere of life, it is extremely essential to know how to manage every task on hand and complete it well within the time. What do you do when you feel as though there is never enough time in the world? As somebody quoted, “You feel overloaded, and you often have to work late to hit your deadlines. Or maybe your days seem to go from one crisis to another, and this is stressful and demoralizing.”
Time management has been a crucial part of managing and organizing your tasks and planning on how much time you spend on each of those tasks. If we fail to manage our time effectively, we usually end up missing deadlines, deliver poor quality of work, and a poorer professional reputation. This eventually leads to higher stress levels, and no one needs any explanation on what stress can do to you. Often, despite trying to manage your time between your tasks, we don’t seem to accomplish all of it well within time, or even as planned. It is not just a matter of time management, its effective time management.
So what are the mistakes we do when we ineffectively manage time? Generally they can be classified under two heads – mistakes that happen when we do something, and mistakes that happen when we don’t do something. Let us examine them in detail and also see how to overcome them.
PITFALLS IN TIME MANAGEMENT WHEN WE DO A CERTAIN ACTION
- Get Distracted.
Its only when we are running on a tight schedule, we will find the most mundane things to be highly interesting. We have to submit that high priority report, and we get a text from a friend. Soon the report lays forgotten. Studies show that on an average we can lose almost three hours a day to distractions. Even the tiniest of distractions will interrupt the flow of your work and that will lead to less productivity. So it is highly essential to minimise your distractions while concentrating on a high priority work. For example, we can sign out or mute the IMs, keep the phone on silent and away from direct eyesight, set aside a time for replying to emails, and most importantly sit and work in an environment which has least distractions, and motivates you to focus.
When we put off tasks that we should be concentrating on at that time, we tend to fall prey to procrastination. You start of by feeling guilty that you haven’t started it yet, slowly start to get anxious about doing the work, and eventually when the deadline is almost over, you give up and say you can’t complete it on time. More often than not, procrastinators feel overwhelmed by the need to complete the work from start to end in one stretch and try to run away from it. So instead of wanting to finish the whole job in one go, we can chunk it down to smaller, not-so-fearsome amounts of work or time to ensure that the task looks accomplishable to the procrastinator within. It is all about getting started.
- Always say “yes” to everything.
If you find it difficult to say ‘no’ to people, you will almost always be burdened with more tasks and projects than you can manage. This again will lead you to poor performance, stress and not meeting deadlines. Also, it so happens we are more hesitant to say ‘no’ to the person rather than to the task… “Oh, he drops me to work every day. How can I say no to him?”, “She’s my senior. She will be conducting interviews during my IJPs. I do not wish to get into her bad books by saying no.” If these statements hold true for you, then you need to buckle up and start being more confident and assertive. This is where skilful negotiation comes into picture. In the book "Getting to Yes," based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, authors Roger Fisher and William Ury outline four parameters for principled negotiation and these pointers fit in here perfectly well:
- Separate the people from the problem.
- Focus on interests, not positions.
- Generate a variety of possibilities before making a decision.
- Define objective standards as the criteria for making the decision.
- ‘Busy’ button always on.
Multitasking and showing that you are ‘always busy’ will fetch us the poorest of results. Although it looks like it is very productive, studies show that it can take 20-40 percent more time to finish a list of jobs when you multitask, compared with completing the same list of tasks in sequence. This will again be overwhelming and we tend to press the panic button. The only way out is to concentrate thoroughly on one job at a time and make a conscious effort to stop multitasking if you get the urge.
PITFALLS IN TIME MANAGEMENT WHEN WE DO NOT DO A CERTAIN ACTION
- Not keeping a ‘To-Do’ list.
How often do you have that nagging thought that you have forgotten to do a very important task but are unable to recall it? It could be making a call to a client, or finish a report that was long overdue. This happens when we do not keep note of our jobs in hand. Failing to keep a to-do list not only clutters your work, but will hinder you from prioritizing your jobs. Here the first step is to list down all the tasks you need to complete, and then re-order it by allocating priorities. Additionally, make note not to mix up your personal and work/study list, but make note of the other list while preparing one. These lists are particularly useful when you have a small number of tasks that you need to complete.
- Not prioritizing.
Have you been in a situation wherein you are in the middle of a highly critical business meeting, and you have your teammate walks in or sometimes your spouse calls you and demands your undivided attention immediately? How would you manage such a scenario, when you are in a dilemma as to which one to give more attention to on an immediate basis? Prioritization is particularly important when time is limited and demands are almost unlimited. It is also a skill that will get you peace and calm so you can concentrate on jobs that actually matter at that time. Very basically, we can use these criteria to assist you with prioritizing the tasks on hand.
- Time Constraints, where others’ tasks are dependent on your completion of a task.
- Profitability, mostly where you tend you have some type of monetary gain by completing the task.
- Managerial pressure, when there’s immense persuasion from your higher officials to complete a task within a said time.
- Not setting personal goals.
Remember those interviews where they ask you - where do you see yourself in six months? In 5 years? Even 10 years? How often have you given a genuine answer to those questions? Even if you weren’t completely honest during the interview, having an honest answer to these questions to yourself is very essential. Setting personal goals will give you a destination, vision, and a purpose to work towards, and this will help you in managing your time, priorities, and resources to get you there. Also ensure that when you set your goals, they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.
Above all, take sufficient breaks – Schedule your breaks, go for a quick walk around the building, grab a bite and coffee, stretch your body, meditate – do what it takes to rest and recharge your brain. You will be able to produce high quality work, only if your brain is revved up.