Time Management Tactics
By Chelse Benham
“Iget up every morning determined to both change the world and to have one
hell of a good time. Sometimes, this makes planning the day difficult.” - E.B.
20th century American writer
Imagine managing your time to accomplish more in your day. How wonderful it
would be to feel in control of your workday by completing tasks ahead of
schedule. Effectively managing time is a skill that requires constant practice
using techniques developed to assess, prioritize, strategize and implement
projects in an orderly fashion. BB Barron-Gaytan, student development specialist
I with the University Retention Advisement Program (URAP) at The University of
Texas-Pan American, suggests the use of a daily activity log to help initiate a
time management schedule.
“First thing we stress is the logging of a daily activity schedule which requires
filling in a normal work day using increments of 30 minutes. It is important to log
everything that you do from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. This
way you can visually see where you’re spending your time,” Gaytan said. “Using
a daily activity log is one of the most important things a person can do to mange
time effectively. They can visually see where they spend their time and alter it to
maximize their work production.”
Structuring time may seem difficult or time consuming itself. It takes a concerted
effort to log all the different activities as they are happening, but the result is
worth it. Time is a concept and different times of day are not the same. A day can
have “peaks and valleys.”
“The first thing to understand is that not all time is equal. If you are a morning
person, your most productive or “peak” hours are in the morning. It’s wise to use
that time for the harder tasks or the more intellectually challenging tasks and
save the easier tasks for “off-peak” hours,” Gaytan said.
Just as time of day has different effects, the same can be said of activities. Each
has a different weight based on importance. Edwin Bliss, author of “Getting
Things Done” offers a breakdown of the level of priority that an activity can have.
• Urgent and important – This is your highest priority. The items in this
category are things that have to be done and they have a time limit.
Important here means they are important to you and they support plans,
goals and purpose.
• Important, but not urgent – These activities support plans, goals and
purposes, but they don’t have time limits. They often get put on the back-
burner, such as “One of these days I’ll write that book.” Unfortunately, they
can be put to the side until it’s too late.
• Urgent but not important – This is the trickiest category. Because of the
time limits on them they have value placed on them that’s not warranted.
Generally, these activities are important to someone else.
• Busy work – This is the type of work that helps avoid the necessary work
such as straightening your desk instead of writing the report. It is doing
anything of low priority to avoid higher priority work.
• Time wasting – This is simply doing nothing of consequence and it can
make you feel worse than busy work.
At www.mindtools.com this simple advice of time management is offered:
concentrate on results, not on being busy.
Some important questions to ask yourself when evaluating the importance of an
• What am I doing that doesn't really need to be done?
• What am I doing that could be done by someone else?
• What am I doing that could be done more efficiently?
• What do I do that wastes my time and others' time?
• Am I procrastinating and why?
Procrastination is the self-produced bane of productivity. Pace Productivity web
site offers reasons why procrastination might occur and solutions for over coming
• Recognize that procrastination stems from habit. New habits will be
needed, and these take time and commitment to develop. Harold Taylor,
president of Harold Taylor Time Consultants Inc., defines procrastination
as the intentional and habitual postponement of an important task that
should be done now.
• Understand the cause for procrastination then develop strategies to fix it.
• Recognize the difference between an appropriate decision to delay and an
irrational postponement without justification.
• Fix procrastination by working on tasks and your environment.
• The problem: You may believe an unpleasant task is going to be difficult.
Unpleasant tasks rarely turn out to be as bad as initially thought.
• The solution: Complete these tasks first. Schedule them in your “peak”
hours and give yourself a reward for doing them.
• The problem: Something looms ahead of you: starting a small business,
getting a job, preparing the annual budget. The job is too big or will take
too long to do now, so you put it off.
• The solution: Break large jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks. Plan
and complete a start-up task, no matter how small.
• The problem: You delay because you can't make up your mind.
• The solution: Determine a time for making a decision and the criteria for
making it. Share your deadline with someone else.
Fear of failure (lack of self confidence)
• The problem: You don't want to face the consequences of failure, so you
delay. (Some people suffer from fear of success too!)
• The solution: Develop a clear mental picture of the completed task and
how you will feel at that time. Maintain a focus on the end result, not just
the process. Remind yourself how good you'll feel when you're finished.
Lack of interest
• The problem: You are tired or lazy. You're just not very interested in the
• The solution: Reward yourself for accomplishments. Go out for special
lunches when major projects are completed. If you don't earn the reward,
don't take it.
• The solution: Schedule the task for when you will be at your peak.
• The problem: You delay because you want to get the project perfect.
• The solution: Set deadlines for yourself. Tell other people your deadlines
and encourage them to check up on you.
• The solution: Maintain your high standards, but recognize that sometimes
80 percent for you may well be 100 percent for someone else. Don't spend
hours conducting a detailed cost breakdown when a rough estimate would
Hostility towards a boss
• The Problem: You delay because you don't like the person who assigned
• The solution: Review with your boss what exactly is needed. Clarify the
• The solution: Make a game out of unpleasant tasks. Give yourself points,
or do a running commentary on yourself as you do the task.
Distraction, lack of focus
• The problem: Sometimes losing concentration causes delays.
• The solution: Create a to-do list with priorities and block your time for
• The solution: As you get distracted from a work project, make a rule that
you are not allowed to move out of your chair, make a call, surf the net,
pick up a book etc. until you return to your task.
• The solution: Complete something. Make a very small task for yourself
and finish it. Then, make another one.
• Tailor your environment for work. Close your door, clean up the clutter on
• Remove distractions such as water coolers, snacks, in-boxes, coffee
machines and magazine racks.
• If you work at home, treat your office as an office. Don't go out to lunch
before lunchtime or watch television before the end of the day.
• Tell your family that you are not to be disturbed in your home office.
Realizing that it requires consistent practice, commitment and application, time
management is the epitome of a practice-makes-perfect skill. Effective time
management can create such feelings of productivity and a sense of control that
mastery over it can result in having more time and a peace-of-mind.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter
least.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 19th Century German Poet, Dramatist &