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Practical Approach to Time Management: How to Finish more Tasks in less Time

Isn’t it paradoxical that even in this era where we are moving faster than ever before,you find it quite difficult to catch up with goals? While the home delivery systems of almost any product seems to save your precious time,you still can’t manage time. Now there is no such thing as time management since we can’t control time – we can’t stop it or slower its rate. Time flows seamlessly irrespective of your recognition. Therefore the most you can do with time is to adjust yourself to get the most out of it. This is called self management. Manage yourself and your approach towards your activities. Once you understand the value of every minute,you won’t ever wonder how the entrepreneurs and leaders manage so many tasks at a time.

The emergence of the idea of Time Management:

In the late 50’s during the industrial revolution,the one dimensional solution for time management came up.In accord to this theory different tools,tips,tricks and technology was developed to help people identify their tasks and create a to-do list to get things done faster.

In the late 80’s, Dr. Stephen Covey came up with a more effective 2 dimensional solution for time management. He portrayed ‘X’ axis for urgency and ‘Y’ axis for importance. Therefore things are prioritized based upon importance and urgency. He came up with four quadrants for tasks that are: 1. Urgent and important ,2. Important but not urgent, 3. Urgent but not important, 4. Neither urgent nor important.

Image Source: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

But the problem with this prioritizing is that it doesn’t create more time or help you accomplishing tasks faster. Therefore you can’t really see how you can do more things in the allotted time.

Newest approaches towards Time Management:

1. Multiplying Time:

To fill the gap of 2 dimensional solution, came the 3 dimensional thinking of time management or the Multiplier Theory. As explained by Rory Vaden in his book ” Procrastinate on Purpose”,in this theory, tasks are prioritized based upon it’s urgency(how soon does it matter),importance(how much does it matter) and significance(how long does it matter/impact in future). This idea shows a concept of “The Focus Funnel”.

Image Source: book ” Procrastinate on Purpose” by Rory Vaden

At first you lay out the tasks which you think should be completed. In the second stage you eliminate tasks which don’t support your future endeavors immediately. This stage mainly focuses on saying ‘no’ to tasks which you know are not directly helpful for your goals. Anything we say no today creates more time tomorrow. In other way,when you’re saying ‘yes’ to something, you’re simultaneously saying ‘no’ to every other thing. In the third stage comes automation. In fourth stage you consider if the task can be delegated. Delegation helps you save a lot of energy and time even though it’s being conducted with 80% perfection. All the remaining tasks are now to be completed by you. In this stage you separate the tasks based on when to be completed – now or later? The important tasks that are not urgent right now can be procrastinated on purpose and filtered through the focus funnel in future.

2. Time boxing:

Time boxing or time blocking is the practice of setting a fixed amount of time for each task and integrating the resulting time blocks into your schedule. Bill Gates,Elon Musk and even Cal Newport is fond of this planning and admit that this is how they get numerous tasks done.

You need to allocate time for each task because according to Parkinson’s Law work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Thus time blocking removes choice from the equation and also the limited time intensifies your efforts and focus on a particular task. You can list down all your tasks and write down an estimate time each task will take.

The Planning Fallacy:

Human has a tendency to be over-optimistic in making time estimations. The research by University of Waterloo says, although there are two kind of scenarios possible in a given time – Best Case Scenario (everything goes right) and Average Case Scenario (average experiences through the day), human nature predict the perfect case scenario. Example: When you tell your friend you’re gonna reach within 15 minutes,you don’t really consider the time traffic congestion can take up.

Now if you’re super optimistic about your tasks,chances are all those will be half-done and lack depth. In such cases split your bigger tasks into smaller sub tasks and track your time. This will make you action oriented and you’ll have clear estimations.

Dealing with interruptions :

Sometimes it’s not possible to follow the schedule for sudden emergencies. When plan gets interrupted,revise that plan. Author Cal Newport suggests to create to blocks of time that you didn’t plan for. He calls it ‘reactionary time’. His blog post ” Deep habits: the importance of planning every minute of your work day” can give you insight into this.

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Tips to manage time effectively:

  1. Schedule your day in the previous night.
  2. Identify the most important and hardest task and do it within the first 2 hour window in the morning. Our efficiency I best at this time.
  3. There will always be more to do. So if you achieve the first three tasks of your list you can have a successful day.
  4. Don’t create a to-do list,rather go for a calendar and schedule. 41% of items put on to-do lists are never really done.
  5. Say ‘no’ to multitasking if you really want to be efficient.
  6. Block distractions(i.e.:phone calls, notifications,social media etc.) and set a specific workplace which will intensify focus and concentration.
  7. Don’t over-schedule. “The more you try to do the less you actually accomplish.”
  8. Follow the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. Identify those 20% activities which give you 80% results.
  9. Finish any task that take less than 5 minutes.

Utilising free time:

  1. Carry a note book and jot down little notes,words of wisdom and else. Capture info and create head space for absorbing and processing more information and save your time.
  2. Work on your passion so that you can create a chance to turn it into a income generating source later.
  3. Exercise,meditate and read to generate mental and physical energy.

Finally,don’t get discouraged if you can’t follow up with 100% of your tasks. Even if you get to finish task within allotted time,it will help you to get into the habit of time-management(self-management).

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