Yesterday I was part of an interesting session on time management and it got me thinking about how we manage time. It’s one of the most felt training need, that comes up with almost everyone in all walks of life. The best tool I have come across is (late) Stephen R Covey’s planner, which he describes in his book “First Things First”. Unfortunately, the human mind is such that the minute we find a tool, we believe that the tool will help us manage our time better – it won’t, it’s just a tool.
I have never struggled with managing my time, I have a few days in a year when I feel out of control, and Krishnan or one of my “venting” buddies will immediately push me back to my normal “in control” self. Here’s what helps me stay in control of my time –
1. Planning ahead – our vacations are planned a year in advance. All my bosses have got my leave plans around Dec 31st or the first week of Jan every year. This ensures that I manage work around my vacation time because the time off is supercritical for me.
2. Preparing ahead – Krishnan prefers to pack his bags for a trip atleast two weeks in advance and reach the airport a day in advance …. :):):):) I do it about a week or four days in advance and reach the airport a couple of hours before the flight time. At work I am always looking at the next week’s calendar and adjusting, and again the next day’s calendar and doing the needed adjustments. The value of preparation will be felt only when you are unprepared !!
3. The 8.5 or 9 hour work day – I had a boss once who would work 12 hours a day saying he is not very efficient, so he works longer … In India working longer than the boss is considered good and important. Many of the family run, or promoter run firms expect people to work round the clock. Hmmm.. I have a shorter experience of working in Indian firms and my friends working in these firms probably need to bring a lot of change there, but it’s important to first bring a change in the way “we” think. Once we think that we have to get our work done in 8.5 hours, we automatically manage time better. If we get to work with the mindset that we have all day to get work done, then we will take the whole day and still not get everything done. . It helps to put the 8.5 hour or 9 hour deadline and to just get up and leave, do that for a week and you will slowly get more effective with that time and get everything done. Remember work is elastic and will stretch over whatever time you give it.
4. Prioritize – some things need to be done today, some can be done tomorrow and some can be done a month later… Everything ends up being done at the last minute because we miss seeing it two days back, when we had the time to do it !! Again (late) Mr. Covey’s four quadrants of “Important” Vs “urgent” is just brilliant as a tool to help prioritize.
I know the big question anyone reading till here, has is “what of emergencies” and “what of the creative types”… When you regularly prioritize, plan and prep ahead, you have enough time to deal with emergencies while being in control. For the creative kinds, it’s difficult to get “the” idea between 12 to 1, but as long as you can prioritize, plan and prep for your non-creative chores, you get enough time for your creative pursuits.
I get ideas for my blogs at all times… I just jot down the ideas as they come while I am engaged in some other work, and then write out the ideas as a blog later. Sometimes, like this blog, I just want to write it right away, I do that, and readjust the day around it. The constant prioritizing, planning and prepping helps tremendously, as does the 8.5 hour rule I set for myself. The planning, prep and prioritizing also helps my kind of people who hate routine :):)
Time is relative because two minutes appear like an hour depending on the situation and two hours seem like a minute when you are engrossed in what you are doing. So if you feel you don’t have time all the time … Also check if you love what you are doing, maybe you don’t !! All the time management tips will fail in the face of that, so please first figure out if you enjoy your work. If you don’t, then apply the prioritize, plan, prep and the 8.5 hour rule to that work with renewed vigor so that you have free time to do what you love. Reframe the situation to your advantage.