Time management is a skill that most people would like to improve on. Even those with excellent time management are constantly seeking to find ways in which they can improve their productivity. There are many different methods/strategies you can use to improve your time management. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference. Whatever that choice may be, there are some core principles of time management which will always be true. If you understand these core principles of time management and you adhere to them; you will move a long way towards living an effective, productive life. These principles of time management are fundamental skills. Often, when I coach clients in the area of time management, I find that they have skipped these fundamentals. Unfortunately, like any skill, if you fail to master the basics, you will struggle to achieve your goals.
5 Core principles of time management
The following list is not intended to be exhaustive. To include everything would make this article far too long to read. However, it will address some of the most important principles of time management.
- You have a hierarchy of needs
You have probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It outlines the basic needs that we have as human beings. It is an explanation of the way we, as humans, think about our lives. We put things into a hierarchy with the most important first and work our way up from there.
As a person you have basic needs that have to be met. These include food and water, air, clothing and shelter. If you do not meet these basic needs, you will struggle to get anything of importance done. If you don’t believe me, try sitting through an important meeting when you are incredibly hungry. You will lack energy and concentration. Your mind constantly focuses on the need to tackle your hunger. You simply won’t be able to get things done unless your most basic needs are met.
From there, you have your need for safety, companionship, psychological needs and needs that feed your self-worth. All of these needs (includes wants) play into your daily life roles. You might be a mother, a wife, an employee, a business owner, a friend or several other hats that are worn by you. All of these things fight for time in your day. When people fall behind in their work, these are often the first needs to be dropped. On a rare occasion, that is not a major problem, however if you consistently deny yourself the warmth of interpersonal interactions and self care, it will begin to impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing. As a consequence, your performance will suffer.
Time management is about balance and prioritisation. Everything can’t be the top priority. Some things will have to wait their turn and, some things, though they may be nice, have to be let go as they simply are not important enough. You must learn to prioritise based on importance i.e. you determine through self-assessment what is most important to you right now and work on that first. As you complete the most important task, you can then reassess and identify the next most important task which will now get your attention.
- It’s about effectiveness first, then efficiency
If you are anything like me, you have probably had a number of mangers over the years who have preached about the need for efficiency. Efficiency is all about getting more done. This is a good thing, unless you are doing the wrong things. If the tasks you are completing are of little importance, completing more of them is going to add little, if any, value to your life. The truth you rarely hear is that it is better to complete one very important task than 100 unimportant tasks. That’s what effectiveness is all about i.e. getting the right stuff done. When you are getting the right stuff done, you can then focus on increasing the workload.
Effective time management is one of the most important principles of time management. It allows you to focus on completing the most important task that you can complete at that moment in time; with the time and resources available to you. For example, if you are tired, an efficiency mindset will tell you that you have to keep going and do more. An effectiveness mindset recognises the fact that you are tired and encourages you to take a brief rest, even a nap, in order to get your energy back. With an effectiveness mindset you know that taking that rest and getting your energy back will allow you to complete a better quality and quantity of work than if you forced yourself to push through with a shortage of energy. You can take a quick or prolonged nap knowing that all is well in the kingdom so you don’t have to stress.
When you are focused on effectiveness, every minute of the day is filled with something important. It could be a nap or reading a story to your toddler but something is being done and you feel good about it because you know that you are doing the most important thing that you can do in that moment.
If you would like to learn some effective strategies for improving your time management, check out Quick Fixes for Your Productivity.
- Time management is essential for business
In business, time management is extremely important. It could make the difference between keeping a client and losing one or, keeping your job or losing it. Bear in mind that nobody has perfect time management and we all make mistakes however, these mistakes should be the exception rather than the rule.
Time management techniques in business will see you meeting deadlines, finding new clients, opening up new opportunities and making more money than you were before. With proper time management, the quality of your work greatly increases. This is due to the fact that you are no longer rushed. You understand how much time it takes to complete a task and you allow for it. When you manage your time effectively, you get the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the completion of each project and, experience the positivity and confidence that comes with it.
Time management in the workplace is crucial for your health and wellbeing also. You need to be able to switch off at the end of the day and leave work behind you. Work needs to have a set schedule just like personal time. This is particularly difficult in the modern environment due to technology ensuring that we are always contactable. Nonetheless, if you wish to thrive rather than just survive, it is a skill you must learn.
- It can’t be all work
No man or woman is an island. You need the warmth of human interaction to make your life complete. You will have many different relationships including spouse, children, family and friends. It is imperative that you do not just take these relationships for granted or, you may soon find that the relationship becomes broken beyond repair. Each of these relationships needs to be nurtured.
Squeezing friends and family in with a quick phone call between business meetings is not quality time. In this type of instance, your mind is on the work rather than the relationship. Personal time with family and friends needs quality just like your work. Wherever you are, you must be there 100% e.g. when you are with a loved one, they must get your complete and undivided attention. It is not always possible to spend large amounts of time with people you care about but you can ensure that whatever time you do spend with them is of the highest quality. Being in the moment is a gift of time management that can’t be duplicated or replaced. Spending quality time with those you love and focusing on them fulfills a need in your hierarchy as well.
- Time management and motivation feed off each other
Time management increases your motivation. The opposite is also true; being motivated to achieve something increases your motivation to manage your time effectively. You don’t need motivation to live your life on auto-pilot so, if you are desperate to improve your management, it is most likely that you are ambitious and motivated. Therefore, rather than berate yourself for your shortcomings, be excited about the opportunity to improve your quality of life.
Once you see how your productivity increases, you are motivated to keep using time management tools and keep improving. You know that as you make improvements to your time management, you will improve the quality of the results that you achieve.
As with any other skill, mastering time management requires that you first master the basics. The basics of time management are really just some core principles that you need to understand and adhere to. The core principles of time management encourage you to focus on quality and effectiveness. Everything that you do should have a purpose and importance. When you adhere to these core principles of time management, you will start to see improvements in each and every area of your life. Not only will you achieve more; you will experience a much greater sense of fulfillment in doing so.