Time management is commonly defined as the management of time in order to make the most out of it.
"Time Management" is a mislabeled problem, which has little chance of being an effective approach. What you really manage is your activity during time, and defining outcomes and physical actions required is the core process required to manage what you do.
Time management can refer to all of the practices that individuals follow to make better use of their time, but such a definition could range over such diverse areas as the selection and use of personal electronic devices, time and motion study, self-awareness, and indeed a great deal of self-help. As narrowly defined, it refers to principles and systems that individuals use to make conscious decisions about the activities that occupy their time.
Contemporary Time Management
In First Things First, Stephen R. Covey and his co-authors offered a categorization scheme for the hundreds of time management approaches that they reviewed:
First generation: reminders (based on clocks and watches, but with computer implementation possible) can be used to alert of the time when a task is to be done.
Second generation: planning and preparation (based on calendar and appointment books) includes setting goals.
Third generation: planning, prioritizing, controlling (using a personal organizer, other paper-based objects, or computer- or PDA-based systems) activities on a daily basis. This approach implies spending some time in clarifying values and priorities.
Fourth generation: being efficient and proactive (using any tools above) places goals and roles as the controlling element of the system and favors importance over urgency.
Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set goals. These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For individual tasks or for goals, an importance rating may be established, deadlines may be set, and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list or a schedule or calendar of activities. Authors may recommend a daily, weekly, monthly or other planning periods, usually fixed, but sometimes variable. Different planning periods may be associated with different scope of planning or review. Authors may or may not emphasize reviews of performance against plan. Routine and recurring tasks may or may not be integrated into the time management plan and, if integrated, the integration can be accomplished in various ways.
A task list (also to-do list) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool that serves as an alternative to memory.
Task lists are used in self-management, grocery lists, business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.
When you accomplish one of the items on a task list, you check it off or cross it off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Numerous software equivalents are now available, and many popular e-mail clients include task list applications, as do most Pads. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.
Task list organization
Task lists are often tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish, and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list.
Task lists are often prioritized:
An early advocate of "ABC" prioritization was Alan Lake in. In his system "An" items were the most important ("A-1" the most important within that group), "B" next most important, "C" least important.
A particular method of applying the ABC method assigns "A" to tasks to be done within a day, "B" a week, and "C" a month.
To prioritize a daily task list, one either records the tasks in the order of highest priority, or assigns them a number after they are listed ("1" for highest priority, "2" for second highest priority, etc.) which indicates in which order to execute the tasks. The latter method is generally faster, allowing the tasks to be recorded more quickly.
Alternatives to Prioritizing:
A completely different approach which argues against prioritizing altogether was put forward by British author Mark Forster in his book "Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management". This is based on the idea of operating "closed" to-do lists, instead of the traditional "open" to-do list. He argues that the traditional never-ending to-do lists virtually guarantees that some of your work will be left undone. His approach advocates getting all your work done, every day, and if you are unable to achieve it helps you diagnose where you are going wrong and what needs to change.
Fear of change: Change can be daunting and one may be afraid to change what's proven to work in the past.
Uncertainty: Even with the change being inevitable, one may be hesitant as being not sure where to start. Uncertainty about when or how to begin making a change can be significant.
Time pressure: To save time, one has to invest time, and this time investment may be a cause of concern. Fearing that changing may involve more work at the start -- and thus, in the very short term, make things worse -- is a common resistor.
Lack of will power: Why change if one really does not need to? The greatest problem is a lack of will.
Increased effectiveness: One may feel the need to make more time so as to be more effective in performing the job and carrying out responsibilities.
Performance improvement: Time management is an issue that often arises during performance appraisals or review meetings.
Personal development: One may view changing the approach to time management as a personal development issue and reap the benefit of handling time differently at work and at home.
Increased responsibilities: A change in time-management approach may become necessary as a result of a promotion or additional responsibilities. Since there is more work to do, and still the same amount of time to do it in, the approach must change.
Hendrickson asserts that rigid adherence to task lists can create a "tyranny of the to-do list" that forces one to "waste time on unimportant activities".
Again, the point of diminishing returns applies here too, but toward the size of the task. Some level of detail must be taken for granted for a task system to work. Rather than put "clean the kitchen", "clean the bedroom", and "clean the bathroom", it is more efficient to put "housekeeping" and save time spent writing and reduce the system's administrative load (each task entered into the system generates a cost in time and effort to manage it, aside from the execution of the task). The risk of consolidating tasks, however, is that "housekeeping" in this example may prove overwhelming or nebulously defined which will either increase the risk of procrastination, or a mismanaged project.
Listing routine tasks wastes time. If you are in the habit of brushing your teeth every day, then there is no reason to put it down on the task list. The same goes for getting out of bed, fixing meals, etc. If you need to track routine tasks, then a standard list or chart may be useful, to avoid the procedure of manually listing these items over and over.
To remain flexible, a task system must allow adaptation, in the form of rescheduling in the face of unexpected problems and opportunities, to save time spent on irrelevant or less than optimal tasks.
To avoid getting stuck in a wasteful pattern, the task system should also include regular (monthly, semi-annual, and annual) planning and system-evaluation sessions, to weed out inefficiencies and ensure the user is headed in the direction he or she truly desires.
If some time is not regularly spent on achieving long-range goals, the individual may get stuck in a perpetual holding pattern on short-term plans, like staying at a particular job much longer than originally planned.
Set goals for one and work on achieving these goals. Some people study in different ways so you are to find out how you are able to study and put that into action. Some people are able to understand their work if they can see it. Some need to touch and feel whatever is being spoken about in the book. Some people need to see what they are studying in order to understand what is coming out of the book.
Techniques for setting priorities
A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, and C—hence the name. Activities that are perceived as having highest priority are assigned an A, those with lowest priority are labeled C. ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups. ABC analysis is frequently combined with Pareto analysis.
This is the idea that 80% of tasks can be completed in 20% of the disposable time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time. This principle is used to sort tasks into two parts. According to this form of Pareto analysis it is recommended that tasks that fall into the first category be assigned a higher priority.
The 80-20-rule can also be applied to increase productivity: it is assumed that 80% of the productivity can be achieved by doing 20% of the tasks. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.
Essentially, fit is the congruence of the requirements of a task (location, financial investment, time, etc.) with the available resources at the time. Often people are constrained by externally controlled schedules, locations, etc., and "fit" allows us to maximize our productivity given those constraints. For example, if one encounters a gap of 15 minutes in their schedule, it is typically more efficient to complete a task that would require 15 minutes, than to complete a task that can be done in 5 minutes, or to start a task that would take 4 weeks. This concept also applies to time of the day: free time at 7am is probably less usefully applied to the goal of learning the drums, and more productively a time to read a book. Lastly, fit can be applied to location: free time at home would be used differently from free time at work, in town, etc.
POSEC is an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing.
The method dictates a template which emphasizes an average individual's immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one's personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities.
Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization which mirrors Mallow’s "Hierarchy of needs".
PRIORITIZE-Your time and define your life by goals.
ORGANIZING-Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful. (Family and Finances)
STREAMLINING-Things you may not like to do, but must do. (Work and Chores)
ECONOMIZING-Things you should do or may even like to do, but they're not pressingly urgent. (Past-times and Socializing)
CONTRIBUTING-By paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference. (Social Obligations)
The Eisenhower Method
All tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and put in according quadrants. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent are dropped, tasks in important/urgent are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant/urgent are delegated and tasks in important/not urgent get an end date and are done personally.