Time Management: Learn how to make best use of time

Time is a resource and needs to be utilized in an effective and efficient manner to achieve the desired goal. The importance of managing time has been put forth by the legendary statesman, Benjamin Franklin in his popular quote, "Time is money". 
Time Management is the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date. This set encompasses a wide scope of activities, and these include planning, allocating, setting goals, delegation, monitoring, organizing, scheduling, and prioritizing. 
  • Planning is the process of thinking about and organizing the activities required to achieve a desired goal. It helps to increase the efficiency and minimize the risks in goal accomplishment. Patrick Montana and Bruce Charnov outline a three-step result-oriented process for planning:
  1. Choosing a destination
  2. Evaluating alternative routes, and
  3. Deciding the specific course of your plan.
  • Allocating is the task to organize the available resources to achieve the goals. In project management, resource allocation is the scheduling of activities and the resources required by those activities while taking into consideration both the resource availability and the project time.
  • Setting goals is the most important aspect of time management. A goal is a measurable target and needs to have a time bound plan. A simple and conventional way to set goals is to break them into short and long term goals. Goals cease to have their relevance without a time framework.
  • Delegation is the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. It is one of the core concepts of management leadership. However, the person who delegated the work remains accountable for the outcome of the delegated work.
  • Monitoring is the process of reducing the variance between the desired and current performance w.r.t the desired goal.This ensures that the task accomplishment is on time and tends to reduce/eliminate unproductive time.
  • Organizing, in companies point of view, is the management function that usually follows after planning. And it involves the assignment of tasks, the grouping of tasks into departments and the assignment of authority and allocation of resources across the organization.The framework in which the organization defines how tasks are divided, resources are deployed, and departments are coordinated.
  • Scheduling the process that enables you to plan and allocate your time to various tasks. It helps you achieve your goals within a set timeframe. By adopting the right schedule, one can realistically plan your targets and achieve them at the right time. One should always make the best use of time available, ensure you complete all essential tasks and always have spare time for contingencies.
  • Prioritization is the essential skill you need to make the very best use of your own efforts and those of your team. It's also a skill that you need to create calmness and space in your life so that you can focus your energy and attention on the things that really matter.It is particularly important when time is limited and demands are seemingly unlimited. It helps you to allocate your time where it is most-needed and most wisely spent, freeing you and your team up from less important tasks that can be attended to later or quietly dropped.
What are the main challenges in effective time management?
  • Creating an environment conducive to effectiveness
    • Get Organized" - paperwork and task triage
    • "Protect Your Time" - insulate, isolate, delegate
    • "Achieve through Goal management Goal Focus" - motivational emphasis
    • "Recover from Bad Time Habits" - recovery from underlying psychological problems, e.g. procrastination
  • Setting of priorities
    • "Work in Priority Order" - set goals and prioritize. Priorities can be set according to the task at hand. Certain techniques used in management/engineering are as follows:
    • ABC analysis: A prioritization 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 are ranked upon these general criteria:
      1. Tasks that are essential and urgent
      2. Tasks that are essential but not urgent
      3. Tasks that are neither urgent nor essential
Each group is then rank-ordered in priority. To further refine priority, some individuals choose to then force-rank all "B" items as either "A" or "C". ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Prioritize - Define how you are going to spend your time and energy, and define your goals.
    • Organizing - Tasks you need to accomplish to ensure success.(Family and Finances)
    • Streamlining - Works that needs to be done, though they may not be that attractive. (Work and Chores)
    • Economizing - Things that you like to do but can be left out for the moment. (Pastimes and Socializing)
    • Contributing - By providing energy to tasks that make a difference socially. (Social Obligations).
  • "Set gravitational goals" - that attract actions automatically.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.
  • Carrying out activity around those priorities- This can be done effectively by creating and managing a task list. A task list (also to-do list or things-to-do) is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory. When one of the items on a task list is accomplished, the task is checked or crossed off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Task list can also have the form of a paper or software checklist. Writer Julie Morgenstern suggests "do's and don'ts" of time management that include:
    • Map out everything that is important, by making a task list
    • Create "an oasis of time" for one to control
    • Say "No"
    • Set priorities
    • Don't drop everything
    • Don't think a critical task will get done in one's spare time.
  • The related process of reduction of time spent on non-priorities- Time management also covers how to eliminate tasks that do not provide the individual or organization value. One's ability to identify these tasks can lower the opportunity cost, result in the proper utilization of available resources and eventually improve the efficiency of goal accomplishment.
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