• Do you sometimes wish you weren’t always trying to beat the clock?
• Do you seem to spend your day rushing around chasing your own tail?
• Do you wish there were more than 24 hours in the day?
• Do you envy those who can multi-task, seemingly without effort?
You may have attended time management courses, read books, used diary planners [paper and electronic] to organise and plan your day but even with all these, there are always tasks outstanding at the end of 24 hours. Sounds familiar? Well, you are not alone.
So, how well do you manage your time? Well, if you are like many people, then the answer will be ‘not very effectively!’ Perhaps, you often work late and are always trying to keep to another deadline. Maybe you are a manager of a team which just manages to lurch from one completion date to another with just one hour before the due time. In fact, what you have perfected is the art of ‘crisis management’ but that is not what you enjoy doing and, after a while, it becomes not only stressful but also demoralising.
On the converse side, when you do manage your time well, you are more productive at work and you are in a better mood when you get home, with your stress levels low.
So, where is the key to utopia? Is there one? In fact, we all have it in our own hands. We know that there are 24 hours in a day, no more, no less. The question is: how can we manage our time more effectively so that we get more out of each day?
Different types of time
There are two types of time: ‘real time’ and ‘personal time’. In ‘real time’, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours a day and 365 days in a year. Each day, time passes exactly as the day before. When any two individuals turn 40 years old, for instance, they have both lived for exactly 40 years, no more and no less.
But in ‘personal time’, everything is relative. Remember when you started your first, very boring job. Time probably dragged and you counted the seconds before you went home. But then you started an exciting job and your time then flew past. So, it all depends on what you are doing as to whether time drags along or flies by.
Ideally, you want to enjoy your work and be motivated with what you are doing. However, that is not always the reality as there are going to be some tasks that you are not enthusiastic about, yet they still have to be done. There are also times when you don’t feel motivated and yet you need to find that motivation from somewhere. And that means that you need to learn to be self-motivated by achieving any given task not only to the satisfaction of your boss, but also to your own satisfaction.
The good news is that personal time comes from inside your head and only you can create it. And anything that is within your power to manage with the resources available, you can control — so that really is good news! Real time is relevant, of course, because that is what deadlines are marked in, but as we live in personal time, we need to ensure that they are synchronised at some point.
Are we then saying that this is a case of ‘mind over matter’? Well, in many ways it is. You cannot always avoid boring jobs but you can divide them up into small chunks to help you speed up the process of dealing with them.
And how many of you pride yourselves on procrastination? Well, you can stop procrastinating and spending hours talking about what you don’t want to do, and spend more time actually starting it and getting it finished! And that may well kick-start you to do other things that you have been procrastinating about.
I have some favourite time management strategies, but I think I will leave those for next week’s column. Like you, I have to manage my time as well!
— The author is a BBC guest broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.