While time management is a very good thing, there are situations where people tend to take the whole idea of using time wisely to the extreme and then it becomes an obsession!
When this happens, the essential goal of managing your time gets lost in all the busy-ness and drive to cram too much into too little time. As a result, the process of time management ceases to be a help and becomes a severe hindrance instead.
There are several early warning signs that you are beginning to abuse time management rather than use it to best advantage:
1) You Multitask A Lot – All The Time Actually
In today’s world, it is not unusual for people to handle more than one task at a time. This is perfectly all right, as long as the tasks in question can be conducted concurrently without causing a great deal of stress. For example, it is possible to participate on a conference call while also sending instant messages to the moderator of the conference. The two activities actually work together without any real difficulty.
However, many people attempt to conduct two or more labor-intensive tasks at the same time. This can lead to a great deal of inner conflict and possibly have a negative impact on the quality applied to all the tasks involved. In other words, instead of ending up with one task done well, you have two tasks that may be completed but are barely acceptable.
Some people find themselves unable to stop multitasking even when it is not necessary. The idea behind this approach is that the multitasking will make it easier to finish all the action items currently on the agenda and enjoy some well-earned downtime. Unfortunately, people who have become obsessed with multitasking in order to manage their time never get around to having any downtime. Instead, they finish one set of projects and immediately start looking for another set to do at once.
Multitasking as part of time management is fine, provided the tool is used with wisdom and discretion. When it becomes an end in and of itself rather than a means to reach a goal, it is time to step back and re-evaluate the situation.
2) You Feel Guilty If You Are Not Doing Something
Guilt can be an effective tool when it comes to keeping us on track. However, guilty feelings when there is nothing to feel guilty about is another matter altogether. When guilt creeps into the time management process, it is usually an indicator that the individual has begun to believe on some level that unless they are not actively engaged in some task, they are not managing their time well.
While it is important to take care of necessary tasks in a timely manner, human beings also need some time to simply relax and recharge. From this perspective, failing to include time for rest and recreation is actually a breach of good time management policies. By denying your mind and your body of what it needs to be healthy, you are actually defeating the purpose of time management, and setting yourself up for a fall at some future point.
3) You Become Hyper-Critical Of Others Who Do Not Do As You Do
One of the ways many people validate their actions is by comparing them with what other people do. After all, if others are employing the same approaches and methodologies to time management that we are, that means we are on the right track. However, when people do things differently from us and we immediately assume they are wrong and we are right, something has gone terribly awry with our sense of time management.
Every person brings different talents and abilities to a given task. This means there may in fact be more than one right approach when tackling the same tasks or projects. People who have a balanced view of time management realize this and may even welcome the opportunity to learn something new. However, people who assume their way is the only right way will immediately be on the defensive and find fault with as many aspects of the alternative method as possible.
Again, this negative point of view is not in keeping with true time management principles. Not only does this mindset make it impossible to be exposed to new ways of managing tasks and possibly saving time, it also can create a great deal of stress and friction for everyone concerned. As a result, everyone’s ability to manage time effectively is impaired and no one progresses as quickly as they would if all parties would attempt to learn from one another.
The bottom line is that you can become so obsessed with time management that you actually begin to undo any good you’ve created and put yourself in a position where you are more likely to fail. When this happens, you may be worse off than when you didn’t attempt any type of structured time management at all.So How Do I Stop Obsessing And Get Back On Track?
Your first step in overcoming obsession is to realize you have a problem. Without admitting that you have lost your sense of perspective, there is no hope of ever recovering it. Understanding what your obsession is doing to yourself and those around you can serve as the motivation to make changes and begin the road back to using time management in a positive way.
In order to get yourself back on track, take the following actions:
1) Step Back and Attempt To See Yourself Through The Eyes of Others
This can be very hard to do, but it will make a huge difference in how quickly you regain your equilibrium. Look at how you’ve been applying time management basics for the last week, month, or six months, however long you suspect that a problem has been forming. Pretend someone other than yourself was taking those same actions or approaches. Do they make sense? Were they productive or counter-productive over time? Did they lead to a sense of fulfillment or only create more issues to deal with? Some of what you see may come as a shock. That’s okay, because at this point in time a little shock is a good thing.
2) Get a Grip on the Multitasking
While there are certainly times when doing two or more things simultaneously is in the best interests of using your time wisely, that is not always the case. Identify some instances when you had to redo tasks because they were not done as well as they should have been. Were you attempting to juggle too many tasks at the time, resulting in the inferior outcome? If so, now consider how much time you would have saved by prioritizing those tasks rather than multitasking. You are likely to find that handling one task, then moving on to the second one would have actually used only a little more time than the multitasking, and quite a bit less than having to go back and redo one or both tasks.
3) Stop The Guilt
Remind yourself that you do a good job and that you do get things done properly and on time. That means you deserve the chance to shift gears and read a book, have a walk, or go for a swim. Your time is not being wasted when you engage in these kinds of activities, or any others that allow you to blow the cobwebs out of your head and reinvigorate your body and mind.
You are simply preparing yourself to manage your time effectively tomorrow as you take care of necessary tasks at the right time and in the right order. There is no reason to feel guilty about lingering over dinner, watching television or having a nap, as long as your tasks are on schedule or even completed for the day. Just remember that when tomorrow comes, you will be refreshed and ready to take on anything the day should bring.
Just as it is hard to get into the swing of developing productive time management attitudes and practices, it is likely to take some time to divest yourself of any bad habits that have crept in over time. Don’t expect to make a complete recovery in a day or two. But just as when you are first learning how to manage your time well, reward yourself when you are able to move a little closer to a balanced perspective and minimize your obsessive behavior a little more.
4) Keeping It Real – Setting Realistic Goals With Your Time Management
One of the best ways to not get discouraged with your time managing efforts is to be realistic about how you approach your list of things to do and schedule out time to accomplish them. This means understanding how long each task can reasonably be expected to take, how much concentration is involved, and whether or not you can work on another task at the same time without impairing the quality of your efforts.
In some cases, it is relatively easy to combine necessary tasks and save time. For example, you may find that instead of making a trip to the supermarket and then moving on to a drugstore, you simply choose to buy groceries at a supermarket that has a pharmacy department. This effectively allows you to manage two tasks at one time, and still enjoy the same level of quality with each.
However, not all situations are as simplistic as combining a couple of errands. At some point, you will be faced with tasks that require your full concentration and cannot be balanced with other tasks at the same time. The trick is to know the difference between the two scenarios.
You can identify a task that will require your full and undivided attention by the following:
The task requires attention to a great deal of detail. Projects of this type are usually best accomplished by themselves. For example, it is not a good idea to attempt to make client calls while you are posting payments to customer invoices. Because it is important to apply the right amount to the correct invoice number under the correct client account, you don’t need to be interrupted until the job is complete. Otherwise, your company receipts will be out of line, making it necessary to find time to isolate the origin of the problem and correct it at a later date.
You are unfamiliar with the task. In general, it is not a good idea to attempt to multitask when learning to handle some new responsibility. In order to master the new task, all your focus should be on that task. This will help to keep the learning curve to a minimum and allow you to begin the process of integrating that new task into your daily agenda. Attempting to learn how to handle the task in a piecemeal fashion will only drag things out and put your further behind.
The timing for the task is urgent. For example, your boss needs a report in time for his or her meeting right after lunch. Instead of working the report into your other and less important tasks, reorganize your schedule and make the report your priority. As soon as the report is done and turned in to your boss, you can get back to your other action items and continue on with your day.
Sometimes, the issue is not so much figuring out how to arrange your tasks to best advantage, but setting reasonable time aside to accomplish each one. To an extent, this can be forgiven when you are first taking on a new task. After all, you’ve never done it before and must rely on second hand information to estimate the time you will need to do a good job. But failing to set reasonable time limits for tasks you have done for some time can make a good day into a bad one in no time at all.
There are two different ways that people tend to get in trouble with assigning time values to specific tasks:
They don’t allow enough time to complete the task properly. When this happens, one of two things is about to happen. First, the entire day may be thrown out of kilter because other tasks back up and create a bottleneck that cannot be addressed until you finish your current task. The other alternative is that you become frustrated and lose even more valuable time attempting to focus and get on with the task. Either way, your time management process will suffer.
They allow too much time for the task to be completed. There is no real value in allowing a half hour to do a task that you know will take no more than five minutes to complete. While it is important to always build in some spare pockets of time into your schedule throughout the day, keep it within reason. You will still be able to deal with unexpected events that crop up at the last minute by setting aside ten to fifteen minutes for that five-minute task. At the same time, you will use each hour to better advantage and get more done. Whether running a household or on the job, that is important.
There is also the danger of trying to cram too many action items into a given time frame. Even the most efficient of time managers realize there are only so many hours in each day. Cutting corners in order to save time on various tasks may appear like efficient time management on the surface, but this approach can easily backfire. Tasks that are only half-done in order to move them out the door more quickly are much more likely to come right back. As a result, the time savings you created before is quickly gobbled up as you have to sit down and redo the task, this time without taking the short cuts.
While setting reasonable goals seems to come naturally to some people, others struggle with this part of effective time management. Here are a few suggestions that may help make it easier to evaluate each task and carve out an appreciable amount of time to devote to each item on your agenda.
Begin with a defined start and end time for your workday. What this does is immediately allow you to determine how many hours you can reasonably devote to getting things done today. When you have a job, this step is pretty much defined for you, since there is usually a specific time to be at work and a specific time to leave. However, even if the process takes place in a household, setting a start and end time will make it much easier to schedule your time realistically.
Take a look at each task and attempt to prioritize them to best advantage. Any tasks that must be done by a specific time of day should take priority during the scheduling. For example, if you have three tasks that must be done before lunch every day of the week, schedule them as early in the morning as possible. This will automatically provide you with some extra time later in the morning if there is an unanticipated snag with any of the three tasks. The chances of still making your lunchtime deadline will be much better.
Assign a time allotment for each task, based on all data that is at your disposal. For tasks that you’ve done before, you will have a personal knowledge of how long it takes to manage them effectively. However, for new tasks, you may have to depend on input from others to set up a realistic goal for completion. If the task is new to everyone, then you may have to set aside the amount of time you used in the past for a different but somewhat similar task. Demonstrate some flexibility with your time allotments, since different factors can influence how long it takes to manage different tasks, even ones you’ve done for years.
Ask for input, but don’t rely solely on what others have to say. Since we’ve already established that proper time management involves being open to new methods and strategies, there is always the chance that a suggestion or idea from a third party will help you manage a task in a more efficient and timely manner. However, not every suggestion will be constructive, so don’t automatically assume it will work. By all means, take it, look it over, and maybe even give it a try. But if it doesn’t seem to have the potential to streamline the process and allow you to manage your time more efficiently, don’t be backward about rejecting the suggestion and explaining why it is not practical. For all you know, doing so will prevent someone else from getting bogged down because they implemented a process that is really not all that efficient.
Never stop evaluating the schedule you create. Situations and conditions change over time. What worked very well five years ago may not be the best option today. But unless you are willing to look into new options, this may slip right past you. In fact, others may fail to notice as well, especially if your usual schedule is still somewhat effective and does not disrupt others. But without this constant process of re-evaluation, you stand to miss out on some great tools that would help you manage your time to better effect.
While many of your time management goals are focused on the successful and timely completion of action items, a realistic approach to setting goals involves a little more than just getting things done. Don’t forget to include these elements in your goal setting as well:
Time to play as well as time to work. Without some rest and recreation, it is all too easy to begin viewing your daily activities as a repetitive grind that leaves you feeling dehumanized. While you want to get things done efficiently and on time, make sure you don’t do so at the expense of taking your lunch hour or getting away from work on time. Life is a lot more than simply having a finished agenda at the end of the day.
Face the fact that some days will be filled with unexpected factors that no one could possibly have foreseen. No matter how well refined your time management is, there are times when it will have to be revised at the last moment. Accept this as the way things go sometime and do not see it as a failure on your part to effectively manage your time. Instead, see it as an opportunity to accept a challenge and come out on top at the end of the day.
Effective time management is a lot more than simply walking through some proscribed steps in order to achieve some arbitrary end. More often, it is a chance to demonstrate creativity, wisdom, insight, and the ability to think on one’s feet. In short, it is about making the most of what you have every day, and enjoying every minute of it.
There is no one right way to master time management, or even a single correct approach to implementing the concept of managing time into your life. Each situation is different. Fortunately, the basic ideas behind time management can be applied to any situation, whether you are a student pursuing an education, the overseer of a household, or the president of a corporation. Time management is for everyone, not just for a chosen few.
People who are truly great time managers know that you never stop learning how to do things a little better, a little more efficiently, and with a little more speed. But at the same time, they know that getting the job done right is the main priority of proper time management. No amount of time saved is worth the cost of giving anything less than your best effort to any task. They also know that few things in life are as sweet as the realization that at the end of the day, everything has been addressed and tomorrow will start off without having to worry about action items left undone.
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be the best time manager in the world, take heart in the fact that just like the best of the lot, you can learn to improve and refine your time management skills. The process is never complete, but it is constantly moving forward every day. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn a little more and find creative ways to apply different time management ideas to your day. You may find that doing so will make you a much happier individual as you look back on a day well spent.