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When Does Time Management Matter Most?

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When Does Time Management Matter Most?

In every part of life, time management is a valuable skill, but it’s far more important in some situations than others.

Even when you’re kicking back with a book, you can’t forget about the clock entirely. At some point that afternoon, you’ll need to start on dinner. If you want to make it through a certain number of chapters before then, you have to think through the amount of time you can afford to spend on each.

It’s not the end of the world if you struggle with time management while reading. However, once you understand why time management matters, you’ll start to spot situations where it’s critical to get it right.

Why Is Time Management Important?

Time management isn’t a hard concept

, but it is hard to practice well. Psychologists define it[1] as “the ability to plan and control how [one] spends the hours in a day to effectively accomplish their goals.”

People who manage their time well are planners. They look at their goals, and they decide how much time to devote to each in a given hour, day, week, or month.

That might sound easy, but all too often, life gets in the way. A client calls while you’re in the middle of deep work. In the middle of your reading hour, your son or daughter spills food all over the floor. Despite having set aside the time for something else, you get up and deal with the distraction.

In most contexts, it won’t do much harm to take a detour from the task at hand. However, if you do it in the wrong circumstances, you might come to regret it.

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What Are the Consequences of Poor Time Management?

Poor time management can come back to bite you. If you can’t seem to get a grip on how you spend your time, you may struggle with:

Tardiness

One sign that you aren’t good at time management is that you’re always late to your appointments. If you’re late to one appointment, chances are good that you’ll have to push later ones back by a few minutes as well.

Consistently being late has all sorts of side effects. It can hamper your ability to work on a team, cause you to rush through your own work, and upset others who rely on you.

Poor Performance at Work or School

When you do not budget your time well, your time management issues may show up as poor performance at work or school.

If you spend too much time writing the perfect email, you may not have time to tackle that budget analysis your boss asked you to do. If you can’t tear yourself away from the television to study for a test, you probably won’t do very well on the exam itself.

Procrastination

Procrastinators — such as the student who can’t bring herself to study — know where they should be spending their time. The root of their time management issues is simply that they don’t follow through on their plans.

In some ways, procrastination is worse than not budgeting your time at all. Procrastinators make commitments they struggle to honor. When that happens repeatedly, the procrastinator’s relationships tend to suffer.

If you want to learn about the types of procrastination and how to fix them, this article may help: Types of Procrastination (And How To Fix Procrastination And Start Doing)

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Damaged Relationships

Your boss might get upset if you struggle to turn projects in on time, but the effects of poor time management on your relationships go deeper than that.

People want to know that they can count on you to do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If that is not the case, family members may hesitate to ask you for help, and friends might think twice before inviting you out.

When Time Management Matters Most

You might not face those consequences if you manage your reading time poorly, but you will if you let bad time management bleed into other areas of your life. At home and at work, there are a few situations when time management is critical:

When Others Are Counting on You 

Time management is something you should want for yourself. Managing your time well can make you more productive and keep your stress levels low. With that said, it’s particularly important when you’re on a team.

Say you’re a sales development representative. Your job is to nurture sales through the sales pipeline, allowing the senior salespeople on your team to focus on closing deals.

If you spend too much time on certain leads, you may have a high close rate but a low volume. If you give lots of leads little attention, your volume might grow — but the leads you pass on probably won’t close. Good time management means giving just the right amount of time to each lead on your list.

Even when you aren’t at work, you still have to work on teams. If you’re making a meal with your family, you could throw the whole timetable off if the veggies you agreed to chop aren’t ready to cook alongside the roast.

In the end, coming through for others builds personal connections.

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When Your Schedule Is Full

The reason time management matters during crunches is obvious: When you’re busy, you’ll struggle to get it all done if you don’t manage your time effectively.

People who manage their time well know exactly how much they can get done in a given timeframe. They use both structure and technique to accomplish as much as possible.

Structurally speaking, they do things like book appointments back to back. They carve out time on their calendar for deep work. If an interruption happens, they either ignore it or gently explain when they’ll be able to address it.

What time management techniques can you use to make more of your time? We recommend the Pomodoro Technique. Named after the timer used by the system’s inventor, pomodoros are cycles of rest and work. A pomodoro might consist of a 30-minute sprint followed by a 10-minute rest, repeated until the person is ready for a longer rest.

Other techniques, such as time blocking [2], are also effective. Time blocking involves segmenting one’s schedule into 15-minute chunks and assigning something specific to each of them. Every minute of the day is accounted for, so there’s no question of what task the time-blocker should be working on.

When You’re Learning Something New

Learning new things takes time, so it requires time management. If you want to master a foreign language, for example, you’ll need a long-term plan. Language learning experts suggest it takes up to 44 weeks [3] of practice just to reach intermediate proficiency.

Few, if any, valuable skills can be learned in a day. Developing them means setting aside a small amount of time each day to practice, realizing that the fruit of your labor will not be ripe for months into the future.

The solution is to set milestones. You might plan, for example, to know how to conjugate present-tense verbs after your first week. But it might not be until the fourth week when you learn past-perfect conjugations.

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To stay on track, give yourself small rewards. If you’re learning Spanish, you might go out to a Mexican restaurant once you’ve learned common words associated with cooking and eating. Once you’ve mastered the past, present, and future tenses, you could reward yourself with a trip to Spain.

When You’re Stressed

Stress has a way of making problems seem bigger than they truly are. If you’re stressed out about a task, get serious about time management. The best way to calm yourself is to put together a plan.

Say you’re worried about whether the first conversation with a new client will go well. You know that preparation is essential to a positive client experience.

What does that mean in terms of time management? Go ahead and block off time to research the account. Schedule a meeting to talk to the account’s salesperson. Give yourself a half-hour or more to sketch out a strategy.

Occupational psychologist Cary Cooper suggests[4] stress often stems from situations you can’t control. Before you get to that point, be proactive. Think about how time management can help you avoid a bad outcome, and adjust your schedule to help you get there.

When the Chances of Failure are High

If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you’re likely to fail, you might have heard the maxim, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”

Doing your best is really a euphemism for effective time management. If you craft a plan of action and stick tightly to it, you can forget the rest. Failure happens, and some things are simply out of your control.

With that said, it’s also important to manage time well in the face of failure. Set aside time to do a post-mortem: What did you do well? Where did you let time get away from you? If you find yourself in a similar situation again, what would you do differently?

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Time management is like water conservation: Water may seem plentiful, but you know better than to waste it. Practice being a good steward of your time. When crunch time comes, you’ll be glad you did.

More Tips on Handling Time

Featured photo credit: Andrea Natali via unsplash.com

Reference

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John Hall

John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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