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Is It Time For a Time Management Upgrade?

Is It Time For a Time Management Upgrade?

    Most of us think of time management skills as something that we happen to have, and others desperately need. It’s easy to do so when we believe that a lifetime of learning can be contained in a single lesson that we happen to have learned. But are we as good at managing our time as we think ourselves to be?

    There are a number of events that happen in our lives that indicate that our current system isn’t working. Some of the indicators may include repeatedly being late to appointments and handing in assignments after their due dates.

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    However, there are some that are more subtle, and a few that we tend to mistake. In most cases, they are accompanied by the same “fantastic” thought: “I’d be able to do this if I only had enough time.”

    Subtle Signals

    1. Being overweight — Many of our complaints about carrying too much weight are related to time. We either “don’t have the time” to exercise, or even figure out the right foods to buy. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to lose that weight.”

    2. Having lots of email in our Inbox — We blame the fact that we have lots of messages in our Inbox waiting for us to process on a lack of time. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to go handle all the waiting messages.”

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    3. Clutter — Our office is a mess (or maybe our garage, attic, basement, car, closet, yard, etc.) and we sometimes get embarrassed when other people notice. “If I only had more time, I could clean this place up.”

    4. Commitments fall through the cracks — Stuff that we quietly tell ourselves that we need to do, simply doesn’t happen. It gets forgotten, and we only remember after the fact, when it’s too late, that we have broken a promise we made to ourselves. “If only I had more time, nothing would ever be forgotten, or slip through the cracks.”

    5. Others are upset because we don’t stay in touch — We try to spend enough time with family and friends, but can never seem to find the time to give them the personal attention that we believe we should. “If I only had more time, I’d have more quality moments with people I care about.”

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    6. We are stressed — We try to take time away from work, but we are “always on” because we don’t want to get in trouble. We take work with us on vacations, weekends, holidays and sick days with the help of my laptop or smartphone. “If I only had more time, I’d be able to take the hours needed to de-stress.”

    False Indicators

    At the same time, there are some false indicators of time management problems. They are sometimes used as “proof” that an issue exists, when in fact it’s not true:

    False Indicator #1 – An accusation: “You are taking too long to respond to email.” The only person who can determine that an email response should have been sent earlier is the recipient. Those who pressure others to reply to their email earlier should use a different method to communicate in urgent circumstances

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    False Indicator #2 – Another accusation: “You don’t answer the phone every time it rings.” Answering the phone and interrupting what you’re doing is a past practice that’s not suitable for the smartphone era and its hundreds of daily messages.

    Conclusion

    Times change, and so do the indicators of positive and negative productivity. It’s important that we pay close attention to our personal systems in order to be effective in an age of fast changing technology. When we are aware of signals that indicate poor time management, we can then take measures to correct the situation.

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      Francis Wade

      Author, Management Consultant

      How To Manage A Post-College Productivity Dip Why You Need to Understand and Accept Your Productive Type A Tendencies The New Lifehacking #7 – Why You Should Be Open to New Stuff, But Wary About Using It The New LifeHacking #6 – Staying Away from Harmful Gadgets The New Lifehacking #5 – Tricking Yourself into Making the Changes You Need

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      Last Updated on June 18, 2019

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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      From Making Reminders to Building Habits

      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

      More About Habits

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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