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Scoring 100% in Time Management

Scoring 100% in Time Management

Scoring 100% in Time Management

    Excellent school Exam grade

      “Most people who attempt to learn a new time management system fail.”

      I can’t prove the above statement with hard facts, but I have a sense that it’s true, based on my personal experience and observations.  If success is defined as 100% successful implementation, then that statistic is most certainly true.

      On the other hand, perhaps 99% of the people who take a time management program put down the book, or drive back home, agreeing with 100% of the ideas.

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      So, the million dollar question is: what’s the problem?

      Did the time management gurus blind them with their brilliance?  Or does it prove that we are all a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings with short attention spans, suffering from various degrees of ADHD?

      The problem is not something that’s addressed by the gurus, and it’s actually something that is being ignored by gurus and devotees alike.

      It’s a problem in what we think time management IS.

      Learning a new time management system is not like learning differential calculus, financial accounting or particle physics.  Each of these subject-areas are new to most people, who typically come to them like a blank canvas, and without any homegrown capability whatsoever.  Most of us haven’t figured out our own system of computing depreciation before stepping into accounting 101.

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      Ironically, our ignorance helps..  A new system of thinking is easier to learn when it’s completely fresh to us, and only requires us to be ready, willing and able.

      Learning a new approach to time management is much more difficult, because standing in the way of a shiny new system is the one that we are already using.

      That’s the same one we first put together when we entered high school, refined when we were in college, adapted when we got our first job, and started suffered with when we got married and found a bunch of stuff falling through the cracks for the first time.

      That’s “the time management system we never knew we had.”

      (For some of us, calling it a system might be too much of a mental leap, but it’s tough to get through college without having put something in place.)

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      This “system we never knew we had” is comprised of habits, practices and rituals that have been practiced over the years and are now built into our neuro-muscular systems.  In this sense, we are more like smokers trying to quit some dangerous behaviors, than we are mathematicians learning some brand new techniques.

      Ask President Obama, or any smoker, and they’ll tell you… quitting is tough.

      But time management gurus don’t tell you that changing the habits that make up your current time management system is just as challenging. They don’t get you to appreciate what you are up against as you try to reverse decades of practice, reinforced by some positive results that convinced your subconscious that you had this time management thing beaten.

      Not only don’t you know all this, but most people try to learn a new time management system when they KNOW that their system is no longer successful.  As you ponder your latest failure, you are driven crazy with desire for the new system being offered that seems to be so logical, sensible and easy to understand.

      This only adds to the frustration.  It appears to be easy, but isn’t.

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      Here’s a concept: Forget about learning a new time management system, and instead take a program in “Habit Changing 101.” Discover the unique set of actions you must take to change your ingrained habits so that they stay changed.  Figure out the unique blend of goal-setting, community support, backup plans, rewards, punishments, reminders, coaching, etc. that you need to succeed.

      Once your special cocktail is figured out, then take any time management program that you want, implement the changes slowly (one habit at a time,) and take enough time to ensure that you won’t lapse into the old habits when the inevitable crises hit.

      You may still be failing to implement THEIR system the way it “should” be done, but you’ll be 100% effective at upgrading your own.

      More by this author

      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 July 8, 2020

      3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

      3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

      It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

      This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

      Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

      When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

      This is why setting priorities is so important.

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      3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

      There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

      1. Eat a Frog

      There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

      Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

      When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

      2. Move Big Rocks

      Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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      You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

      If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

      For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

      To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

      In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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      3. Covey Quadrants

      If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

      Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

      1. Important and Urgent
      2. Important and Not Urgent
      3. Not Important but Urgent
      4. Not Important and Not Urgent

        The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

        Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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        You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

        Getting to Know You

        Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

        In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

        These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

        More Tips for Effective Prioritization

        Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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