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The Difference Between Time Management and Task Management

The Difference Between Time Management and Task Management


    Here’s the thing about productivity: we only have a certain amount of time on our hands, and yet we have an ever-growing number of tasks to complete.

    We all try at one time or another to “beat the clock” and get as much done as we can in our workday…which often stretches out said workday beyond what some would call “normal office hours”. And the circle begins anew the next day, until we run out of time again.

    The reason we try to manage time is because we know exactly how much of it we have. It’s finite. Yet the number of tasks we have to complete isn’t.

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    And that’s the problem.

    The good news? It’s one that has a solution: we have to stop managing time and start managing tasks. There’s a difference between time management and task management – and when we really compare the two it isn’t too difficult to spot it.

    Time

    Time is defined as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.” By virtue of it being “measurable”, it gives us something to hold on to – something to grasp. It’s far easier to look at a calendar and put tasks on the calendar than it is to look at a to-do list and assign dates and times to those, isn’t it? That’s because you run out of time when you do the latter. It’s inevitable.

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    Peter Bregman, author of the book 18 Minutes, has said that we “shouldn’t try to get everything done” – and he’s absolutely right. Yet we still try. We think that the more we do in the time we have will make us more productive by default.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    We need to stop focusing on over-scheduling our time, which leads to overwhelm. We need to take the time to create space for yourself – because if you do then you’ll create the space to make time for yourself. And with that time you will be more efficient and effective instead of just having work possessing one of those qualities. Or even worse…none of those qualities.

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    Task

    A task is defined as “a usually assigned piece of work often to be finished within a certain time”. But the thing that’s most important to notice here is that I referred to the word “task” as a singular item as opposed to how I referred to time as being something much larger, something multiplicative in nature.

    If you focus on that, then you’ll understand that managing a task is far more – well, manageable – than managing time. You end up managing one thing at a time rather than something that is far greater in size – something that that no one has ever really mastered a battle with.

    You can take on a task time and time again and expect you have a chance to come out on top; you can’t take on time in the same manner and expect the same result nearly as often.

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    I’m not suggesting that understanding how tasks fit into your time isn’t important. What I am suggesting is that we place too much importance and – pardon the irony here – time on that notion. what we need to do is worry about figuring out how to do a great job with the tasks we’re given rather than with the time we’re given.

    That’s how you can really become not just more productive – but a better kind of productive in the process.

    (Photo credit: Clock on Dried Soil via Shutterstock)

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      Mike Vardy

      A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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      Last Updated on June 2, 2020

      Easy Tasks or Difficult Tasks First? Which One is More Productive?

      Easy Tasks or Difficult Tasks First? Which One is More Productive?

      Procrastination is probably the biggest detriment to our productivity. Conventional wisdom dictates that the best thing you can do is make that procrastination constructive. When you don’t feel like doing one task, usually one that requires a lot of will- or brainpower, you do another, usually less labor-intensive task.

      Recently, though, conventional wisdom has been challenged with something Penn State refers to as “pre-crastination.”[1] After doing a series of studies in which students pick up and carry one of two buckets, researchers theorized that many people prefer to take care of difficult tasks sooner rather than later. That theory poses the question of whether this pre-crastination or the more widely acknowledged constructive procrastination is more effective.

      Here is a look at whether people should do difficult tasks early or later on to achieve maximum productivity.

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      Doing Easy Tasks First

      The Pros

      One of the hardest parts of working is just getting started. Constructive procrastination eases this hardship, because working on easy tasks requires a smaller mental or physical commitment than if you tackled difficult tasks firsts.

      If one of the foremost deterrents to your productivity is simply getting going, it makes a lot of sense to save the difficult tasks for when you’re in more of a groove.

      The Cons

      If you eat a frog first thing in the morning, that will probably be the worst thing you do all day. — Mark Twain

      On the surface, there don’t seem to necessarily be any disadvantages to doing easy tasks first. However, in Eat That Frog, the book writeen by Brian Tracy challenges that.

      Based on the above quote from Mark Twain, Eat That Frog encourages avoiding procrastination, even if that procrastination is constructive. Tracy wants you to “eat that frog,” i.e. do your difficult tasks quickly because the longer it’s on your plate, the harder it will become to do the thing you’re dreading. If you have a habit of dreading things, Eat That Frog makes a solid argument to hold off on your easy tasks until later in the day.

      Doing Difficult Tasks First

      The Pros

      Brian Tracy postulates in Eat That Frog that if you do your difficult tasks first, your other tasks won’t seem so bad. After all, after you eat a frog, even something unappetizing will seem downright delectable.

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      Tracy also recommends that, if you have to eat two frogs, you should eat the uglier one first. The metaphor is a very easy way to get your head around the new concept of pre-crastination.

      If all of your tasks seem somewhat torturous to you, you might be able to ease the pain by getting rid of the ugliest “toads” as quickly as you can.

      The Cons

      The primary disadvantage of doing your difficult tasks first is probably that it will make it especially hard to get started on your workday.

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      A lot of people aren’t exactly at their peak performance mode when they enter the office. They need to ease into the workday, maybe have a cup or two of coffee to stimulate them.

      If that’s you, doing your most difficult tasks first would probably be a costly mistake. Hold off on “eating those frogs” until you have the willpower and fortitude to choke them down.

      Conclusion

      Should you do easy or difficult tasks first? It seems like a cop-out to say that it depends on the person, but sometimes that’s the honest answer, and that is definitely the case here.

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      Hopefully this article helps inform you of what type of worker you are, offering clues to whether you fall into the constructive procrastination or pre-crastination camps. Good luck on your pursuit of maximum productivity!

      More Tips for Beating Procrastination

      Featured photo credit: Courtney Dirks via flickr.com

      Reference

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