Developing An Effective Time Management System – The Right Way

Management, Self-improvement March 15, 2013

Time management is something a lot of us struggle with on a day-to-day basis. My time management skills were horrible for years, and after some work I’ve managed to get them up to “barely acceptable”.  On good days.

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I know for a fact that I’m not alone. Almost everyone struggles to make the most of their time. A lot of managers and business owners often find themselves swamped. In most cases, only the most important work ever gets done. Everything else gets falls off the desk to the bottom of the pile of other stuff you should be doing and haven’t paid attention to.

One task we often ignore is the development of time management systems. Ironic, yes? The reasoning in this is “I have way too much to do to set up a time management system, let alone an effective one”.

Seems silly, but when you’ve got a lot on your plate it’s away too easy to fall back into this line of thinking.

Think of it this way- if you can give up some things now in order to be able to gain an extra 30 minutes to an hour every single day moving forward, wouldn’t that be a great investment?

Where Do We Lose Time?

There are literally dozens of culprits when it comes to unintended time wastage, but it often comes down to three things in most modern work places:

1.) Filing and finding data

2.) E-mail

3.) Interruptions

According to an internal Microsoft survey, workers typically spend two to three hours a day in email and 60 minutes a day finding and filing information.

After setting up an information-management system, they still spent one to two hours a day in email – not surprising since each email needs to be handled differently. However, they now only spent 10 minutes a day finding and filing information—a savings of nearly two hours a day, or almost 12 weeks a year.

Why It Happens

The reason for this is simple. Our brains, while being remarkable machines, are incredibly bad at retrieving data the way most modern workplaces are set up. Simply put, our short-term memory isn’t too hot. While training it can yield some benefits, don’t expect to develop it without putting in a considerable amount of time and correct exercise into it.

Our brains also have difficulty retaining the same relative efficiency when moving on from tasks.  Our brains to need to “rev up” before we can reach maximum efficiency for the next task. The same thing holds true when we are interrupted from our current tasks. A phone call or a tweet can very easily derail you from getting current tasks done effectively.

Our brains also get all screwed up when we’re forced to switch tasks on the fly. If someone says they do just fine when they multitask, either they’re freaks or they’re likely doing really bad at all the tasks they’re juggling without realizing it. Multiple studies have shown time and again that unitasking is how most things really get done.

What Time Management System Should I Use?

Effective time management systems are almost always something YOU DEVELOP FOR YOURSELF. If there was a sure way to do it, wouldn’t you think that all efficient manager and entrepreneurs would be the same? As you would have noticed by now, there are hundreds if not thousands of competing “systems” that promise to help you squeeze more hours out of the day.

Life coaches, self-help books, and small business blogs like this one can only give you a certain amount of guidance, but there’s one thing every effective time management system should follow:

Human nature

When you fight against nature, you might make headroom at first, but you will eventually lose almost each and every single time. Make sure your system makes things easier for you. If you need tools like alarms or spreadsheets, they should be as simple to use as possible.

You shouldn’t have to think of anything else other than the tasks you’re supposed to be doing. Effective time management systems – after you set them up – should work with how you naturally go about things. Developing an effective time management system is hardly rocket science. Whether on a personal or team level,  any system you put in place should serve to make things easier, not slow you down.

Here’s to getting things done!

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