Time is on your side Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2008

It’s a common problem for just about anyone — there are just not enough hours in the day. Everyone is looking for ways to work smarter and take control of his or her workload.s Many people spend their days in a frenzy of activity but achieve very little because they are not focusing efforts on the things that matter most. This is why time management skills can help you optimize your efforts and function better, even under pressure.

But, mastering the concept of time management requires an important shift in focus — concentrating on results, not on being busy — and this is not always easy.

“According to the ‘80-20 rule,’ 80 percent of unfocused effort generates only 20 percent of results,” says Amy Broadbent, a senior consultant and manager of client services for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “This means that the remaining 80 percent of results are achieved with only 20 percent of the effort.”

Thus, says Broadbent, applying time management skills can optimize your efforts to ensure you focus as much of your time and energy as possible on those tasks with the highest payoff, which will enable you to achieve the greatest benefit possible in the amount of time that is available.

However, procrastination is a major obstacle to proper time management. Learning to kick this destructive habit can help you become more productive. Procrastinators put off the very things that should be priorities, usually in favor of doing something that is more enjoyable or easier to do. Since the truly important tasks rarely ever go away, it is important to find ways to motivate yourself.

Smart Business spoke to Broadbent about time management and how you can kick procrastination and start working more effectively and efficiently.

How can one overcome a procrastination problem?

The following approaches can be helpful if you find yourself procrastinating:

  • Make up your own rewards. For example, promise yourself a ‘treat’ upon completion of a certain task.

  • Ask someone else to check in on you. Peer pressure does work!

  • Identify the consequences of not completing the task, which will more than likely be unpleasant.

  • If you are the type of person who needs to feel as though you are achieving, break a project into a series of smaller tasks. This way you will feel as though you are achieving and the whole project will not be so overwhelming.

You need to recognize that you are procrastinating before you can conquer this negative habit. Then identify the reasons why you are procrastinating and take appropriate steps to overcome them. This is an important step in productive time management.

How should I organize my time?

A ‘to-do’ list is instrumental for those who practice effective time management skills. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do (both at work and in your personal life), if you feel you are constantly faced with looming deadlines, if you sometimes simply forget things that seem too important to forget, then chances are you are not keeping a proper to-do list. It sounds simple, but to-do lists are very powerful — they are time management tools that provide a means of keeping yourself and your life organized, which, ultimately, can reduce stress. We can all use less stress in our lives. The use of to-do lists will ensure that you remember to carry out necessary tasks, tackle the most important jobs first and do not waste time on less important things, and, most importantly, ensure you do not get stressed by a large volume of unimportant tasks. Chances are, if you create a to-do list today or this evening, it will more than likely contain more things than you can actually accomplish. This is fine. This is why the to-do list is valuable. Review your list, choose the most important things on the list and do these first. The to-do list is a helpful tool when it comes to appropriately scheduling your time.

So, how can I effectively schedule my time?

Scheduling forces us to look at the time we have available and to properly plan how we will use this time to achieve our goals and objectives. A well-planned schedule allows you to manage commitments while still finding time to do the things that are important to you — both in your work and personal life. Effective scheduling can reduce stress and maximize your efficiency and effectiveness, which makes it one of the most important time management skills you can use. Scheduling is important and, unfortunately, there is often a misnomer that rescheduling something for a later time or a later date is procrastinating. This is not necessarily true. Rescheduling is a way of taking control. It is only procrastination if you do not reschedule at all or if you reschedule for the wrong reasons, which will become apparent when you find yourself rescheduling the same thing repeatedly. In that case, stop and think about whether or not you truly want or need to do the thing you keep rescheduling. Your time is important. Properly managing your time is even more important. Recognizing when you are procrastinating and making the most of your time with the help of to-do lists and scheduling can help you be more efficient and effective in all aspects of your life.

AMY BROADBENT is a senior consultant and manager of client services for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7250 or amy.broadbent@jrgadvisors.net.