Set goals. With the start of the new year comes the bold attempt to “manage time better,” “be more productive,” and “focus on what matters.”
If you are a “project creep” person, you miss deadlines, and an ever-growing to-do list is all too frequent both in your life and business. These two areas must be put on your significant professional development goals. Large-scale polls consistently show time management abilities among the most wanted workforce talents and among the most difficult to find.
What goals could manage your time better?
There is no shortage of advice – books, blogs, hacks, and applications — all designed to improve time management.
The most irritating fact for anyone wanting to better their time management is that these techniques are unlikely to help.
Simply said, these tools and apps assume a person’s underlying talents, but time management skills come first.
Do you think buying a decent set of knives, high-end kitchen equipment, and fresh food will automatically turn you into a five-star chef? No way. Similarly, utilizing a scheduling tool without time management skills is unlikely to provide favorable results. However, developing a new skill or skill set keeps you on the cutting edge.
Fortunately, a lot of studies have been done on time management abilities. Timing management is the practice of adjusting one’s time to changing external conditions. Time management effectiveness requires three specific skills:
First, recognize that time is a finite resource.
Organize your objectives, plans, timetables, and projects to maximize your time.
Adaptation: adapting to interruptions or shifting priorities while doing tasks.
Arranging is perhaps the most recognizable ability, given that most applications and hacks deal with planning and scheduling. However, awareness and adaptive abilities are not as widely recognized.
This presents essential development questions:
Are they equal?
Are some harder to master than others?
What about rarity?
Time Management Tests
To find out, I looked at over 1200 people’s findings from a 30-minute micro-simulation meant to measure time management abilities. Participants were assigned the role of a freelance designer and had to handle work and relationships with customers and colleagues using email, instant messaging, and cloud storage.
They had to cope with scheduling problems, prioritize customer requests, and manage their time.
Some solid evidence emerged for goals
First, all three abilities were equally crucial for time management.
So strengthening one’s scheduling and planning abilities overlooks two-thirds of the skills required to manage time properly.
That’s why it’s so discouraging to try new technology and then feel like we’ve never improved as time managers.
Second, respondents had the most trouble with awareness and adaptation abilities, with scores 24 percent lower than arranging skills.
This study implies that awareness and adaptability are uncommon talents that require direct assistance to achieve.
Also, awareness skills influence how effectively participants avoid procrastination, and adaptability skills influence how well they prioritize activities.
Third, the results contradicted prevalent beliefs about the benefits or drawbacks of multitasking.
A post-simulation poll examined how people felt about multitasking.
Their inclinations for multitasking (what academics call “polychronicity”) had nothing to do with time management abilities.
People’s time management skills have little to do with their multitasking preferences.
So the emphasis on multitasking that many time management experts place on it is unlikely to deliver genuine results.
Fourth, the research shows that people misjudge their time management skills.
For example, just 1% of people’s self-ratings matched their objective skill scores.
Also, self-ratings only accounted for only 2% of real-time management ability differences.
In prior research, people lack proper self-awareness of their competencies, which impedes transformation and leadership growth.
Time Management Skills Development
So how can people improve their time management skills?
To begin, decide where to focus. The only way to honestly answer this question is to examine your present skill levels.
You may fuel your development efforts in three ways.
Improve your self-awareness of time management. This can be achieved by objective evaluations like microsimulations, peer or supervisor feedback, or by defining a baseline of behaviors against which progress can be measured.
Perception matters more than thinking. Understanding one’s time management preferences or personality traits, such as multitasking or being proactive, can help identify areas where reform efforts may fail.
Skills, not personality, are the most flexible personal traits and deliver the best return on investment.
Identify and prioritize your skill gaps
The goal is to prevent self-improvement that is “inch deep but a mile wide” when efforts are scattered out over too many requirements. Prioritize your skill development, starting with the most urgent skill requirement and working your way up.
There are several proven methods for improving time management. Here are a few. Remember that techniques establish underlying abilities that will ultimately enhance time management.
Using these strategies isn’t the purpose.
Increasing awareness. Effectiveness is doing things well, whereas efficiency is doing things quickly. Both are vital. Efficiency is counterproductive.
Find your performance peak. Divide your day into three to four-time slots and rate them from most to least productive throughout a week (most productive is peak performance).
Treat time like cash. Make a time budget for a typical week. Then, sort time into fixed (must do) and discretionary (want to do).
Not how much time you have left, but how long you spend on things with defined deadlines.
Evaluate your time management skills. After concluding a job, compare your expectations to the actual time it took. This process is good development of skills.
Consider “future time.” Consider how your current actions will affect future activities (e.g., how will today’s project tasks affect next week’s tasks?).
“Sunk cost fallacy.” When you believe you’re spending too much time on anything, take a step back and assess its value (e.g., who will be affected if it’s done or not).
Learning to organize
The learning curves and time requirements for unfamiliar but critical jobs might be severe. Developing arrangement skills means taking control of your life and then organizing your job around it.
Prioritize tasks and duties
It’s not enough to just mention your assignments and meetings.
Image Credit: Christina Morillo; Pexels; Thank you!