Effective Time Management

Effective Time Management Made Easy

You’re late again…

It’s the third time this week – if only you’d listened at the Time Management class you would be better organized but your head was full of all the different things you still had to do.

You feel so tired and don’t want to get out of bed.

If only you could have another ten minutes sleep…

But you need to get ready, have some breakfast, and read through that report you cobbled together last night, AND be prepared for the inevitable cross examination from your boss.

Life should be better than this!

Does this sound familar?

Do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of different jobs you have to do each day?

Do you go to bed exhausted and get up still tired?

What would you give to be in control of your life?

To wake up each morning feeling calm and rested?

Regardless of your occupation or your status, it is probable that you are already in a non-win competition against the clock.

Maybe you are already working more hours each day, and discovering that work requirements carry on intensifying, and , because of this, you are suffering increasing degrees of strain.

Because you didn’t discover self management whilst in your formative years, it may be that you believe yourself to be unmethodical.

However, the truth is, that anyone could find out how to organize and manage their time.

You must be prepared to make some modifications in your working life, together with finding the necessary knowledge of how to go about it.

Some Questions for You

What does time management mean to you? Do you see people in white coats, holding clipboards and stopwatches observing whatever you do?

Or do you see it as making and keeping numerous lists of things to do?

I see time management techniques as a way to control my activities and an aid to making educated decisions as to how to make the best use of my time.

We all (rich and poor alike) only have the same number of hours available to us in a day, a week,a month, or a year.

It’s how we use these hours which is important. We need to be more effective with our time management so there is more time to do what we really want e.g. relax, garden, play sports, dance, read or any of hundreds of pastimes.

Effective time management can have a dramatic effect on your life – by practising some of its theories you will find yourself working more effectively,not only at your business, but also in your social life.

Imagine the luxury of having more time :-

  • to spend with your family
  • to go on that “special” vacation
  • to take up a new hobby
  • to read that latest, popular book
  • or just to relax and live a little!

Yes, all of this is possible but you must use time management techniques to organize your personal and business activities…

However, before you start on the nuts and bolts of time management, I must first draw your attention to the prioritization of tasks.


No matter how you approach time management, there will always be some limitations. Whoever you are, there are only twenty four given hours in a day. You need to sleep, eat, bathe and perform any number of other activities. There will always be more things that you would like to do than there is time to do them. When you look at these limitations, it becomes apparent that proper prioritization is essential to effective time management.

If you don’t prioritize tasks, you would simply change from one task to another without rhyme or reason. This would not only be totally inefficient, it could also result in essential tasks being left incomplete. Most time management experts will argue strongly that one must learn to differentiate between the important and the optional and discover how to judge the relative importance of each task to help in their scheduling.

There are three factors you should keep in mind when prioritizing your list of items on your “To Do” list.

First, you must set aside an appropriate amount of time to attend life issues that are not work related. Time to be spent with your family, for instance would fall into this category. When prioritizing, you must remember to place sufficient value on some of the things that give life a greater meaning. This may, for example, include worship or
meditation as a critical element. These real priorities are often inadvertently overlooked by those who are focussed solely with maintaining their business or professional lives–often with a great negative consequences.

Second, you must learn how to differentiate the essential from the important. Every day, you must handle critical tasks (in terms of your work). These projects may be the difference between success and failure or a significant decline. Meeting tough deadlines, working to grow your business, customer service and other tasks may fall into this category.

Third, you must be able to push the urgent items towards the top. Urgent items are those with an immediate or soon-to-arrive deadline. These tasks will not always measure up in importance to some of the critical jobs, but their urgency gives them a higher level of priority. Missed deadlines can have a remarkably deleterious impact on a business even when the matter in question is relatively small.

As you approach your priorities list, keep the above three observations in mind. Remember that setting aside some time for pursuits other than business is important.  Understanding the difference between a critical situation and a somewhat important one can also help. Finally, recognizing your need to push through time-sensitive projects as quickly as possibly can reduce panic situations.

Your decision as to which “To-Do’s” should come first will probably be the most important part of managing your time. These decisions can be difficult and frustrating but are the key to effective time management success.

Get Started – Create Your ” To Do ” List

Most successful people use ” TO DO ” lists. They range from the top CEOs of multi-national companies to entrepreneurs of small businesses.

Busy housewives and retired workers – anyone who wants to use their limited time effectively.

All of these people use time management skills including “To Do” lists.

You can use these lists to keep you focused on what really needs to be done, and keep you away from un-important tasks that have no value.

The result – more time to do what you want!

1.Make It A Daily Record

Every day you should make a ” To Do ” list. This is the first step in your time management crash course. You’ll find it invaluable in helping you decide where your priorities lie.

2.The Nuts and Bolts of Your ” TO DO ” List

Write down all your outstanding tasks on a sheet of paper, then carefully go through deciding if an item is to be graded as :-

A. Urgent.

B. Important but not urgent.

C. Not urgent nor important.

Within categories A and B it will be necessary for you to prioritise, so the most urgent task becomes A1, then the next becomes A2 etc.

Similarly with the set of tasks you have decided are B.

Of course this is not necessary with the C tasks.

Some people prefer to color code the items instead, so with such a system the A tasks may be colored red,  the B tasks blue etc.

You may choose whatever colors have meaning for you.

3. Using the ” TO DO ” List

Each morning you must update your “TO DO” list. Bring forward the A, B, and C items not completed the day before on to another sheet of paper.

Add new items to the lists after considering carefully where each new item should go.

Then review the list and start on the top priorities, crossing off each one as it is finished throughout the day.

Some people prefer to have separate sheets for each type i.e. one sheet for the A list, another sheet for the B list etc.

That way you know you are working on the most urgent tasks from the listing itself, because the A list should always be on top.

So what do you do with the C items?

If you have staff, then delegate – if not, decide if you are going to complete them or not.

Dispose of all items you decide are not worth doing.

Instead of re-writing your list each morning an alternative method is to spend the last 15 minutes of your day on your list, so that you can start immediately the next day.

Practise your time management skills until they become second nature.

4. How Pareto’s Principle May Help You

Vilfredo Pareto(1848-1923) was an Italian economist who in 1906,observed that 20% of the people in Italy owned 80% of the country’s wealth.

Over a period of time this observation became known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule.

It is never exactly 80/20, of course.

Sometimes it is 79/21 or 82/18 but the under lying principle is always true.

This theory is applied all over the world by multi-national companies as well as much smaller firms.

Broadly speaking 80% of all results come from 20% of all efforts.

So if you identify which 20% is the most important, complete those and you can’t help but be more effective and successful.

One word of caution – items on the B list which are not completed within a reasonable time scale have a habit of suddenly becoming a major A item!

This is not the objective of time management!

I have used a “To Do” list for many, many years and it enabled me to keep on top of my responsibilities AND enjoy my family life.
I sincerely recommend that you do the same.

Start That Important Task Now!

There are many tasks which because of their complexity and wealth of detail, are difficult to start.

There are always other (and sometimes less important) tasks which give instant satisfaction.

Next time this happens to you try this time management method of motivating yourself.

1. Use Small Periods Of Time To Get Started

It’s fifteen minutes to your lunch break – far too short a time to do that overwhelming task which you routinely pick up every morning and then put down again.

But wait!

You could do something to get that task started…

What about making a list of all the relevent sub-tasks that will result in the finished product?

Yes! You decide to try that approach and ten minutes later off you go to lunch feeling better about the task and yourself.

Why? Because you have accomplished something, you have made the list of sub-tasks and are no longer fearful of the main task.

This is called the Swiss Cheese method because by using small amounts of time you are making holes in the larger task. It is a commonly used time management technique.

2. Pretend Someone Else Is Going To Do It!

Sounds silly doesn’t it?

But if you pretend that you’re just preparing a check list of tasks for someone else to complete all fear will leave you.

Your mind will focus with great clarity on what needs to be done – after all, you’re not doing it… are you?

You’ll find that as the list is finished so most of your apprehension will disappear. Trust me!

This has always worked for me. I recommend that you try both of the above methods and see which one suits you.

What do you have to lose?



Copyright © 2003 J.McHenry. All Rights Reserved.

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