Time Management … efficient or effective?

Time ManagementI have never heard anyone say “I have too much time” in the context of a work environment. Frankly, time management is one of the greatest challenges that we must master to achieve our goals.

We strive for balance and control between our working and personal lives. We talk about spending too much time on the computer and not being able to achieve balance because we are in task overload. The work environment has been affected by downsizing, the virtual office, two-earner households, fierce competition, endless communications and the constant information flow. You can now be reached by smart phone, Skype, voice mail, fax or e-mail on a “24/7” basis.

Managers and team leaders must now share assistants with others, or have no assistant at all. This may require you to do your own computer work, word processing, scheduling and answering phones. Today, work is more often than not accomplished through a team approach that requires even more planning, coordination and meetings. Your most precious commodity is time.

Nature of Time
We have all said at one time or another that “time flies”, “time is money” or “time marches on.” Time has three characteristics that we must consider in our approach to using time more effectively. There are three considerations about time that applies to every one equally. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 1440 minutes in each day, however time cannot be stashed away to be used later. You either use it or lose it immediately. So, your challenge is to decide how you will spend your time or others will decide for you.

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
The Cambridge Dictionary defines efficiency as “the difference between the amount of energy that is put into a machine in the form of fuel, effort, etc. and the amount that comes out of it in the form of movement.” Many people equate time management with efficiency and believe that they are managing their time well because they are efficient.

Time management goes beyond efficiency and focuses instead on effectiveness. The Cambridge Dictionary defines effective as “successful or achieving the results that you want.” In ordinary terms, we can define effectiveness as “doing the right things.”

Time Audit
A time audit is one way to get a handle on how your time is spent. The first step is to make the commitment to conduct a time audit and accept what it reveals. Secondly, record the findings in your time log and keep an accurate record of each of your activities and the amount of time devoted to it. Finally, evaluate the results of your daily time log and transfer the information to a weekly time log. Determine the amount and percentage of time spent on work related activities to pinpoint your time guzzlers. The two basic questions are “How much available time do you have”, and “how is it used?”

It’s important to consider those with whom you spoke on the phone, length of the conversation and topics that were discussed. Consider any interruptions and the length thereof. Even some innocuous activities such as breaks, lunch and meetings must be considered. One of the significant considerations about meetings is what was accomplished, and the priority. Another category worthy of mention is time spent reading, writing or socializing and what tasks were postponed.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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