How to Manage Time Effectively?

Dr. Purushothaman
January 14, 2014

Specific tasks, projects and goals require deadlines. To manage time effectively, time management must include wide activities such as: prioritizing, planning, setting goals, delegation, analysis of time spent, monitoring, organizing, and scheduling.
The first step for time management is prioritizing your tasks. This is not easy if you have many important tasks to deal with. It's a challenge that everyone faces at some point or another. A good way to prioritize is by using the quadrants of Covey that was popularized by Stephen Covey, as he outlines it in his book: First Things First. In this method, you write down on a piece of paper four quadrants, and in each quadrant you write the tasks according to their importance and urgency to you. The quadrants are:

1-Important and Urgent
2-Important and Not Urgent
3- Not Important but Urgent
4- Not Important and Not Urgent
This classification makes it easier for you to prioritize your tasks in simple and organized way.
Quadrant 1 and 2 are the tasks that are important to us. Tasks in quadrant 3 and 4 are the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings and busy work, and other time wasters.
Quadrant 1 - Important and Urgent
This quadrant is about tasks that are urgent and important.You cant avoid doing these tasks as they represent necessity.
Quadrant 2 - Important and Not Urgent
This is the most important quadrant where you want to spend most of your time. Tasks in quadrant two should be congruent with your goals and are about things you want to achieve in the long run.
Quadrant 3 - Not important and Urgent
Most people are deceived by this quadrant. They take tasks as important or urgent, but in actuality they are neither important nor urgent.
Quadrant 4 - Not important and Not Urgent
These are time waster tasks. You want to stay away from these tasks.
The problem with most people is that they spend much time in quadrant 1 and 3, instead of quadrant 2. For effective time management, you need to be more on quadrant 2.
Although Coveys method is very rational, yet not all are able to apply it. Procrastinators are people who put off unpleasant tasks, and for them it is not easy to get the required motivation to do a certain task. One way to deal with procrastination is to use Brian Tracys method, which is popularized in his book: Eat That Frog! The method is to deal first thing every day with the hardest and most difficult task. Once you have finished the biggest task, it would be much easier for you to focus on other tasks during the rest of the day.
2- Planning:
To make the best possible use of time, you need to plan your day well in advance. Planning is important for your motivation and direction for better organization. At the beginning of every day, spend few minutes answering this question: What do I need to do today to make it happen? Get a Task Organizer or a To Do List and write down the tasks that you need to do in a single day.
Determine how long your tasks will take. If you have big tasks, you can break them down into smaller and more manageable tasks. Smaller tasks can be combined for better organization.
You can also plan for your week. Take 30 minutes to plan for your week in advance.
3-Setting Goals:
Setting goals is very important for time management. Determine targets for yourself and make sure they are realistic and achievable. You need to know where you are going in order to determine what steps to take and in what order. Goals setting requires time and effort, but this process will later save you a lot of time.
4- Setting Deadlines
In any project, finishing the task before its deadline will give you extra time for last minute changes. It is essential to schedule time according to different tasks in order to complete a project deadline. Like goals setting, deadlines have to be realistic.
5- Delegation of Responsibilities
The roles and responsibilities must be delegated. Learn to say NO at workplace. Don't do everything on your own. To stay productive, and minimize the stress, you have to learn the gentle art of saying No. Learn to say 'No', politely, and constructively. Learn the subtle art of saying, "yes" to the person, but "no" to the task. This skill helps you keep good relations with the group but in the same time assert yourself. According to Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, he learned to delegate from a young age, and this was a key for his success.
Time management has many tools and variations. Some tools like Eat that Frog are successful for some persons while for others, it is the opposite: they like to tackle first the easiest task before confronting the hardest. It depends on the personality of the individual.
Remember that time management starts with the commitment to change. The key to successful time management is planning and then sticking to that plan. This needs conditioning, or re-conditioning your thinking.
As Tonny Robbins says it: Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year  and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade!”

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