Time management

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Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities - especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. It involves of various demands upon a person relating to work, social life, family, hobbies, personal interests, and commitments with the finite nature of time. Using time effectively gives the person "choice" on spending or managing activities at their own time and expediency. [1] Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects, and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually, the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Time management is usually a necessity in any project management as it determines the project completion time and scope.


Cultural views of time management

Differences in the way a culture views time can affect the way their time is managed. For example, a linear time view is a way of conceiving time as flowing from one moment to the next in a linear fashion. This linear perception of time is predominant in America along with most Northern European countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, and England. [2] People in these cultures tend to place a large value on productive time management and tend to avoid decisions or actions that would result in wasted time. [2] This linear view of time correlates to these cultures being more "monochronic", or preferring to do only one thing at a time. Generally speaking, this cultural view leads to a better focus on accomplishing a singular task and hence, more productive time management.

Another cultural time view is the multi-active time view. In multi-active cultures, most people feel that the more activities or tasks being done at once the better. This creates a sense of happiness. [2] Multi-active cultures are "polychronic" or prefer to do multiple tasks at once. This multi-active time view is prominent in most Southern European countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy. [2] In these cultures, people often tend to spend time on things they deem to be more important such as placing a high importance on finishing social conversations. [2] In business environments, they often pay little attention to how long meetings last, rather the focus is on having high-quality meetings. In general, the cultural focus tends to be on synergy and creativity over efficiency. [3]

A final cultural time view is a cyclical time view. In cyclical cultures, time is considered neither linear nor event related. Because days, months, years, seasons, and events happen in regular repetitive occurrences, time is viewed as cyclical. In this view, time is not seen as wasted because it will always come back later, hence there is an unlimited amount of it. [2] This cyclical time view is prevalent throughout most countries in Asia, including Japan and China. It is more important in cultures with cyclical concepts of time to focus on completing tasks correctly, therefore most people will spend more time thinking about decisions and the impact they will have, before acting on their plans. [3] Most people in cyclical cultures tend to understand that other cultures have different perspectives of time and are cognizant of this when acting on a global stage. [4]

Creating an effective environment

Some time-management literature stresses tasks related to creating an environment conducive to "real" effectiveness. These strategies include principles such as:

Also, the timing of tackling tasks is important. As tasks requiring high levels of concentration and mental energy are often done at the beginning of the day when a person is more refreshed. Literature[ which? ] also focuses on overcoming chronic psychological issues such as procrastination.

Excessive and chronic inability to manage time effectively may result from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). [5] Diagnostic criteria include a sense of underachievement, difficulty getting organized, trouble getting started, trouble managing many simultaneous projects, and trouble with follow-through. [6] Daniel Amen focuses on the prefrontal cortex which is the most recently evolved part of the brain. It manages the functions of attention span, impulse management, organization, learning from experience, and self-monitoring, among others. Some authors[ quantify ] argue that changing the way the prefrontal cortex works is possible and offer a solution. [7]

Setting priorities and goals

Time management strategies are often associated with the recommendation to set personal goals. The literature stresses themes such as:

These goals are recorded and may be broken down into a project, an action plan, or a simple task list. For individual tasks or for goals, an importance rating may be established, deadlines may be set, and priorities assigned. This process results in a plan with a task list, schedule, or calendar of activities. Authors may recommend daily, weekly, monthly, or other planning periods, associated with different scope of planning or review. This is done in various ways, as follows:

ABCD analysis

A technique that has been used in business management for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, C and D—hence the name. Activities are ranked by these general criteria:

Each group is then rank-ordered by priority - to further refine the prioritization, some individuals choose to then force-rank all "B" items as either "A" or "C". ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups. [9]

Pareto analysis

The Pareto principle is the idea that 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. Applied to productivity, it means that 80% of results can be achieved by doing 20% of tasks. [10] If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher. [11]

The Eisenhower Method

A basic "Eisenhower box" to help evaluate urgency and importance. Items may be placed at more precise points within each quadrant. MerrillCoveyMatrix.png
A basic "Eisenhower box" to help evaluate urgency and importance. Items may be placed at more precise points within each quadrant.

The "Eisenhower Method" or "Eisenhower Principle" is a method that utilizes the principles of importance and urgency to organize priorities and workload. This method stems from a quote attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower: "I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." [12] Eisenhower did not claim this insight for his own, but attributed it to an (unnamed) "former college president." [13]

Using the Eisenhower Decision Principle, tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent, [14] [15] and then placed in according quadrants in an Eisenhower Matrix (also known as an "Eisenhower Box" or "Eisenhower Decision Matrix" [16] ). Tasks in the quadrants are then handled as follows.

  1. Important/Urgent quadrant tasks are done immediately and personally, [17] e.g. crises, deadlines, problems. [16]
  2. Important/Not Urgent quadrant tasks get an end date and are done personally, [17] e.g. relationships, planning, recreation. [16]
  3. Unimportant/Urgent quadrant tasks are delegated, [17] e.g. interruptions, meetings, activities. [16]
  4. Unimportant/Not Urgent quadrant tasks are dropped, [17] e.g. time wasters, pleasant activities, trivia. [16]

POSEC method

POSEC is an acronym for "Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing". The method dictates a template which emphasizes an average individual's immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one's personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities. [18]

Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization, which mirrors Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

  1. Prioritize your time and define your life by goals.
  2. Organize things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful (family and finances).
  3. Streamline things you may not like to do, but must do (work and chores).
  4. Economize things you should do or may even like to do, but they're not pressingly urgent (pastimes and socializing).
  5. Contribute by paying attention to the few remaining things that make a difference (social obligations).

Elimination of non-priorities

Time management also covers how to eliminate tasks that do not provide value to the individual or organization.

The software executive Elisabeth Hendrickson asserts [19] that rigid adherence to task lists can create a "tyranny of the to-do list" that forces one to "waste time on unimportant activities".

Part of setting priorities and goals is the emotion "worry," and its function is to ignore the present to fixate on a future that never arrives, which leads to the fruitless expense of one's time and energy. It is an unnecessary cost or a false aspect that can interfere with plans due to human factors. The Eisenhower Method is a strategy used to compete with worry and dull-imperative tasks. [20] Worry, manifested as stress, emerges in reaction to a set of environmental factors. Understanding that this reaction is not inherently tied to one's own identity gives the individual the possibility to effectively manage these stressors. Athletes under a coach call this management as "putting on the game face." [21]

Change is hard, and daily life patterns are the most deeply ingrained habits of all. To eliminate non-priorities in study time, it is suggested to divide the tasks, capture the moments, review task handling method, postpone unimportant tasks (understanding that a task's current relevancy and sense of urgency reflect the wants of the person rather than the task's importance), manage life balance (rest, sleep, leisure), and cheat leisure and nonproductive time (hearing audio taping of lectures, going through presentations of lectures when in a queue, etc.). [22]

Certain unnecessary factors that affect time management are habits, lack of task definition (lack of clarity), over-protectiveness of the work, the guilt of not meeting objectives and subsequent avoidance of present tasks, defining tasks with higher expectations than their worth (over-qualifying), focusing on matters that have an apparent positive outlook without assessing their importance to personal needs, tasks that require support and time, sectional interests, and conflicts, etc. [23] A habituated systematic process becomes a device that the person can use with ownership for effective time management.

Implementation of goals

A task list (also called a to-do list or "things-to-do") is a list of tasks to be completed, such as chores or steps toward completing a project. It is an inventory tool which serves as an alternative or supplement to memory.

Task lists are used in self-management,business management, project management, and software development. It may involve more than one list.

When one of the items on a task list is accomplished, the task is checked or crossed off. The traditional method is to write these on a piece of paper with a pen or pencil, usually on a note pad or clip-board. Task lists can also have the form of paper or software checklists.

Writer Julie Morgenstern suggests "do's and don'ts" of time management that include:

Numerous digital equivalents are now available, including personal information management (PIM) applications and most PDAs. There are also several web-based task list applications, many of which are free.

Task list organization

Task lists are often diarized and tiered. The simplest tiered system includes a general to-do list (or task-holding file) to record all the tasks the person needs to accomplish and a daily to-do list which is created each day by transferring tasks from the general to-do list. An alternative is to create a "not-to-do list", to avoid unnecessary tasks. [24]

Task lists are often prioritized in the following ways.

A completely different approach which argues against prioritizing altogether was put forward by British author Mark Forster in his book "Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management". This is based on the idea of operating "closed" to-do lists, instead of the traditional "open" to-do list. He argues that the traditional never-ending to-do lists virtually guarantees that some of your work will be left undone. This approach advocates getting all your work done, every day, and if you are unable to achieve it, that helps you diagnose where you are going wrong and what needs to change. [29]

Various writers have stressed potential difficulties with to-do lists such as the following.

Software applications

Many companies use time tracking software to track an employee's working time, billable hours, etc., e.g. law practice management software.

Many software products for time management support multiple users. They allow the person to give tasks to other users and use the software for communication and to prioritize tasks.

Task-list applications may be thought of as lightweight personal information manager or project management software.

Modern task list applications may have built-in task hierarchy (tasks are composed of subtasks which again may contain subtasks), may support multiple methods of filtering and ordering the list of tasks, and may allow one to associate arbitrarily long notes for each task.[ citation needed ]

Time management systems

Time management systems often include a time clock or web-based application used to track an employee's work hours. Time management systems give employers insights into their workforce, allowing them to see, plan and manage employees' time. Doing so allows employers to manage labor costs and increase productivity. A time management system automates processes, which eliminates paperwork and tedious tasks.

GTD (Getting Things Done)

Getting Things Done was created by David Allen. The basic idea behind this method is to finish all the small tasks immediately and a big task is to be divided into smaller tasks to start completing now. The reasoning behind this is to avoid the information overload or "brain freeze" which is likely to occur when there are hundreds of tasks. The thrust of GTD is to encourage the user to get their tasks and ideas out and on paper and organized as quickly as possible so they're easy to manage and see. Getting Things Done Website


Francesco Cirillo's "Pomodoro Technique" was originally conceived in the late 1980s and gradually refined until it was later defined in 1992. The technique is the namesake of a Pomodoro (Italian for tomato) shaped kitchen timer initially used by Cirillo during his time at university. The "Pomodoro" is described as the fundamental metric of time within the technique and is traditionally defined as being 30 minutes long, consisting of 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break time. Cirillo also recommends a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes after every four Pomodoros. Through experimentation involving various workgroups and mentoring activities, Cirillo determined the "ideal Pomodoro" to be 20–35 minutes long. [33] [ self-published source? ]

Time management is related to the following concepts.

Organizational time management is the science of identifying, valuing and reducing time cost wastage within organizations. It identifies, reports and financially values sustainable time, wasted time, and effective time within an organization and develops the business case to convert wasted time into productive time through the funding of products, services, projects, or initiatives as a positive return on investment.

See also



Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Procrastination</span> Avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished by a certain deadline

Procrastination is the act of unnecessarily and voluntarily delaying or postponing something despite knowing that there will be negative consequences for doing so. It is a common human experience involving delays in everyday chores or even putting off important tasks such as attending an appointment, submitting a job report or academic assignment, or broaching a stressful issue with a partner. It is often perceived as a negative trait due to its hindering effect on one's productivity, associated with depression, low self-esteem, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy, However, it can also be considered a wise response to certain demands that could present risky or negative outcomes or require waiting for new information to arrive.

Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. "a lack of proper parental and school discipline"

In software development, agile practices include requirements discovery and solutions improvement through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams with their customer(s)/end user(s), Popularized in the 2001 Manifesto for Agile Software Development, these values and principles were derived from and underpin a broad range of software development frameworks, including Scrum and Kanban.

<i>Getting Things Done</i> Personal productivity system and 2001 book

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a personal productivity system developed by David Allen and published in a book of the same name. GTD is described as a time management system. Allen states "there is an inverse relationship between things on your mind and those things getting done".

In agile principles, timeboxing allocates a maximum unit of time to an activity, called a timebox, within which a planned activity takes place. It is used by agile principles-based project management approaches and for personal time management.

<i>First Things First</i> (book)

First Things First (1994) is a self-help book written by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill. It offers a time management approach that, if established as a habit, is intended to help readers achieve "effectiveness" by aligning themselves to "First Things". The approach is a further development of the approach popularized in Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and other titles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Study skills</span> Approaches applied to learning

Study skills or study strategies are approaches applied to learning. Study skills are an array of skills which tackle the process of organizing and taking in new information, retaining information, or dealing with assessments. They are discrete techniques that can be learned, usually in a short time, and applied to all or most fields of study. More broadly, any skill which boosts a person's ability to study, retain and recall information which assists in and passing exams can be termed a study skill, and this could include time management and motivational techniques.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Task management</span> Process of managing a task through its life cycle

Task management is the process of managing a task through its lifecycle. It involves planning, testing, tracking, and reporting. Task management can help either individual achieve goals, or groups of individuals collaborate and share knowledge for the accomplishment of collective goals. Tasks are also differentiated by complexity, from low to high.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scrum (software development)</span> Software development framework

Scrum is an agile project management system commonly used in software development and other industries.

In management, an action item is a documented event, task, activity, or action that needs to take place. Action items are discrete units that can be handled by a single person.

Stakeholder analysis in conflict resolution, business administration, environmental health sciences decision making, industrial ecology, public administration, and project management is the process of assessing a system and potential changes to it as they relate to relevant and interested parties known as stakeholders. This information is used to assess how the interests of those stakeholders should be addressed in a project plan, policy, program, or other action. Stakeholder analysis is a key part of stakeholder management. A stakeholder analysis of an issue consists of weighing and balancing all of the competing demands on a firm by each of those who have a claim on it, in order to arrive at the firm's obligation in a particular case. A stakeholder analysis does not preclude the interests of the stakeholders overriding the interests of the other stakeholders affected, but it ensures that all affected will be considered.

Mark Forster is a British author best known for three books on time management and productivity. A business coach until he retired on 24 November 2008, in the past he has also worked for the British Army, Ministry of Defence and the Church of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Project management triangle</span> Model of the constraints of project management

The project management triangle is a model of the constraints of project management. While its origins are unclear, it has been used since at least the 1950s. It contends that:

  1. The quality of work is constrained by the project's budget, deadlines and scope (features).
  2. The project manager can trade between constraints.
  3. Changes in one constraint necessitate changes in others to compensate or quality will suffer.
<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pomodoro Technique</span> Time management method

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a kitchen timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a university student.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to project management:

TaskCracker for Outlook is a Microsoft Outlook add-in for task- and time-management. It allows managing tasks visually within Microsoft Outlook interface. It is based on the Eisenhower Method of arranging tasks by urgency and importance. It is also loosely based on David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology of improving productivity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Priority Matrix</span> Time management software application

Priority Matrix is a time management software application that is supported on a number of platforms, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS. It is based on the Eisenhower Method of arranging tasks by urgency and importance in a 2x2 matrix. Priority Matrix offers a cloud-based synchronization of data, allowing for data management across multiple devices. The application is also loosely based on David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology of improving productivity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Bailey (author)</span> Canadian writer

Chris Bailey is a Canadian writer and productivity consultant, and the author of The Productivity Project (2016), Hyperfocus (2018) and How to Calm Your Mind (2022).

Timeblocking or time blocking is a productivity technique for personal time management where a period of time—typically a day or week—is divided into smaller segments or blocks for specific tasks or to-dos. It integrates the function of a calendar with that of a to-do list. It is a kind of scheduling.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">List (information)</span> Ordered listing of items in a collection

A list is a set of discrete items of information collected and set forth in some format for utility, entertainment, or other purposes. A list may be memorised in any number of ways, including existing only in the mind of the list-maker, but lists are frequently written down on paper, or maintained electronically. Lists are "most frequently a tool", and "one does not read but only uses a list: one looks up the relevant information in it, but usually does not need to deal with it as a whole".


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Further reading