William Penn, who was both the founder of Pennsylvania Colony and a visionary leader of religious freedom and democracy in our country, astutely observed, "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."
This truth reverberates in the recent Oakland, California uproar where city leaders missed crucial deadlines, failing to apply for $200 million worth of state grants earmarked for addressing critical safety issues on time (Fox News). Similarly, a 11th-hour red tape entanglement led to NOAA's failure to meet the deadline for producing plans to manage Lake Okeechobee's water levels, a critical factor in the Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to mitigate the risks posed by rising water levels, which threaten local estuaries (St. Lucie New-Tribune).
Modern examples of mismanaged time and resources abound, so it's a great time to consider a few hacks to manage our own own corners better (whether that is mastering time management as part of a professional team, or prioritizing tasks for our home office, or helping our students to pursue academic excellence with the help of a few time management hacks).
As Stephen Covey, the renowned author, leadership expert, and educator, wisely remarked, "The key is not spending time, but in investing it."
The Five Hacks for Time Management:
1. Prioritize Tasks Better with the Eisenhower Matrix:
The Eisenhower Matrix, a tactical time managemet tool, categorizes tasks based on their urgency and importance. Use the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, to categorize tasks into four quadrants:
Urgent and important (do these immediately)
Important but not urgent (schedule these)
Urgent but not important (delegate these if possible)
Neither urgent nor important (consider eliminating or postponing)
Focusing on what's truly important and not just urgent can prevent time-wasting and stress.
2. Allocate Time Strategically with Blocking:
Allocate specific blocks of time in your schedule for different tasks or activities. For example, you might have a block for email management, a block for meetings, a block for focused work, and so on. Stick to these time blocks as closely as possible to ensure you allocate your time effectively.
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique to Improve Focus:
The Pomodoro Technique involves working in short, focused bursts (typically 25 minutes) followed by a short break (5 minutes). After four cycles, take a longer break (15-30 minutes). This technique can help maintain your concentration and prevent burnout.
4. Set SMART Goals to Manage Time Effectively:
Ensure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). This clarity makes it easier to prioritize tasks and measure your progress. When you have clear goals, it's easier to allocate your time effectively.
5. Minimize Distractions to Master Time Management: Identify common distractions and take steps to minimize them:
Turn off non-essential notifications on your devices.
Create a dedicated workspace that is free from distractions.
Use website blockers or apps to limit time spent on distracting websites or social media.
Communicate your focus time to colleagues and family members to minimize interruptions.
Time management isn't just a matter of finding the right time management hack, the perfect time management technique, or the magic time management bullet. It's also about how you approach the task.
The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu observed: "Time is a created thing. To say 'I don't have time' is like saying 'I don't want to."
So, if you are a professional who needs to manage your task list better, or if you are a student who needs to manage your assignments better - pick a hack! Embrace whatever time management hack works best, align your priorities, and make every moment count!
Nelson Notes: If you need help with time management including accountability, handouts, worksheets, and a coach - that's what we do and we'd love to hear from you!