Seema Sahay was the guest host for a Simplilearn Career Masterclass entitled “Time Management: The Secret to Achieving Your Career Goals in 2022.” She is a career security and enhancement coach, having spent 18 years in the education and communications industries. And in this webinar, she focused on the fundamentals of time management and what today’s professionals can do to harness the importance of time effectively to meet their career goals.
Sahay began her presentation with a question about new year’s resolutions. She noted that we are all driven to make these unwavering promises to ourselves, but in the end, those resolutions often end in a whimper. What goes wrong, she asks? It’s not that people don’t have career goals, motivations, or a go-getter attitude. It’s that we often lack a single critical skill: managing our time.
As the Chinese proverb says, “An inch of time is worth an inch of gold, yet you can’t buy an inch of time with an inch of gold.” Not even an infinitesimal amount of time, she says. Time management must be broken down into small doable objectives, and if done right, it can be the #1 mantra for successful people.
Sahay breaks out the three key fundamentals of time management, as well as three actionable things you can do to achieve each one.
#1: Time Is Prioritization
The first mantra in time management is prioritization. We must learn to prioritize our daily tasks, and the most important ones should be tackled first. Demands on your time can be classified in a 2x2 matrix that was popularized by Steven Covey. It focuses on important vs. unimportant tasks, and urgent vs. non-urgent.
In the first quadrant are things we simply can’t ignore. They span everything from medical or financial crises, deadline-driven projects, or pressing problems that become urgent because you’re not prepared or you’ve procrastinated. If you live in this first quadrant, you’re always under constant pressure and can get burned out.
In quadrant II are things that are important but not urgent, such as long-range planning, career goals, and life goals. This includes how you invest in yourself such as your health, exercise, and good habits. We should be spending the maximum amount of time in quadrant two, she says, to upscale ourselves and help us reach our destination. The more time we spend in quadrant 2 the less time is spend in quadrant I.
Quadrant III encompasses the distractions in our life, such as phone calls, text, emails, or unproductive meetings. Some of these may seem urgent at the time but are not productive. It includes getting sucked into other people’s problems (like helping too much for someone else’s deadlines), so you need to learn to set firm boundaries and learn to (diplomatically) say no.
Finally, quadrant IV houses time wasting activities, such as leisure, long lunches, lingering, mobile, social, and so on. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “are they adding to our value and productivity?” And the answer is “no.”
Actionable Tips for Prioritizing
- Tip #1: Begin with your end in mind, and think about the long-term consequences of what you’re doing. Ask yourself, will this help or hinder me later on, say in a year or more? Always take a future time perspective.
- Tip #2: Remember the “4 D’s Principle”: Do, Defer (or Delay), Delegate, Delete (or Drop). For example, for things that require your attention, either do or delegate. If not needed at all, defer or just delete from your priority list.
- Tip #3: Remain guilt-free. It’s not always possible to remain in quadrants 1-3, so we shouldn’t feel guilty about spending time in quadrant 4. We go there to temporarily recharge, reenergize, and refresh. We are all humans, not automatons, so when you need a break, just do it and don’t worry about it.
#2: Time Is Self-Management
Managing your time comes down to managing your actions with respect to your time. The key is to optimize your time for any task. An example is measuring your energy level. If you have more energy in the morning vs. the evening, then do more in the morning to optimize your time when energy levels are high.
Actionable Tips for Self-management
- Tip #1. The DRY Principle: Don't Repeat Yourself. Stay away from repetitive things like excessive meetings or calls, and automate your tasks and processes to avoid repetition, such as using email templates using apps to manage your schedule.
- Tip #2. The Pomodoro Technique: This is the second most popular technique to manage time (after the 4 quadrants). Divide your workday and tasks into 25-minute chunks (a pomodoro). Focus on one thing, then move on after 5 min break. Complete four chunks for a Pomodori Cycle. This aids your concentration (you only have 25 min to complete), and eliminates all distractions (so you can give your best).
- Tip #3. Time-Blocking: Divide every waking hour and chart out all your activities in half-hour or one-hour blocks. Fill your time with activities, even things like breakfast so you can see where gaps are. And don’t overestimate: give yourself a smaller amount of time to push forward faster.
#3: Time Is Money
Think of time as a bank account. Into your account you have a credit of 24 hours (or 86,400 seconds); it’s a lot of time! How you use it is what matters most, and it replenishes every day. Make the most of every time period and don’t squander it away. It’s all about creating value from your time.
Actionable Tips for Value Creation
- Tip #1. Grow Your Net Worth: Think how much you’re worth today and how much you want to be worth in two years. Your net worth increases over time, so think about your own value and how to add to that value, such as shooting for a promotion. Remember that “self-investment is the best time of investment.” You become more valuable to yourself, and to your organization.
- Tip #2. Do a Time Audit: Only 20 percent of people do a monthly time audit to review and track how they spend and manage their time. We often feel like we don’t have control over our work situation, so go with the premise of setting goals that will increase your net worth.
- Tip #3. Equate Attention with Money: Employees spend two hours a day at work on distractions. So don’t waste your time. Turn off notifications and don’t keep checking your phone; they are a drain on your attention span. Keep meetings short and focused. And value your time by learning to say no.
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Final Thoughts on Time Management
Sahay offers a final thought from Jim Rohn: “Either you run your day, or your day runs you.” Anyone can learn to manage their time in the workplace and be more productive with the proper upskilling. Simplilearn’s courses in project management include the Digital Project Manager Master’s Program and PMP Certification Training. Your time is valuable, so get started today and make the most of it!