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Most of us dream about having a few extra hours in our day for taking care of business, relaxing, or engaging in the activities we most enjoy. But how can we make the most of our time when it seems as though there aren’t enough hours in the day? This instructive guide to time management is full of tips, techniques, and commonsense advice that will make anyone more productive.
In this newly updated edition of Real-World Time Management, Michael Dobson includes invaluable tips on setting priorities, tricks for staying on track, keeping a closed-door policy, avoiding interrupters, and techniques for reducing stress through time management. Readers will also learn how to handle distractions, stop procrastinating, delegate tasks, deal with meetings, and manage time effectively while traveling. Instructive and helpful, Real-World Time Management will help all readers organize their time—no matter how hectic their lives may seem.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT TIME
"For tyme ylost may nought recovered be."
More than 600 years ago, Geoffrey Chaucer—en route to Canterbury—marveled that time (once lost) could never be recovered. Through the centuries, men and women have continued the quest for that "ineffable ineluctable essence" of time control. Consultant Peter Drucker, a modern tour guide whose destination was not Canterbury but the industrial park called Good Management, said grimly: "Time is the scarcest resource. Unless it is managed, nothing can be managed."
DIAGNOSTIC TEST: YOU AND TIME
Often Sometimes Rarely
1. Do you handle each piece of paperwork only once?
2. Do you begin and finish projects on time?
3. Do people know the best time to reach you?
4. Do you do something every day that moves you closer to your long-range goals?
5. When you are interrupted, can you return to your work without losing momentum?
6. Do you deal effectively with long-winded callers?
7. Do you focus on preventing problems before they arise rather than solving them after they happen?
8. Do you meet deadlines with time to spare?
9. Are you on time to work, to meetings, and to events?
10. Do you delegate well?
11. Do you write daily to-do lists?
12. Do you finish all the items on your to-do list?
13. Do you update in writing your professional and personal goals?
14. Is your desk clean and organized?
15. Can you easily find items in your files?
WHAT THE TEST SAYS ABOUT YOU
Give yourself 4 points for every "often" you checked. Give yourself 2 points for every "sometimes." Give yourself 0 points for every "rarely."
Add your points and place yourself with the proper group:
49–60 You manage your time well. You are in control of most days and most situations. 37–48 You manage your time well some of the time. However, you need to be more consistent with time-saving strategies. Adding new techniques is allowed!
25–36 You are all too often a victim of time. Don't let each day manage you. Apply the techniques you learn here right away.
13–24 You are close to losing control. Probably too disorganized to enjoy quality time. A new priority-powered time plan is needed now!
0–12 You are overwhelmed, scattered, frustrated, and probably under a lot of stress. Put the techniques in this book into practice. Flag chapters—for special study—that treat your problem areas.
THE CONTRADICTIONS OF TIME
Yes, time can be managed, but not the way you manage other resources. In fact, "time management" may be a misconception. In many cases, time manages you.
Business is concerned with wise management of resources: capital, physical, human, information, and time. The first four can be manipulated. You can increase your workforce, decrease it, or change its composition. With capital, you can increase it, save it, spend it, or hold steady. You can invest it in a new plant or use it to fund a branch office. If you need more, you can issue public stock, get a loan, or increase your product prices.
But time, the "ineffable resource," is unique. It is finite. There is only so much time, and no matter what you do, you can't get more. It's the only resource that must be spent (invested or wasted) the instant you get it. And you must spend at one never-varying rate: 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour. No discounts, no inflation.
Thus, the very notion of time control is a paradox. For you can only manage yourself in relation to time. You cannot choose whether to spend it, but only how. Once you waste time, it's gone—and it cannot be replaced.
In fact, time was created by humankind as a convenience—an expensive convenience when you buy it from someone else. In Maryland a man pays his doctor $100 for keeping him waiting. In New York a woman pays someone $300 an hour to do her shopping—out of a catalogue. For under $200 you can have a fax machine put in your care, alongside your cellular phone.
What has all this gained us? Not more time. We already know there isn't any more. Not more freedom. If you pay someone to pick up your laundry while you stay late at the office, you're only trading one chore for another.
But do not despair. Time management techniques can save you at least an hour a day, probably two. But the real question is, Will you use those two extra hours to good advantage?
Time is the basic stuff of the universe. Most people feel they're wasting barrels of this irreplaceable commodity. They're right. Good management of time is probably the single most important factor in managing yourself, your work, and indeed the work of others. Once you stop trying to wrestle time to the ground, its grip on you eases. Don't try to "conquer" time. Work with it. Make it your friend.
Time management, like other management disciplines, responds to analysis and planning. To place yourself on good terms with time, you must know what problems you encounter in applying it wisely, and what causes those problems. From this base you can improve your effectiveness in and around time.
Time management, a personal process, must fit your style and circumstances. Changing old habits requires strong commitment; however, if you choose to apply the principles, you can obtain the rewards.
Where is the best place to begin digging into priority-oriented time management? Check the ways you control time available to you now. No one has total control over a daily schedule. Someone or something always makes demands. However, you have as much control as anyone else—and probably more than you realize. Even within structured time you have opportunities to select which tasks to handle at what priorities. In exercising your discretionary choices, you begin to control your time.
TIME: AN ENIGMA WRAPPED IN A RIDDLE
Probably everyone has said at one time or another: "I would if I had the time," or, "There just isn't enough time," or, "Someday, I'll do that when I have time." The idea that people are about to run out of time is widespread. But that just isn't true. It's a paradox. Although time is not in short supply, it must be rationed.
Consider the supply question. Your basic truth about supply is this: You have as much time as Methuselah had—24 hours each day. Moreover, no one since Methuselah has been richer in time than you. Further, time's distribution would delight the most zealous egalitarian. It never discriminates regardless of sex, sect, station, or degree. So worrying about the supply of time is pointless. The supply has never been better.
Then why this need to ration a commodity every person has in full measure? For one reason—different rules apply to two classes of time: (1) time that's under your personal control, and (2) time you've contracted to another for pay.
ON YOUR OWN TIME
Your own time is not nearly as scarce as widespread wailing indicates. Say you work 40 hours a week for nearly 49 weeks per year (52 weeks less 2 weeks of vacation and six holidays). In a year your work time comes to 1,952 hours. Deduct that from your total inventory of time—8,760 (365 x 24) hours a year. Then deduct 488 hours for traveling to and from your job, 1,095 hours for meals (3 hours a day every day of the year), another 365 hours for dressing and undressing (1 hour a day), and 8 hours' sleep a night—count 2,920 hours for that. Your total deduction: 6,820 hours. Subtract 6,820 from 8,760 and you get 1,940 hours to do as you please. That's nearly 81 days of 24 hours apiece, 22 percent of the entire year!
Q&A ON EFFECTIVENESS
Q. Isn't good time management at bottom what you'd expect from any efficient person?
A. To be efficient is to use the fewest resources for a given task. Effectiveness is a function of goal accomplishment (either you reach your objective or you don't). Many people become quite efficient doing things that don't need to be done in the first place. Determine first what you should be doing. Then ask how it can be done most efficiently. Do the right things right.
Q. Sure, I see using time management for important tasks. Isn't that enough without all the small stuff, too?
A. Day-to-day activities need the most planning. Keep a daily time record. Identify the patterns. Use this information in scheduling. Emphasize early actions. As the morning goes, so does the day. Recall the old pol's axiom: "As Maine goes, so goes the nation."
Q. You tell me to work on priorities. But they won't let me!
A. You must control not only priorities but them (whomever they are). When tempted to deviate from your plan, ask, "Is what I am about to do more important than what I planned to do?" If more important, go right ahead. If not (usually the case), look for ways to postpone, reschedule, or delegate.
Q. Can't most competent managers identify their biggest time wasters?
A. Without a system, it's hard. Try reconstructing last week—you'll see. Habits are automatic. Your time patterns often become inconsistent with what you're trying to accomplish. Most managers waste at least two hours every day but don't know where. Keep a time log. Determine where time is being wasted. You'll be surprised!
Q. I'd like to get time organized, I really would. But won't I then miss out on spontaneous opportunities?
A. Priority-powered managers believe in planned spontaneity. Once you're on top of things, take Wednesday morning off. Do whatever strikes your fancy. Schedule fun in your life. Manage activities better so you gain more time to do other things you enjoy. Good time management means decreasing marginal commitments and increasing true priorities.
Q. Isn't writing out objectives a waste of time? I could be doing—not scribbling.
A. Writing out your plan is always a good investment. ("If you don't know where you're going, you'll get there in a hurry!") Too often mental notes are vague and ill defined. You won't forget written goals. Writing increases commitment. The greater your commitment, the more likely you will accomplish your goals.
Q. Can't most managers find many ways to save time on their own?
A. Yes, to some extent. But your need is to invest time. There is no way to save time. It cannot be banked for the future. All time is real time. It must all be utilized now. Waste it, or invest it. The choice is yours.
Q. My astrological sign is inconsistent with being organized. Doesn't that mean I'm hopeless with time control?
A. To priority-activate time is to take action on purpose instead of settling for random selection. We're sure you're kidding about your horoscope. Your own free will is the critical element.
Preface to the First Edition vii
THINKING ABOUT TIME
Chapter 1 How to Think About Time 1
Chapter 2 In the Field: How Time Managers Make It Work 7
GETTING A GRIP ON TIME
Chapter 3 The Daily To-Do List: Your Basic Tool 15
Chapter 4 Planning: The Little Parachute That Opens the Big Parachute 21
Chapter 5 Sensible Project Management for Small to Medium Projects 27
Chapter 6 Effective, Yes! Efficient, No! Key to Priority Time 41
Chapter 7 Save Priority Time by Reducing Stress 46
Chapter 8 How to Avoid Self-Inflicted Delay 53
MANAGING TIME WASTERS
Chapter 9 The Meeting: Opportunity or Time Waster? 59
Chapter 10 Starving Out the Time Gobblers 64
Chapter 11 Delegation: Giving It to George and Georgina to Do 68
Chapter 12 Communications: Time-Saving Plus or Boring Minus? 74
Chapter 13 Why Do We Procrastinate—And What Can We Do About It? 81
CONTROLLING YOUR TOOLS
Chapter 14 The Telephone: Tool or Time Thief? 86
Chapter 15 Operate Your Workstation or It’ll Operate You 91
Chapter 16 Taking Control of Technology 99
TAMING TRAVEL TIME
Chapter 17 The On-the-Go Manager Prioritizes Travel Time 104
Chapter 18 March of Time in the Global Village 108