Time management is a way to experience more control over your time. This sense of control reduces stress, improves your health and improves performance. Therefore, a win-win!
Important components for time management are determining your work content and planning and prioritizing tasks. Below, you will find 4 exercises that can help you to do so.
Exercise 1: Time spent
Because it can be quite difficult to know how much time you spend on each task during a (work) day, it can help to keep track of which activities you spend time on and how important and urgent those activities are. You can use an Eisenhower Matrix to determine what you should prioritize. You can divide tasks according to urgency and importance. You can use the following matrix for work:
|Importance +||Importance –|
|Urgency +||First task on to do list||Don’t do the task or pass it on to someone else|
|Urgency –||Plan in a time for the task||Don’t do the task at all and return it|
Keep track of what you spend time on during the week. Indicate how many minutes an activity took, what the activity entailed, and evaluate how important and urgent the activity was. You can also add an extra column in which you indicate whether the activity gave you energy (+) or cost you energy (-). You can find an example of such an overview below:
|08:15-08:45||Catch up with colleagues||–||–||+++|
|20:30-21:00||Called a colleague about a forgotten email||+||+|
Based on your weekly overview, you can investigate whether you want to make changes to your planning. For example, by doing more tasks that give instead of cost you energy, or by using your time differently. You can also compare the total amount of time spent on an activity to the total amount of working time of the entire week. In this way, you can calculate how much time you spend on each activity and whether you think that’s appropriate.
Exercise 2: Estimating Time
Research has shown that people have a ‘planning fallacy’; we are optimistic planners, which means we underestimate the time required. By practicing planning your time, you will learn to make better estimates. You can do that in the following way.
Perform exercise 1 (again) and record the time spent on each activity, but, this time, start by estimating how much time you think you will need for each activity separately. Write down how much time you actually needed afterwards. Then, write down the possible reasons for needing more time than you expected, as well.
Was your estimate wrong?
- Did you not have the energy to carry out the activity according to your schedule?
- Did you miss information that prevented you from carrying out the activity according to plan?
- Were there people who kept you from the activity?
Afterwards, you can draw a conclusion about the planned time and the associated process. Maybe you needed more time, were distracted or maybe your colleagues, for example, did not provide the correct documents.
Exercise 3: Job position content
It is also important that the activities you do are appropriate for your position at work. Study an up-to-date description of your job position or look up specific work agreements and see if your current work matches this. There may be several options that you can then discuss with your manager:
- There is no current job description: You work according to informal agreements. It is wise to draw up a realistic job description yourself. Define the tasks you are expected to do and make a time estimate for them.
- The tasks performed correspond to your job description, but you are still short of time: Take note of which points of the description are unfeasible or unrealistic.
- The tasks performed do not match the job description: You do more than is asked of you. Consider why you are performing these tasks. Is that because of others or are you doing this on your own initiative?
- The tasks performed do not match the job description: You do less than is asked of you and do not perform certain tasks. Find out why this is the case.
Exercise 4: Planning
An important strategy for time management is systematic planning. You can do this as follows:
- Plan important things far in advance. Make a global plan for the coming year in which you include, for example, recurring milestones and/or important or busy periods. Then, make a monthly plan. In this, you can record appointments, tasks and reminders to put in your date planner.
- Make a to-do list. This is where you list all tasks that need to be done soon or in the near future, including any deadlines.
- Make a weekly schedule. Every Friday afternoon, take time to create a weekly schedule for the upcoming week in which you determine which activities you want to do on which day. You can make good use of the to-do list here.
- Determine whether tasks are urgent or important.
- Divide larger tasks into subtasks and schedule them.
- Try to schedule no more than 60% of your tasks, leaving room for spontaneous tasks.
- Allow time for delays/setbacks. Keep 15 minutes free between each appointment, for example.
- Take your personal preferences into account. Some people want to start off calmly, while others are bursting with energy in the morning.
- Reserve the last 15 minutes of your working day to review tomorrow’s schedule.
These exercises may require some time investment; however, they will give you a lot of insight and probably save you time and energy in the long run. Remind yourself to do the exercises by setting reminders in NiceDay.
Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.