Time Management and Priorities
In this busy time of year, we often lose track of time, miss events due to an over busy schedule, and stress out over all the tasks we think we need to do. Time management is a common theme. Often, people suggest different tactics. But the most common need is a better connection with our priorities and with our own styles.
Harvard Business Review recently published an issue dedicated to time management. Yes, you can find articles in there with suggestions for different tactics. These can be very useful for adding structure to one's day. Depending on one's style, any number of these suggestions can help one accomplish more and wind up the day with a more positive outlook.
The real issue with "Time Management" is that we are spending time on activities that do not match our top priorities. We spend time in meetings that are poorly designed, are at the wrong time, have the wrong people in them, do not have a clear agenda, etc. We accept interruptions from people who might find a better solution on their own. We allow others to change our schedules when we really need some time to think. All of these are issues with priorities more than "Time Management".
We don't always know ourselves. This is true partly because of how we change over the years. When we have not taken the time to reflect, we may not know how much our priorities have changed. Most of us are not the college aged people we were when we first started our work lives. Our capabilities have changed; what we value has changed; and our ability to party like a college freshman has changed. So, what are our values today?
Defining our priorities takes time. It takes the time to know ourselves. It takes the time to clear our minds of all the noise and messages we received from others. I know one person who took a several day silent retreat and reported that it took days to clear his mind of all the other things. We do well to schedule time on a regular basis to clear our minds of the stress and worries. Surprisingly, one proven way to help identify priorities is to donate time to worthwhile charities especially those that help the poor. By being part of the rest of society, we better see what our values are.
One deep issue is the conflict between work and personal / family time. Again, this requires looking at our priorities. There are many ways we can use technology and delegating to meet some of the conflicts. But, the decisions of which events to attend and which to delegate need to reflect our priorities.
Inc. magazine reports that Warren Buffet puts time as the most important asset we have. We do well to work with the right people, schedule rest into our lives, and schedule properly the other actions. Sometimes, having an empty schedule is the best thing you can do for your future.