Is there really such a thing as time management?

by Ann Marie Walker, Career Services Advisor/Workshop Specialist

Annie Walker

Job search is a full time job and as such can become overwhelming and time consuming.  While there is no way to create more than 24 hours in a day, it is possible to make conscious choices to help eliminate some of the stress that comes with dealing with today’s fast paced job search environment.  Job search is a process and processes run smoothly when effectively planned and initiated.

Get Organized

  • Take a week and look at where you spend your time.  I can hear most of you now, “Here she is talking about time management and she’s asking me to spend MORE time figuring out where I spend my time!”   Actually, it may be a simple matter of writing down (if you don’t already) what you do during the course of a week to get most of the information you need.   It will give you a good idea of where the large “chunks” of your time are spent.  Factor in your project goals, the daily drive, household duties, leisure activities and any other activities where you spend your time and you’ll have a pretty good picture of what you’re doing (and what you’re not doing).   Look at the tasks and prioritize them on a scale of 1-5 (1 = a catastrophic event would have occurred if you didn’t finish and and 5 = doesn’t matter if it gets done that morning or next month).  Put an estimate of the time it will take to complete each task and the results!  Where are you getting the best results for your time spent? 
  • Take a look at the space where you do your work.  Is it organized so that you don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to find that resume, company data, phone number or Johnny’s soccer schedule? 
  • And about your email…you know, the “black hole” where everything goes in and nothing comes back out?  Schedule some set times to check your email (twice a day for 30-60 minutes works well for many).  If you are a procrastinator and have a ton of email to go through, sort it by sender.  That way you’ll be able to see all the notes from a particular person.  Many times, we play email tag and end up responding to something in one note that is already resolved in another.  

Communicate Effectively

  • Take the time to understand how to best communicate with those around you.  We all have our preferences and communication styles.   Understanding that someone may need to see all the facts, while others need to understand the “why,” may save time in trying to resolve miscommunications.  There are many tools out there to help you gain awareness around communication styles – but that’s for another article.
  • Make sure that you include contact information in your emails, phone, fax, website, etc. so that others don’t have to hunt for this information.  We’ve all received phone calls from people who leave us a message with a request and then don’t tell us how to contact them.
  • Always ask the question, “what is the purpose and how does this impact me” when doing an activity.  Be diligent in where you spend your time.  Can it be done differently?  Would it be more effective to simply pick up the phone and give/get the information you need directly?  The same goes for setting up networking/meetings.  Use good meeting procedures (agendas, facilitation, meeting notes) to make the best use of your time and others. 

“Chunk It”

  • Set aside larger blocks of time for tasks that require creative or strategic thinking.  Every time you start and stop, you lose time and thinking power trying to get refocused. 
  • For tasks that are sequenced (processing emails, invoicing, setting up meetings) set up a time when you can handle them all at once.  Have a checklist to guide your work. 
  • Use “found time” (waiting on hold or in line, traveling, being early for a meeting) to do miscellaneous tasks that don’t fit into a particular project but still need to be done. 

Know Yourself and How You Work

Knowing yourself and how you work best is critical.   When is your energy level at its highest?  What type of environment is most conducive to your productivity?  Are you a detail person or someone who thinks “big picture”?  Are you a “planner” or “crisis manager”?  The answers to these questions will help you define how to manage your time. 

Doing the most critical tasks when your energy is highest will allow you to be more productive and meet your foremost goals.  If you are someone who needs a quiet atmosphere to work, strive to achieve that to the best of your ability.  Let the answering machine pick up the phone, schedule “office” time on your calendar (and stick to it if at all possible!).  If necessary, go to a different room or somewhere else away from your home.  Strive for a balance between being a detail person or someone who thinks “big picture”.  There’s a need for both.   The same can be said for being a “planner” or “crisis manager”.  Don’t to go the extremes on either one; try to have a balance of setting goals and being able to respond as things change.

And this too will change…

Speaking of change, there’s that saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men…”   Despite our best efforts, life does happen and things do change.  Good time management isn’t about getting stressed when things don’t go as they should.  It’s about having made the choices that will allow you to make the best use of your time and knowing that it won’t be perfect.  There are going to be times when you will not be able to effectively manage your time.  Remember the Pareto Principle:  80% of your activities will result in only 20% of your outcomes, while 20% of your efforts affect 80% of your results. 

Take stock of where you spend your time, review your goals and prioritize what you want to accomplish.  Know what you need to help you plan your time and start working on setting up a strategy that will let you work effectively and productively.  Remember to take the time to play and relax.  We all need to step back and renew in order to be able to start forward again.

We may not have 24 hours in a day available but we do have the ability to choose how we spend them.

Until you value yourself, you will not value your time.  Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.  – Scott Peck

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Ann Marie Walker is the Workshop Specialist at RochesterWorks.  She is also a Coach/Consultant in Fairport, NY specializing in Personal and Team Development, Career Counseling and Motivational Speaking.  A Registered Success Team Leader, Certified Professional Behavior Analyst and Qualified Administrator of the Myers Briggs Indicator.  Using her extensive experience in the corporate and private business sectors, Annie works with teams and individuals to achieve their goals by developing alliances and promoting crucial conversations.

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