Tips for developing effective time managment skills


September 06, 2020

Do you have the feeling you are always running behind the facts and that certain people always seem two steps ahead and are winning in every aspect of life? Spending a lot of time being with their family, having a good career, being healthy and in shape. You think how do they do that? I can’t even squeeze in a 10-minute walk

This feeling is the result of not being in control of your time. Instead of being pro-active like you want to be and most likely think you are, you are reactive. What do I mean by that? I won’t go in too much detail yet. But read this carefully. I’m not saying you are not productive or you are not getting a lot of work done.

No! I’m saying the things you do are not based on the things you find most important in life.

In this article, I will share tips for developing effective time management skills and hand you several techniques to plan your week, based on things that are most important to you in your life.

For example:

  • The roles you want to fulfill in life
  • The skills you want to develop
  • The professional goals you have
  • The relations you want to have

It will help you developing that meaningful life you want and it reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books:

“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring > forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

― James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

If we do not fill our minds with good seeds and maintain it, our thoughts will grow out of control.

Step 1: Determine the roles that are most important to you.

The first step is to find out what roles are important to you. Think about this and dig deep. These are the fundamentals your planning will be built on.

Let’s take me as an example:

“I’m a father”

“I’m a husband”

“I’m a son”

“I’m a brother”

“I’m an employee”

“I’m a friend”

I can go on for a while, but for this article, it will suffice. Think about what those roles mean to you and what is needed to fulfill those to the best of your ability. And this can be anything, remember there are no wrong answers here. This is your life and the things that matter most to you. It’s important to break it down to tasks you can take action on. Don’t think in results, think in actions that eventually lead to the result you have I mind. Do this for all the roles you listed.

Bad example 1:

“I want to be a better father”

Bad example 2:

“I want to improve my relationship with my father”

Good example 1:

“Spend 2 hours per day, fully dedicated to my kids”

Good example 2:

“Call my father twice a week”

Step 2: Draw a Time Management Diagram

Draw a big vertical and horizontal line on a paper, so you have four squares and you will name them the following:

Box 1 Top left: Important and urgent

This is the box where probably most of us are in. It’s also called fire fighting. These are actions that require immediate attention and could have been prevented. They get postponed until the consequence hurts so bad, that there is no other choice than to do it now.

Box 2 Top right: Important not urgent

This is the box where you want to be in. It’s the pro-active box. Actions that prevent actions from box 1. If you spend most of your time here, the actions in box 1 will drastically reduce. And it means you choose what actions you work on, instead of being forced to do them.

Box 3 Bottom left: Urgent not important

Things in this box are things you want to ignore, like Facebook notifications and popups that get your attention. Because they pop up they become urgent.

Box 4 Bottom right: Not important not urgent

This is the box you don’t want to be in. This is where you flat out waste time, like watching Netflix or scrolling through your social media feed.

Time Managent in a Notebook

Step 3: Fill in the diagram with your current activities

Now fill it with the things you typically do on your day. If you want this exercise to mean something, it’s really important, to be honest. Don’t worry almost everyone has activities in box 4.

Chances are you probably find most of your activities in 1 and 3 and some in 4. When talking about pro-activity 2 is where you want to be, that is the pro-activity zone. When everything important to you resides in box 2, the majority of things will disappear from 1. 1 is the reactive state also known as firefighting. The majority of these activities are caused by delaying things, that shouldn’t be delayed and will hurt enough to make you want them to resolve as soon as possible.

The easiest example I can give you is your health. You have a choice to exercise and eat healthy every day and you can place it in 2. This is very pro-active since you prevent an unhealthy state on your terms and planning.

No, let’s say you ignore this or neglect it. Sooner or later you will get health issues. When you face those health issues, you need to go to a doctor. This is all placed in 1, Firefighting. This is very reactive since you are reacting to a health issue that is not planned, unexpected, and thus not on your terms.

Make sure the majority of things you do can be put in box 2!

Step 4: Fill in the diagram again based on the actions you defined based on your roles.

Draw another cross, now plot your roles in there based on how you want to fulfill them

The funny thing you will notice is, you don’t need my advice to put everything in box 2. Because the things you find important in the roles you defined probably belong in box 2.

Step 5: Compare the two, what are the differences?

You will find that most of the things you find in 1 are a result of things you want to have in 2 but don’t do. Although emergencies can always happen. Make sure things in 3 are reduced to a minimum and be sure to stay completely out of box 4.

Step 6: Make it concrete by putting it in your agenda and plan it.

My advice would be to plan it weekly and track it daily. As mentioned before drill down into the roles until you hit a concrete action. For example:

  • Call dad from 19:00 to 19:15
  • Pick the kids from school from 16:00 to 16:30
  • Go to the gym from 18:00 to 19:00
  • Read a book from 22:00 to 22:30

At the end of the week, review it and see where you can improve and plan again for the next week. After a few weeks, you will see you will get that consistency in.

Conclusion and additional tips:

  • Get rid of your distractions and stay out of box 4 as much as possible.
  • If you have time management troubles in a specific area, for example, work. Fill one out just for work, it’s scalable and applicable on all levels.
  • Help yourself a bit, put your phone in airplane mode, remove social media apps from your phone. Make it hard for yourself to get distracted
  • Commit to your planning. When the planning is set, commit to it! When it says to go to the gym at 19:00. Make sure you are ready to go at 19:00! Do not postpone or skip it!
  • Say No! Say no to everything that is not connected in any way to the roles most important to you. Don’t let those factors compromise your planning and say no! When it’s sunny outside and your colleagues go for beers, but you are supposed to go to the gym, Say no! Keep the promise you made to yourself. You will feel good about it afterwards.
  • Treat your time as the most valuable asset you have, because it is!

Michael Awad

I'm fascinated by the power of a strong mindset. I combine this with being a web developer, which keeps me motivated. But how, you may ask? That's what I share on this website. For more information about me personally, check out the about me page: About Me

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