For those of us who are gainfully employed, we all want to work awesome at our jobs. In order to get there we need to be able to juggle our time effectively. I’ve been working full-time for the better part of the last 30 years and have had a chance to take many Time Management courses. In this post I’d like to share with you a little of what I have learned about managing my time at work.
If you take any type of Time Management course there will be some discussion of four different types of issues that can take up your time. Let’s call them buckets.
Bucket 1 - Urgent and Important
This is the bucket associated with crisis management or firefighting. Any of you out there who work in a service-oriented department such as Information Technology can certainly relate to this bucket. I worked in IT for approximately 20 years so I feel your pain. I don’t miss those days but fighting fires was certainly the nature of that occupation.
Bucket 2 – Not Urgent but Important
This bucket might pertain to developing short or long-term goals. Maybe it would mean creating a development plan for yourself with your manager. I do this at the beginning of each year with my manager and we review it a few times over the year. Another example of what may fall under this bucket is taking classes related to your job and developing your professional skills. At home, maybe using a software application like Quicken to manage your money would fall under the heading of “Not Urgent but still Important”.
Bucket 3 – Urgent and Not Important
This bucket pertains to when we respond to a temporary sense of urgency or circumstances that feel urgent without being important. If you are in IT maybe someone is complaining about the speed of their computer. So you spend a whole morning trying to diagnose the problem but the issue is that the computer is old and should simply be upgraded to a faster CPU with more memory. This was a perceived sense of urgency but the end user was still able to do their job in a reasonable amount of time. If the proper course of action was taken no time would’ve been wasted.
Bucket 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important
This is the bucket that is associated with “waste”. This bucket is associated with pleasant but nonproductive choices. This is where we spend time doing unnecessary things like reading our personal email or reading blogs during the day. Yeah, like that happens…
Shift Your Time to Bucket 2
What we are really trying to do is to get away from the “reactive” situations and replace them with “proactive” activity. We want to give priority to Bucket 2 which is where the true opportunistic activity can occur. But how can we do this?
Avoid Bucket 4 Activity
This is a given. This is wasteful time that can be used constructively elsewhere.
Take from Bucket 3
Regain the time lost to the perception of urgency. Make sure the urgent activities are associated with Bucket 1 and are not deceptive urgency.
Commit to Planning
You must commit to planning on a daily/weekly basis.
Schedule your high priority tasks first, then fill in with the less important tasks. Dr. Stephen Covey called the high priority tasks the “Big Rocks”.
Learn to Say “No”
We all want to help people out at work but we have to learn to say “No” politely but firmly. Offer alternatives such as helping that person out when your “Big Rocks” are complete for the week. State your reasons for saying “No” so that there is a clear understanding of why you cannot help at that time.
Delegate If You Can
If at all possible, delegate some of your tasks to others. This could free up time that could be devoted to Bucket 2.
Realizing where your time goes on a daily basis in terms of the buckets laid out in this post is the first step in understanding time management. Learning how to shift your time strategically so that it is used in the best possible manner is the key to mastering time management.