Time Management 101

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.

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I am a fellow cubicle dweller and have been working as a software professional for over 20 years. I have a passion site devoted to enhancing your Workspace and Cubicle Accessories. The site is called WorkspaceBliss.com. It used to be called CubicleBliss.com but I wanted to expand my reach to anyone wanting to enhance their own workspace!


  1. Sean Carter on the 13th November

    Great post! The bucket idea could really be put into practice. It would be neat if my office actually had room for buckets for all my team members

    • Bob Bessette on the 13th November

      Hi Sean,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! That’s one way to put your team in their place 🙂


  2. Ike Colbert on the 13th November

    Man, but this post makes me very, very happy to not be in that “infinitely interruptible” world that I recently left! Everything was in Bucket 1 all the time, and crisis management (other people’s crises) was the rule of every day.

    • Bob Bessette on the 13th November

      Hi Ike,
      Sometimes that is just the nature of the job and it may be tough in getting around it. I hope you’re enjoying your time now that you aren’t in that crisis mode.


  3. Beth Andrus on the 13th November

    I’ve written about this and done video posts, but it can’t be talked about enough. I like your breakdown and the whole “buckets” approach. It helps to have a picture in your head when organizing your time. Thanks for the great post.

  4. Bob Bessette on the 13th November

    Hi Beth,
    I appreciate the kind words. I’ll have to check out those video posts that you mention. Thanks for reading.


  5. Carla Candia on the 14th November

    I did a test at Psychology Today about how good I was at time managing and I sucked. I asked some very busy friend how do they manage their time and they said they are not very good at it either. Procrastination is enemy number 1 when trying to work effectively. I found Timothy A. Pychyl tips very useful. I wrote about it on my blog:


    • Bob Bessette on the 16th November

      Hi Carla,
      I’ll make it a point to check out your blog post. Thanks for reading mine!


  6. Saulius on the 15th November

    Hi, everyone!
    Really great post, but I don’t understand something from Bucket 4. Why reading blogs during the day is waste of time? It belongs to what kind of blog you are reading. I think if you read a blog like this one, you can find a lot of useful information, so what is the point of bucket 4?

    • Bob Bessette on the 16th November

      OK I get your point and it is a good one. It is true that reading blogs that give good value is not a waste of time and I stand corrected! I am just glad that you feel that the information I wrote about was worthwhile…


  7. Mike on the 15th November

    nice simple breakdown. i will be suggesting to my staff that they take onboard!!

    • Bob Bessette on the 16th November

      Hi Mike,
      Hopefully you can utilize the information in this post. I certainly have and it has helped me immensely in managing my time. Time is precious so managing it properly is extremely important.


  8. Kell on the 16th November

    I like the idea of the bucket approach. I am glad that I am spending most of my time at bucket 2 – bucket 1 sounds pretty stressful. Would be great to hear your ideas on how you can move from bucket 1 to bucket 2 – I guess spend less time in bucket 4 activities.



    • Bob Bessette on the 31st December

      Hi Kell,
      I certainly understand that the nature of someone’s job is dependent upon how much time is spent in each bucket. But if you could try to anticipate what the Urgent and Important items could be then you could possibly plan (Bucket 2) to avoid those. For example, if you are an IT manager and foresee a new implementation that is memory-intensive you could plan ahead and upgrade the memory for those computers. Instead of hearing about the slowness of the new application and having to answer those calls, you have already avoided them with the hardware upgrade.
      Thanks very much for commenting.


  9. Omoba on the 16th November

    I like your stuff, keep up the great work.

    • Bob Bessette on the 31st December

      Hi Omoba,
      Thanks for the kind comments and please feel free to stop by my blog and comment as well. The guys at WorkAwesome are “awesome” to let us contribute to their fine blog. I am proud to add my $.02.


  10. Ali on the 18th November

    interesting becuase l felt myself like in course. good article

    • Bob Bessette on the 31st December

      Thanks Ali. I have learned a lot from time management courses in the past and I’m glad you got something out of it.


  11. Andy on the 3rd December

    Thanks for this great course.

    • Bob Bessette on the 31st December

      It is my pleasure Andy. Now for a New Year’s resolution maybe we all can use some of this info to manage our time better. I know that I can always use more time…


  12. Chotrul Freelance Design and SEO on the 23rd December

    These are a pretty old set of categories, but you illustrated them really well. As I do more freelance work it becomes imperative to organise my time optimally, as there’s far less room for error working for yourself, I’ve found.

    Many thanks for your insightful article …. and …. really nice design to your website!

    • Bob Bessette on the 31st December

      As I mentioned at the top of the article, these are concepts I have learned over the years and I certainly don’t claim to have come up with them. I appreciate the comments on illustrating the categories as that was the main goal of the article so I guess I accomplished that 🙂
      Organizing my time more effectively in the coming year is at the top of my resolution list but it is always at the top.
      I’m not sure if you are referring to my website or WorkAwesome website, as to the design. If it is WorkAwesome I agree wholeheartedly! If you are referring to mine, thanks for the compliment.
      Thanks so much for commenting!


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