Are you stressing out as your to-do list seems to get longer with every day passing? We hear all the time that at the moment, in the middle of lockdown 3.0 level five, that ‘time’ has stood still, seemingly it’s now got a mind of its own. Frequently it likes to creep up on us and race on….normally just as we have a pressing deadline to meet – but at the end of the day this is not a new phenomenon. It just feels like it is.
We all appreciate the importance for our career development to be master of time management – it appears routinely in our work appraisals – so if this is one of the most desired skillsets – why is it so elusive to master? And why does it feel that ‘time’ is harder to control, especially at the moment?
At The Tara Building, Dublin’s premium coworking space in the city centre, we have specially designed the building to provide a choice of different spaces for our coworking members. From our individual desks, private offices, quiet zones and phone booths to our meeting rooms and the separate seated areas of the Roof Terrace, we have created the optimum environment to assist in producing positive time management outcomes.
However, it’s not only where you work its how you work that might need to be reviewed to master the art of time management. Let’s look at some of the latest gadgets and literature……Good grief! The App store is littered with special scheduling software and a quick Amazon search brings up the current top #100 all time best sellers, all bizarrely sounding the same. They are selling the cult of ready-to-apply ‘new hacks’ that only ‘they’ found will definitely work, they worked for them and they are ‘definitely going to work for you!’
But is that the case? Let’s dig a bit deeper into the research.
Time management is defined as ‘the decision-making process that structures, protects and adjusts a person’s time to changing environmental conditions,’ according to Erich C. Dierdorff, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Richard H. Driehaus College of Business at DePaul University.
AHA! Now, this might give you a clue as to why some of us are stressed out wondering why our time management skills have suddenly come apart at the seams after managing to juggle (with occasional wobbles) over previous years…
Let’s face it. Time management was never going to be fixed by reading a book or downloading an App. You at least need to have the time management skills first, before you try to put them into practice.
According to Prof Dierdorff, research has shown that you need the following to achieve success:
- Awareness – be realistic about your time
- Arrangement – design a plan to effectively use your time
- Adaptation – monitor your time/change priorities/adjust
According to Prof Dierdorff, we need all of the above three skills to be successful in our time management and the skills that are hardest to master are Arrangement and Adaptation. His research showed that our Awareness skills are the primary driver of how well people avoid procrastination and our Adaptation skills are the primary driver of how well we prioritized activities. And that a preference for multi-tasking was found to be unrelated to time management skills. Also, his research found that overall, we are not good at self-analysis and reflecting accurately on our own performance.
So how do we improve? If not by reading books or buying Apps?
Here are Prof Dierdoff’s thoughts, we need to focus on:
- Building self-awareness of our time management skills – so ask others how they think we are performing
- Recognise that our preferences matter – but not as much as we think
- Identify/prioritise the skill you most need to improve
- Be more self-aware – become more mindful about yourself – what makes you tick/fires your imagination/releases your creativity/makes you productive
Here he suggests a number of insights including;
- Find your best time to work when you are at your peak
- Treat time like it’s cash
- Note how much time you’ve spent on something (instead of how much you have left to do)
- Evaluate realistically how you spend your time on a project. Go back over at the end.
- Ask yourself questions about how the work you have to do today will impact your time in the next week?
- When you acknowledge you might have spent too much time on something – step back and think through the outcome…is it worth it?
He goes on to recommend developing our Arrangement skills and says ‘it’s not about organizing your work to better control your life – it’s about taking control of your life, then structuring your work around it.’
The key Developmental and Adaptation skills that he lists are highly relevant to managing our current environment – which is filled with plans and more pivots than usual;
- Try “habit stacking”
- Use shorter bursts of effort
- Experiment with a time-tracker or checklists
- Don’t miss your reminders
- Create contingency plans
- Seek to reduce time-wasting activities/close the door/pop up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your desk
As we hope to move towards a ‘new normal’ and return to life ‘as we knew it’, we will have to come to terms with new changes again. Many welcome changes. Some will be stressful as we balance competing priorities and juggle personal lives but we are all moving forward together and can learn about ourselves from each other. The Tara Building will continue to support each of you as we work on achieving our goals.
For more about The Tara Building and joining our community, read more about our Membership options and see how we can help you discover a new workspace for the ‘new normal’. We would be delighted to give you a tour of our building and to discuss any queries and review your requirements.
To book a tour simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our Enquiry Form and one of our team will be in touch.