08 Mar If You Are Serious About Managing Job Stress Begin To Manage Your Time
As a follow-up to a recent blog and byline article on the challenges of really managing our time and energy – here’s a couple of useful tips that (in most cases) I had to learn the hard way when it comes to truly taking control. The 1,440 minutes you’ll be allocated today are exactly what everyone else will receive. Some of us will optimize them – others will simply spend them. The former will increase their chances to succeed – the latter will experience stress and frustration.
Ten Essential Time Management Facts I Wish Someone Would Have Explained to Me When I Started My Career:
- To Do Lists are just about as valuable as a genie’s lamp or a four-leaf clover when it comes to optimizing your day. They are essentially menus for what you hope to do – nothing more. Hope is not – and never will be – a strategy. Build them if you must but there are far better ways to plan your day.
- Multi-tasking is a killer – and it’s a wonderful catch-all phrase that has gained much momentum in this busy world of ours. It also has become a silent killer of productivity – and an excuse for those who can’t focus on what’s most important. Like automobile drivers who choose to text – a lethal diversion that ensures you do nothing particularly well.
- You really do have priorities in your life. You may not know what they are but rest assured – they are there. The problem for most – they invest about the same amount of attention in deciding what’s important as they do their selection of the movie they’ll watch on Netflix on Thursday night. It takes a minimal amount of contemplation to arrive at them – but it DOES require a bit of effort. There is no Fairy Godmother who will sprinkle you with insight just because you wish for it.
- Technology is a double-edged sword. We all love our connection to everything and everybody – but a great percentage of the daily stream of information doesn’t enable us to be more productive – it simply is “white noise.” I talk about the urgent parade of “stuff” in The Compass Solution: A Guide to Winning Your Career. The reality is technology often comes masquerading as important – even when it’s not.
- A lot of us overcommit the most precious of resources – our time. We say yes when we should say no – or we fail to acknowledge that every decision we make carries with it a defined time obligation. The few who understand the power of time, energy, and attention management (my acronym is TEAM) not only attach the time costs associated with every action – they actually plan for it.
- Whether you buy into Biorhythms, Circadian Rhythms, or Rhythm and Blues – the hard truth is that each of us is hardwired for peak periods of productivity. Translation – those who invest time, energy, and attention during those peak periods are infinitely more productive. For most of us – though not all – our greatest potential is in the morning – right about the time we are checking email, returning phone calls, or walking the dog. Draw your own conclusions.
- You have 4 quadrants in which you can assign EVERYTHING you do every day – for the rest of your life. You may not know them – but believe me when I say they’re there. Here they are:
Box 1 – Not Urgent and Not Important (Warning – most have no idea of how to recognize the Double N – especially in this world of high technology/information – and it is killing productivity.)
Box 2 – Urgent and Not Important (See comments earlier around the downside of technology. The law of averages suggests up to 75% of your email and various meetings likely will fall into this Great Black Hole.)
OK – brief time out. If you’re like most people, your ability to actually cull out the above two areas is fairly compromised. As a result – up to 50% of your time is being spent there – and there’s a good chance you can simply STOP with no appreciable effect on your life.
Box 3 – Not Urgent and Important (An important distinction is now coming into play – here’s the area of your world that is important but doesn’t demand immediate attention. Take a guess what happens with a lot of us here. You guessed it – we procrastinate, ignoring it until it’s at crisis level. And where do we spend the time and energy that should be directed here? See Box 2. That’s right – rather than focus on what’s important we substitute with the warming balm of “at least doing something” – and we do that by dipping into the soothing waters of the Urgent/Not Important.
Box 4 – Urgent and Important – this is where a significant amount of your time should be spent everyday – for the rest of your life.
Time out #2 – the four quadrants above have been in place for years – made famous by luminaries that include Peter Drucker and Dwight Eisenhower among others. If, beginning tomorrow you divided your work and your personal life into each of the above 4 areas – even going so far as to assign stars for order of priority – and then built your calendar where 75% of your time was invested ONLY on 4 and 3 star items you would increase your productivity dramatically. Let me say that again – if you simply invest 15 minutes to prioritize your life and then actually build your calendar to reflect that investment you will gain precious time back. The sad part – few will.
- You have TEAM thieves who will rob you blind tomorrow, next week, and next year – and most of us never recognize them until they’ve taken our day away from us. They will come disguised as well meaning colleagues who want “five minutes of your time,” that buddy who wants to talk about the party this weekend, and yes, bosses who want to “run something by you” – for the next 2 hours. We all get the same allocation of time every day – the same 1,440 minutes – and it remains your most precious of resources. Every decision to give up one moment carries with it a cost.
- The single greatest time thief for most – meetings.
- The second greatest time thief – email.
- The third – colleagues.
Most of the time disrupters fall into the 2 Star Box above (Urgent and Not Important) – plan for them accordingly, but NEVER at the expense of the precious 4 and 3 Star items. NEVER.
- Some will tell you that you can never plan for every eventuality in your life or your workday – and they are 100% correct. That’s why after you “calendarize” your 4 and 3 star items you are comfortable in building in time for 2 stars (and sometimes 1 star items.) So when the next Urgent/Not Important issue crosses your desk you allow for it – at the end of the day and/or when a more Important item isn’t compromised.
- The most productive people in the business world – and in life – understand the power of time, energy, and attention management. The tragedy is that few apply even the most basic of critical thinking skills to their day – they simply react to what happens – a recipe for frustration and it manifests itself in high stress and burnout.
Your life is composed of precious minutes – minutes that either further your journey or compromise it. The skills involved in strategically managing your life are spelled out in more specific terms under The Planning Golden Three in The Compass Solution: A Guide to Winning Your Career.
It’s your life – there are no do-overs.
To learn more, see this recent article https://thecompassalliance.com/2018/02/21/if-you-find-yourself-drowning-in-your-job-read-this/
Or visit my website at www.thecompassalliance.com