What is Time Management?
Time management is the ability to plan and consciously control how you spend time on activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. Time management encompasses time related to work, social life, hobbies, family, basic chores and tasks, commitments, entertainment, etc. Effective time management allows you to budget and allocate your time accordingly to meet expectations and prioritize tasks.
This executive functioning tool is handy, especially when working on tasks with a deadline or a firm start time. Think about school assignments, interviews, soccer games, going to a play, etc. These are all examples of time-sensitive activities where time management skills are imperative. Time management also includes setting expectations (with yourself and others) related to completion time and scope.
What is the completion time and scope? Consider a school project. Let’s say you have a paper due one week from today. How would you begin to think about working on the assignment? Here’s an example:
Project Due in 7 Days – how do I know when to start working on it?
Questions to ask yourself:
- What other projects are on my plate?
- When are those projects due?
- What other non-school things do I have to get done within the next few weeks?
-Yes, expand your scope beyond when this item is due
- What do I need to complete this project?
- How long do I think it will take to complete this project?
- Do I need help from any outside resources to complete this project?
Asking yourself these questions will help you determine a game plan and set those expectations from a scope (how does completing this project impact my entire to-do list) and completion time (what do I need to complete this project and how much time do I think it will take) perspective. With these knowledge requirements gathered, I can make an educated decision about how to plan to complete this project (so I do not wait until the night before and stay up late to get it done).
Why is Time Management Important?
Time management is important for two reasons:
- Setting expectations for yourself so you can accurately prioritize and accomplish important (and mundane) tasks
- Building trust and respect from those around you
First and foremost, building your time management skills will help develop your confidence in yourself. When you make time for the most important things and set realistic expectations for yourself, you will be successful much more often. Setting yourself up for success is a fantastic way to build self-confidence and feel productive, empowered, and positive.
Secondly, effective time management also benefits your personal and professional life by building trust with those around you. When you understand time management and can set realistic expectations (not only for yourself) but for those around you, they will see you as reliable, trustworthy, and efficient. These skills and traits are essential to foster personal and professional relationships with people. Here is an example:
Example Scenario: My friends and I are going to a movie together at 7 pm tonight
- You are going to the movie at 7 pm, and it takes 20 minutes to get to the theater from your home.
- You told your friend you would pick them up on the way, and they live 10 minutes from your house, which adds 10 minutes total to your commute to the theater.
- You have soccer practice from 3 pm-5 pm, so you know you will need to shower before going to the movie. Showing and getting ready usually takes you 45 minutes.
- It is a Friday night, so there may be a line at the theater and possibly traffic on the way there.
- The movie starts at 7 pm, so you would like to be there 15 minutes early to have enough time to park, say hello to your friends, and get some concessions.
- Tomorrow morning, you told your mom you would help volunteer at your younger sibling’s girl scout event, and you need to bring donuts and make sure you remember where your sash is so you can bring it.
Knowing all these things, can you figure out when you need to start getting ready and what time you need to leave to get to the theater on time? In this scenario, you have made multiple commitments. One to your friend to pick them up on time, one to your group of friends to show up to the movie on time, and one to yourself to shower and get ready before the movie. By the way, the answer (according to this unique scenario) was to start getting ready at 5:30 pm and leave by 6:15 pm.
This is a lot to think about. Much of this thinking goes on very quickly and almost ‘behind the scenes’ in our brains. It can be easy to forget one of the considerations (such as the added time it would take to pick up your friend on the way to the theater), which can lead to a domino effect of poor time management.
Although time management can be considered a ‘natural skill’ (e.g., a skill like eating or walking, something you just know), it can be challenging to master and do perfectly all the time. It can also be exhausting. As much as good time management can lead to a self-confidence boost, poor time management can similarly lead to dips in confidence. So let’s dig into some tangible ways to improve your time management skills and use them as a self-confidence-enhancing skill.
How to Learn Time Management
Time management is a skill everyone can develop with some practice and intentionality. Improving your time management skills will help you feel less stress and anxiety from poor planning or working under pressure. Time management allows you to control your day and time, helping you feel prepared, calm, and confident! Here are some ways to start improving and honing your time management skills:
- Protecting Your Yes and Honoring Your No
This tip is regarding when you say ‘Yes’ to something and when you say ‘No’ to something. It is important to respond to requests, invitations, or other asks (of your physical or mental time) thoughtfully, honestly, and through a lens of time management.
If you say ‘Yes’ to an invitation but do not realize you have already committed to another activity simultaneously, you will encounter a problem that could have been avoided. Most people struggle with over-committing and saying ‘Yes’ more often than they actually can. This is how protecting your ‘Yes’ comes into play. If you say ‘Yes’ to something, feel a full body yes to the question.
What is a full body yes? This means you understand the request, you want to do the request, and you know how to do the request. You mentally, physically, and emotionally are capable and willing to complete the request. As a quick pulse check on if you have a full body yes, you can ask these three questions:
- Do I get what is being asked of me?
- Do I want to do what is being asked of me?
- Do I have the time and mental/physical energy to do what is being asked of me?
If your answer to any of these questions is no, you need to get more information or decline the request for the time being.
Honoring your ‘No’ refers to setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Open up space in your life to say ‘No’ to things that do not bring you joy or satisfaction or get you closer to your goals. Saying ‘No’ is a form of self-care and self-respect. When you say ‘No’ to something, honor your ‘No’ by being firm about the boundary you are setting. For example, imagine you are working on a group project in school. You and the other team members already divided up all the work. You feel good about the tasks assigned to you. Someone in the group brings up a new task no one initially realized was required but had to get done. On top of your other assignments and responsibilities, you do not think you will have time to complete this new task. Respect your ‘No,’ do not play the hero, and accept more work than you can handle in the group project. This can lead to burnout, resentment, and poor-quality work.
- Understanding Your Limits
A big part of time management is understanding what you can accomplish in different situations. Sometimes an activity or task is time-boxed, like sports practice or going to a concert – you can pretty much know and predict how long these activities will take from beginning to end (especially as you do them more and more). Other activities, however, are less defined by time and more defined by effort. For example, schoolwork often falls into this category. The same math homework may take one person 30 minutes and another 90 minutes. Each of us has different capabilities, limits, and capacities, which change based on the person, situation, and experience.
Start by paying attention to your timing. Are you frequently overestimating or underestimating how long it can take you to do something? Do you build in time for secondary tasks (like the drive to and from the sports practice)?
Another thing you can do is make mental or physical notes of how long something usually takes you. For example, how long does it take to get ready in the morning and feel prepared to take on the day? Do you need 30 minutes to shower, get dressed and eat breakfast? Or do you need 60 minutes to do those things? Do you need an extra 15 minutes to scroll on your phone or catch up on homework? Be intentional about what you want to accomplish and realistic about how much time you think it will take.
Prioritizing is a crucial component of time management. Prioritizing is the ability to inventory all the tasks, requests, needs, assignments, plans, etc., on your plate and determine which tasks need to get done first and which can wait. When feeling overwhelmed with a long to-do list, an impactful way to feel in control of your time is to make a priority list of your tasks. You can use the below ABCD method to help understand which tasks to tackle first and which tasks can wait:
- A – Tasks that are urgent and important
- B – Tasks that are important but not urgent
- C – Tasks that are unimportant but are urgent
- D – Tasks that are unimportant and not urgent
The tasks on your plate can fluctuate through each stage as new tasks, needs, and responsibilities arise or are completed. Remember to consider your values and goals when prioritizing your to-do list.
Time management takes time and patience to master, and many people continue to struggle with this skill into adulthood. Wherever you are in your journey to improving your time-management skills, it is a perfect time to start. If you feel stuck or unsure of how to take the first step on this self-improvement and self-love journey, Positive Presence can help. Positive Presence can help you reach your full potential and build the skills necessary to master time management through online digital learning or one-on-one expert coaching.