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Webucator's Free Goal Setting and Time Management Tutorial

Lesson: Become an Expert in Time Management

Welcome to our free Goal Setting and Time Management tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Goal Setting and Time Management Training course.

Good time management is one of the keys to excellence and success at work and in everyday life. We all have only a finite amount of time in life. People who choose to improve their time management skills enjoy a higher quality of life and are happier.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to respect your time.
  • Learn about the simple yet most important time management skills.
  • Learn about using goals as a motivational tool for effective time management.

Respect Your Time

Respecting your time requires you to understand the importance of time and to take actions and conduct yourself in a manner that is representative of that importance.

We all lead very busy lives in today's world. Technology has become so much a part of our lives that it is impossible to get through a day without being called, emailed, or paged. According to Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch in Creating Your Best Life (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2009, p. 87), it is estimated that time wasted and interruptions caused by technology are costing the United States fifty billion dollars annually.

The following key strategies will help you consider and respect time as a valuable resource:

  1. Realize that time is money.
  2. Do more by doing less.
  3. Respect others' time.
  4. Spend your time doing what you truly love to do.

In the following section, we will look at each of these strategies and discuss how to implement them in our lives.

Realize That Time Is Money

There is an old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Time is valuable and money is wasted when a person's time is not used productively." However, how often do we really think of time wasted as money wasted or lost?

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

If you are paid by the hour, you already know what your value per hour is. If you are paid annually, divide your annual salary by 2000 (the approximate number of work hours in a year) and it will give you a rough idea of how much each hour of your time is worth. From this you can calculate how much money wasting a few minutes a day really costs.

Example:

Salary: $50,000/year.

Working hours per year: (40 hours/week X 50 weeks/year) = 2,000 hours

$50,000/2000 hours = $25/hour

$25/hour / 60 minutes = 41.6 cents per minute

Waste 5 minutes a day = $2.08 cost per day in wasted time.

$2.08 x 5 days = $10.40 cost per week in wasted time.

$10.40 x 50 weeks = $520.00 cost per year in wasted time.

Develop a "My Time Is Money" Mind-set

Once you realize that every hour of your time is important, you can develop a "my time is money" mind-set. This mind-set will:

  1. Help you be more conscious of how you spend your time during your work hours.
  2. Help you perform tasks in a more reasonable time frame. If a task can be done in an hour, do it in an hour, not three hours.

As you become more productive and deliver work faster, you will increase your prospects for better career opportunities.

Do More by Doing Less

Respecting your time also means setting achievable goals with your time. People can get excited by the idea of to-do lists and can end up creating lists with goals that are impossible to finish on time, and hence set themselves up for failure. Remember that to-do lists are useful only when the tasks listed can be completed in the time allotted.

Here are two simple strategies to stop over-committing your time.

  1. Be realistic with your time plan. When creating to-do lists, be realistic with your time estimates. While it is tempting to add more items to your to-do lists, it is often smarter to select fewer work items that are really important and to complete them on time.
  2. Learn to say no. Instead of saying "yes" to everything that comes your way, learn to say "no" for the tasks that you cannot complete within the time frame required. Your colleagues and employer will respect you more when they see you as a person who gives the utmost attention to completing work items on time and with high quality.

Keep in mind, though, that you will sometimes have to make exceptions to this rule.

Respect Others' Time

People will respect you and your time if you respect their time. It's that simple. Many people do not realize that when they are disrespecting a person's time, they are disrespecting the other person.

Below are some simple strategies to start respecting others' time.

Don't Keep Others Waiting

Be on time always, for everything:

  1. Meetings.
  2. Deadlines.
  3. Lunch with your colleagues.

By being late, you risk your peers, managers, and clients:

  1. Forming an overall negative opinion of you.
  2. Feeling offended by your actions.
  3. Lacking trust in you in the future.

If you commit to a time for a meeting or deadline, make absolutely sure you meet that commitment.

Check if an Interruption Is Timely

At work we often need to instant message, chat, or phone someone without any prior notice. A courtesy that can gain you respect is to begin the communication by asking the recipient whether it's okay to interrupt or if there is another time that would be more convenient.

Being courteous when interrupting a colleague is a simple habit to form. It can go a long way in making others realize how much you value their work and time. You will earn their respect and goodwill in return.

Spend Your Time Doing What You Truly Love to Do

People are happiest when they are working on something they love to do. This is one of the keys to respecting your time and achieving success in life. Everyone has one or more areas they are passionate about and in which they can excel. In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ...and Others Don't (New York, HarperCollins, 2001), Jim Collins recommends focusing on the things that matter most to you.

According to Collins, we should ask ourselves two questions:

  1. What am I deeply passionate about?
  2. What kind of work do I feel I was "made" to do?

Once we know these answers, we can make an assessment of how much of our time at work is spent on these activities.

Personality and Time Management

Everyone is different. Some people can't wait to cross things off their lists and others don't ever create lists. Some people get to the airport three hours before a flight and others always rush in at the last minute every time. In order to improve one's time management skills, it is important to start by being honest with yourself about your own tendencies.

The following questions are useful with respect to evaluating your own tendencies:

  1. Do you wait until the last minute to accomplish a task? You may be a procrastinator.
  2. Do you often arrive late for work or meetings? You might be prone to putting things off until the last minute.
  3. Do you work on an assignment more than twice? You might be a perfectionist.
  4. Do you start a second project before completing the first? You might be easily distracted.
  5. Is it hard to say no, even when you are very busy? You might be a person who tries to do it all.

Check for Understanding: Respect Your Time

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, you will answer the following questions about respecting your time.

  1. Which of the following is an example of not respecting your time?
    1. Focusing on things that matter to you.
    2. Treating time as a valuable commodity.
    3. Tolerating frequent interruptions.
    4. Saying "No" to work you cannot take on.
  2. You can respect others' time by which of the following actions? You can select more than one choice:
    1. Being on time for meetings
    2. Meeting deadlines.
    3. Never keeping others waiting.
    4. Checking with others whether it's ok to interrupt them.
  3. Calculate how much your employer is paying you per hour. Think about your normal work day habits and identify three areas in which you can make changes to regain an hour of your time each day.

Solution:

  1. C. Tolerating frequent interruptions.
  2. A, B, C, and D.
  3. Review the presentation following this exercise for some suggestions about gaining back time in your day.

Time Management Skills

Now that we have covered why it is important to respect your time, we will cover some simple yet valuable time management skills. Time management skills are essential for being successful and productive at work. The difference between highly successful people and others is often how they manage their time.

Time management skills will help you:

  1. Prioritize work.
  2. Deal with pressure situations.
  3. Complete projects on time.
  4. Control interruptions.

Three key time management techniques you can deploy and see instant benefits from are:

  1. Create practical to-do lists.
  2. Manage interruptions.
  3. Schedule difficult and boring tasks.

Create Practical To-do Lists

To-do lists are a useful tool when you have many tasks to complete and you feel stressed or overwhelmed as a result of it. To-do lists help you:

  1. Feel organized.
  2. Complete work on time.
  3. Focus on what's important.

Keep It Short and Simple

People often make the mistake of creating unrealistic to-do lists. A good rule of thumb is to create short, to-the-point lists. The idea is to be able to look at your to-do list and feel confident that you have listed important items that need your immediate attention.

Prioritize Items on Your List

At work and at home, we often deal with many tasks that require our attention. In order to ensure all important work is completed, give each item on your to-do list high/medium/low priorities. This will help you focus your energy and time on the right tasks.

Estimate Time Needed to Complete Tasks

Realistically estimate the time required to complete each task and note it on your list. Being cognizant of how much time it should take to complete a task will help keep you on track.

Choose Your Own Tool

Even in today's age of smartphones and tablets, some people still choose to use paper to create to-do lists. This is fine as long as they create and manage their to-do lists efficiently. Software accessible through smartphones, tablets, and laptops often provides additional capabilities such as timely reminders of tasks overdue and the ability to track progress over time.

Manage Interruptions

No matter how well you plan your to-do lists, you can't always predict interruptions. Interruptions can come in various forms. For example:

  1. Colleagues stopping by for a chat.
  2. Phone calls.
  3. Instant messages.

In addition to interruptions you can't predict, there are additional interruptions that may be related to habits you have formed. For example:

  1. Habitual checking of email.
  2. Checking for updates on social networking and other sites.
  3. Other time-consuming uses of electronic devices.

Ways to Circumvent Interruptions

Let's look at some ways to prevent and deal with interruptions.

Let Your Phone Take the Message

Voicemail and caller-ids exist for a reason. When working on important tasks that require your complete focus, let phone interruptions go to voicemail. Caller-ids will help you identify emergency calls that you need to attend to immediately. Otherwise, complete your task and then respond to the caller.

Check Your Email at Designated Times

Checking your email throughout the day is a sure way of losing focus on your task at hand. While your job may require you to check email regularly, it is generally best to do one thing at a time and to complete one task before moving on to the next. Try to limit yourself to checking email between tasks, rather than during tasks. Also, prioritize your responses to the email messages you receive. Answer only those that require immediate action, and respond to other, less urgent messages later when you have more time.

Handle People Interruptions

To curtail interruptions by your peers, there are some techniques you can use:

  1. Politely tell your colleague you need to get back to work.
  2. Ask your colleague if you can get back to him/her at another time.
  3. Work earlier or later in the day when the workplace may be quieter.
  4. Shut your office door.
  5. Mark yourself as busy on instant messenger (IM).

Schedule Difficult and Boring Tasks

In a given day, most people deal with different types of tasks. Some require intense focus and concentration and some are just simple yet boring tasks that need to be done. So, how does one juggle these different tasks and complete them in a given day?

Challenging Work Items

For tasks that are challenging and require most of your attention, set aside a specific time to work on them. Some studies have shown that people tend to be most productive and have the most energy in the morning. Think about what time of day you are most productive and schedule your most challenging work during this time.

Boring Work Items

We all have work items that must be done but that we find boring. Often the time spent on these work items is more than what they should actually take.

One technique recommended by Timothy Ferris in the Four Hour Workweek (New York: Crown Publishers, 2007, p. 84) is to use a stop watch or a timer to clock yourself while you complete this task. Consider setting a challenging time for a boring task and then going at it with the intent to beat the clock.

Check for Understanding: Time Management Skills

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, you will answer the following questions on time management skills.

  1. Which of the following statements is false about a daily to-do list?
    1. You should list every possible task that you can think of.
    2. You should prioritize the items on your list.
    3. One of the goals of a to-do list to help you stop feeling overwhelmed.
    4. A to-do list will help you focus on what's important.
  2. Eliminating which of the following can save valuable time at work? [You can choose more than one answer]
    1. Constantly checking email throughout the day.
    2. Spending time on the internet for personal, rather than work-related, matters.
    3. Letting others interrupt your work whenever they choose to do so.
    4. Answering all calls even in the midst of work that requires all your attention.
  3. Create a to-do list for tomorrow. Prioritize tasks as high/medium/low priority and estimate the time required to complete each task.

Solution:

  1. A.
  2. A, B, C, and D.
  3. Your list should include items that you are working on for the future. When listing those tasks, be sure to include the due dates. Your high priority tasks are those that have immediate deadlines, are critical to the day's operations, and need to be completed before others can get their work done. Medium priority tasks are those that need your attention, but can wait until later in the day to be completed. Low priority tasks include sorting files, cleaning out your desk, etc.

Goals as a Motivational Tool for Time Management

So far in this lesson, we have covered tools and techniques to help you improve your time management skills. We have not yet discussed what you might do with the time you gain by improving your time management skills.

Do you have goals that will take you to the next level in your career or goals in your personal life that will help fulfill your dreams? Better use of time will free up time to focus on these goals.

Setting goals and achieving them is one of the most rewarding human experiences. The harder it is to achieve a goal, the more critical it is to manage your time well. Goals can be the single most influential factor in ensuring that you manage your time effectively.

Goal setting and time management are tightly coupled together. You cannot achieve goals if you do not manage your time well. The incentive to manage your time comes from having actionable goals you want to achieve.

Some of the ways goal setting can help you manage your time include:

  1. Goals help you make good choices as to what to spend your time on. They can help you eliminate time wasters and increase your focus on the task at hand.
  2. Goals help you prioritize. Knowing what you want and how important it is for you helps you prioritize your tasks. This increases the chances of achieving goals that really matter to you.
  3. Goals help you avoid procrastination. Setting goals and deadlines will prevent you from procrastinating and putting off work you need to do to meet those goals.

In today's fast-paced world and competitive work environment, it is imperative to be productive in every hour you spend at work. Good time management skills, combined with goal setting, will increase your productivity and decrease your stress levels resulting in a higher quality of life.

Check for Understanding: Goals as a Motivational Tool for Time Management

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

In this exercise, you will:

  1. Identify one task or activity you want to do every day but never seem to get the time to do. Think about changes you can make to complete this task or activity

Solution:

  1. The activity you listed might be something that has not been assigned as a priority; therefore, it is easy to postpone it. One thing you can change to make sure this task is completed is to assign it a deadline, one that is not too far in the future, then schedule a time every day where you dedicate yourself to the completion of this task with no distractions or interruptions. It can be as little as 15 minutes a day up to however much time you are comfortable with. The key is to do it once it has been scheduled.