We Can’t Find Time If We Don’t Make Time : The Importance of Time Management
By Nikeva Mos, M.Sc. Health Psychology
Author of The Sirens of Exaggeration
Considering the practical and psychological side effects of managing your time poorly, these tips and methods showcase the actual importance of time management.
Mark is a successful self-made businessperson who has worked hard to set up a transportation company that now employs 23 people. He is happily married and has four kids.
In the beginning, both his wife and he spent all their time establishing the business as reliable and friendly. When the family started to grow, they decided that she would take care of the household and their children because they wanted their kids to have strong family values and bonds with at least one parent present while they were growing up.
Mark also tries to spend as much time as he can with them, but that’s rare. Even on Sunday lunches, the phone doesn’t stop ringing, so he usually gulps down his food in a hurry to go back to work, which never seems to end.
The company’s building is more of a home to him than his actual house, but early on he made a promise (that he is still keeping): always to return home, even late at night. The rest of the family really appreciate his efforts and never complain, but they feel sad about not seeing him enough. He feels the same way, and lately, he truly thinks it’s time for a long-overdue change. So, he has started to observe his personal daily routine and also the way the business is run: who is doing what, what are the steps behind the services it offers to clients, and how responsibilities are assigned.
He has come to a remarkable conclusion: everything passes through him. It’s not that he doesn’t trust his staff; they are all reliable, competent people. They aren’t lazy, and they aren’t afraid of making decisions. So, how did he go down the wrong path?
The Side Effects of Poor Time Management
Most people find themselves pressed for time at some point in their lives. This doesn’t only happen when responsibilities pile up or when our lives get more complicated as we get older. In fact, there are cases when we have the same number of fewer things to do and we don’t seem able to get through them or feel exhausted trying to juggle everything. In periods like this, even if there is room for enjoyable activities, they become a burden and add to our frustration when we burn the candle at both ends.
This is far more serious than it sounds at first. Poor time management has obvious and hidden practical and psychological side effects. The obvious problems have to do with things that aren’t done and obligations that pile up. They can be about anything, from leaving the roof drains uncleaned to missing an important office deadline.
Another side are the people we let down. Some of them may have an immediate and apparent reaction, like our boss who gets cross with us or our child who whines endlessly. Others may hide their annoyance, but we gradually see changes in their behavior and attitude toward us. Whatever the case, things like these can have a sneaky effect on us because they are a blow to our self-image, which is already wounded by our inability to carry off everything we have taken on. The truth is that what others think of us is extremely important. Their approval and acceptance are music to our ears and honey to our souls. Actually, most of the things we do are meant to win recognition. However, this primal need of ours, if left unchecked, is the source of our troubles. In order to satisfy this need by pleasing others, we often end up leaving both them and ourselves disappointed or bitter.
Managing Time by Significance
Time is something that we can’t actually buy, create, or change its course. We can only manage it. And by doing it correctly, it gives the feeling of expansion and that it’s quite enough for what we want to do. A basic idea behind time management is the proper evaluation of the tasks at hand. That means to think logically about how important and pressing they really are. When we are in a hurry, we seldom do that. However, it’s absolutely necessary so as to make sure our time is spent in the best way, giving maximum results.
So, experts suggest a 4-section table to help us visualize the real significance of things:
|Important – Urgent
|Important – not Urgent
|e.g. call the doctor for baby’s fever
|e.g. get offers for next spring’s carpet cleaning
|Unimportant – Urgent
|Unimportant – not Urgent
|e.g. take the garbage out
|e.g. follow & comment on posts in a lifestyle blog
Surely, people’s opinions are very different about what they consider important and what they do not. However, the aim of the table is to make us take a moment to think and not treat everything as if lives depended on it. Another aspect of our evaluation has to do with the outcome of our actions. In other words, do they cost more (money, time, and well-being) than the profit we expect from them? For example, what will running our kid around from one activity to the next offer? Maybe fewer activities and more time with a relaxed parent are more useful for both. Or maybe not. The point here isn’t to show what’s right and what’s wrong for anyone; it’s to help us make sure we actually decide how we want to spend our time without just getting carried away by our hectic way of life or other people’s demands.
The 3 D’s in Time Management
So far, so good, but what’s next? When we have a clear picture of the urgency and value of what we think needs to be done, it’s time to act upon it. It’s time for what they call “the 3 D’s: Do it, Delegate it, or Ditch it”.
The “Do it” choice is when we decide that it must be taken care of, and we are also the ones who must do it. The time may be now, if necessary, or we can plan it for some time later.
The “Delegate it” option is when we decide that other people are able to manage something, so they must take the responsibility. This case is quite tricky when we try to change our ways. Firstly, because we are used to doing everything either to get things done quickly, avoid complaints, or feel good about our ability to be go-getters. Secondly, others around us are used to avoiding responsibilities and passing them on to us. So, habit is our main enemy when we try to get others involved.
The last option is to “Ditch it”. It may hurt our pride, but some things can’t be done. It doesn’t matter if it’s because of us or circumstances; trying too hard against the odds usually brings the opposite result of what we are hoping for. Or the cost is really high. However, it takes a clear mind and courage to admit that we just can’t do it. And even if it momentarily displeases others around us, they will learn to get over it and show some respect to our needs as well as our limits. But if we want others to recognize them, we have to recognize them first.
People and events are fictional and created for illustrative purposes. Any resemblance to actual individuals and situations is purely coincidental.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to offer views about daily life and well-being. In case you use any of the information in this article, the author assumes no responsibility for your actions. The information given in this article cannot replace the individualized help that health and mental health professionals can offer.
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