Blog 6 - Time and How We Manage It

Time and How We Manage It

Time and not money is surely the most precious commodity we possess. We have all lost money at some point in our lives but it can be replaced, whereas when time is lost, it’s gone forever. We must then ensure that we use this priceless asset wisely, optimising its value to us, whether in the workplace or at home.

Where do we start?

With the panic button?

You have your to-do list and while that may be a good start, it can be daunting and what should you do first?
Some say do the least pleasant task first and get it out over with so you can enjoy the rest of the day.
Another approach is to do the task first that has the most uncertainty for how long it will take. While that task is on your list, your whole to do list is uncertain. You might get lucky and finish the task quickly, or you might not but either way, you need to know.

People who over-eat are often described as having ‘eyes bigger than their stomachs’. The time management equivalent is the person who takes on more and more projects that look inviting and exciting, with a total disregard for existing work commitments. This behaviour is typical of a Type A working style and the end result is ‘plate spinning’ – dashing from one unfinished task to another, putting in short bursts of effort and hoping that none of the plates crashes to the floor. Not only is this a very ineffective way of working, it is also a very stressful.



To regain control over your workload, a reality check is essential. Prioritise everything on your to-do list and then estimate how long each task needs in order to be completed and having allocated a time to each task, double it which is usually a more realistic timescale.

And finally, apply a little self-discipline and common sense while prioritising.


Important and urgent

These are tasks that are essential to the functioning of the organisation and must be done urgently to avoid a potential crisis. For example, you are working at your desk and the fire bell starts ringing. It is not a scheduled fire drill; there is a real possibility that the building is on fire. I am sure you will agree that this is important and urgent!


Important but not urgent

These are the tasks which are defined in your job objectives and which you are employed to carry out. Often, these tasks are projects of medium- to long-term duration and therefore lack absolute urgency.


Urgent but not important

These tasks threaten to cause a negative impact or disruption if they are not actioned quickly so get to them.


Not important and not urgent

Tasks that may not be an essential part of your job objectives, neither will there be any noticeable impact to the business if they are not done at all. For example, reading trade journals and newsletters is a useful thing to do if you have time but if not, discard them rather than have them pile up.

Ask yourself:

·         Will doing this move me towards achieving my goals and/or job objectives?

·         What would be the impact of not doing this today/tomorrow/this week?

In your job, you need to consider a time horizon. Just how far out do you look each day? And how far out should you be looking? For someone working on a customer service desk, it is not much further than the next call. For a team leader, it might be a couple of weeks. The higher up the management structure, the more distant the time horizon (and the tasks connected with it) you need to be considering. The CEO of a large corporation is likely to be looking years ahead.


 Can I create more hours in my day?

Not exactly, but if you eliminate time-wasting activities, you can free up more time so the next stage is to look at your time-consuming activities and assess how much time you are spending on them.

  • Some of these may be outside your control but others will be within it
  • Can you delegate?
  • Is your working style hindering you?
  • Should you practise being more decisive?
  • If you are feeling negative at work, are you in the right job?
  • Do I have a role model

We said earlier that time cannot be replaced and of course you can’t physically control external time, but you can manage yourself and the choices you make with regard to time. Does the way you use time reflect your priorities and your values?

I leave you with that thought as I go off to prioritise my 101 tasks!