Search on Google for “manage time, not effort” and a second later the ubiquitous search engine will yield about 607,000,000 results. If you want to waste a lot of time, start reading the content behind those links. Most of us, however, have neither that kind of time to waste nor the inclination to conduct an exhaustive perusal of literature. That’s why we have a saying, “Work smarter, not harder.”
The most popular and influential results on that Google search either speak to or provide processes that help busy people manage their time. Yes, it all comes down to processes which guide nearly every aspect of our lives whether or not we realize it. The key point in each time management process hinges on action. No process works unless executed.
A well-design process not only regulates effort, it also allocates energy. As noted by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy in the Harvard Business Review, “time a is finite resource… energy comes from four main wellsprings in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit.” Time ill-spent will drain one’s energy to the point of exhaustion and apathy. Therefore, savvy executives who value their employees’ well-being will “shift their emphasis from getting more out of people to investing more in them, so they are motivated—and able—to bring more of themselves to work every day.”
Liquid Planner offers a list of strategies to help the stress-for-time to adopt a more efficient and less stressful process for getting through their busy lives. This includes setting priorities, mitigating distractions, and stopping procrastination. Their final suggestion to review the day’s task list prior to leaving the office offers the opportunity to tweak the process and to recognize accomplishments: “Give yourself a pat on the back if you achieved what you wanted. If you think your day’s effort fell short, decide what you’ll do differently tomorrow in order to accomplish what you need to.” In other words, if your task list contains items that were not accomplished, then use the opportunity to figure out why. Did you overload the task list? Did some outside force prevent you from completing the task? What accommodations must you make to complete that task?
The Harvard Business Review returns to the subject with Elizabeth Grace Saunders’ key insight into high performance: You don’t have to be perfect. Those high performers who dazzle everyone else “have learned to recognize and excel in what really counts—and to aim for less than perfect in everything else.” This doesn’t mean accepting sloppy work. It does mean “fully leveraging your strengths instead of constantly trying to shore up your weaknesses.” The basic lesson is this: “No one has time for everything.”
Processes work best for managing routine tasks. Effective processes for managing time require an understanding of the realities attendant upon the tasks. IQ Matrix suggests setting specific, measurable, and realistic goals. Assigning five minutes to a task that takes you thirty to complete mandates an adjustment in your process. Efficiency has limits, though.
Figuring out where you will invest your time and effort means deciding what you will exclude from that list. That may mean forcing the kids to drop some after-school activities or postponing that macrame class you wanted to take or hiring a service to clean your house. On a professional level, focusing on what you will invest your time in will result in limiting your involvement on committees and delegating tasks.
The Heggen Group offers expert process engineering. Contact us to help you manage your time to make the best use of your effort—without exhausting your energy.