One of the first suggestions I received from my boss when I started at my company was to join her in a course she was taking to better manage her time. I had just started and didn’t know whether she was making friendly conversation or already criticizing my job performance. I mention the former as a possibility because I remember the topic was brought up casually.
Better safe than sorry, I took her remark to imply the latter. I must have done something to indicate to her that I was disorganized and unproductive. As we spoke in depth about the course she was taking, I realized that the course she was taking was not a “time management” course at all. It was a series of classes on how to enter appointments in her daily planner!
This was many years ago, so I am not even talking about learning a new piece of software. I am talking about picking up a pen and writing an appointment down on sheets of paper pre-printed with dates and times. I should also note that per the course before she could enter an appointment in her date book, she had to complete a worksheet for that appointment. It sometimes took her up to 10 – 15 minutes to complete one. I think she told me that the worksheet was supposed to determine whether the appointment was important enough to enter into her planner or not.
My boss was very regimented. I suspect her regimented approach to time management eventually overwhelmed her. It has been many years since she left. I have assumed many of her responsibilities and more. The position has changed drastically since she held it. However, the need for effective time management has not changed. Through Outlook and my PDA, I keep reliable accounting of my time but knowing what I need to do and when I need to do it is not “time management.”
The “management” in “time management” implies there is a goal to a task or event. The worksheet my former boss filled out for each appointment probably provided her with the goals for her appointments but I can’t convince myself that it is an efficient use of time.
On someone’s advice, I have tried spending an hour every other day on my calendar looking at my appointments and tasks. This only lasted a month. I learned that spending an hour every other day going through my appointments and To Do lists is not for me. I could not cope with changing appointment times, “emergencies” that needed my immediate attention, and other spontaneous events. Most times, it felt like as soon as I finished my calendar, I would have to go back and change it.
There are a lot of helpful people out there. Good advice is abundant. Bad advice is equally as abundant. Most “experts” say the same thing, prioritize your tasks and schedule your time. Penelope Trunk has compiled some of the advice available into a concise list of helpful habits in her blog, The Brazen Careerist.
Two of the tips I’ve personally tried to adopt are Tip #2 – Multitasking is Bad and Tip #10 – Dare to be Slow. However, the remedy must suit the personality. If you are not the type to “let things go” then a solution that asks you to “let things go” will either cause you more stress or simply frustrate you.
So far, I haven’t been as frustrated with these two pieces of advice as I was with spending an hour every day on my calendar.