Time is probably the most valuable asset available to people and organizations. Understanding how to manage one's time can contribute mightily to the success of personal and professional lives. However, as with any other asset, it may be wasted if it's not valued.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to waste time. It is true that some people naturally have good time-management skills, having developed good techniques for managing themselves and their time. But others have developed poor habits related to time. Needless to say, most people do not like to proclaim or admit these kinds of weaknesses. Wasted time cannot be replaced. With increasing demands both in the workplace and at home, a great need exists for time to become more respected, valued, and balanced.
DEFINITION OF TIME MANAGEMENT Time management may be defined as the discovery and application of the most efficient method(s) of completing assignments of any length in the optimum time and with the highest quality. This definition of time management has widespread applications: It applies to the entire spectrum of activities ranging from (1) simple "do-it-this-morning tasks" assigned by individuals to themselves or to others (e.g., prepare several short letters) to(2) large projects developed for a large organization by many people with completion contemplated to take a long period of time (e.g., write a book or open a new branch office). It denotes the "best" time, which is usually but not always the shortest time. It pertains either to (1) continuing and repetitious activities (e.g., daily logging-in of shipments received) or to (2) occasional activities(e.g., selection of new CEO). It includes production of anything, such as manufacture of a tangible product, provision of a service, preparation of a written document, development of a procedure, or arrival at a decision. It may include a progress-point assignment (e.g., development of plans for the preliminary testing of a new product) or an end-goal assignment (e.g., a final marketing plan for a new product). Development of plans for time management must necessarily presume the existence and application of such desirable personal and work qualities as motivation, discipline, consideration for others, and the desire to succeed.
BENEFITS OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT Many valuable rewards potentially await those willing to develop good time-management practices. In individual careers, increased job performance and promotions may result. In personal lives, individuals may achieve successful marriages, more family time, less debt, and less stress. In addition, all types of organizations— business, civic, school, political, and religious— may receive productive, competitive, and financial benefits from observance of good time-management practices.
ACHIEVEMENT OF GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT Business firms and other organizations often find it profitable to take tangible steps to learn the best possible time-management strategies. Some or all of the following approaches may be considered: Call in an outside person or organization that specializes in time-management consulting and have a detailed evaluative study conducted of the practices being followed. Develop task forces within the firm or organization to undertake time-management studies with the goals of finding, analyzing, and "curing" areas experiencing wasteful time procedures. Have individuals within the firm or organization engage in educational and research activities related to time management, such as enrolling in college courses, checking the Internet, participating in correspondence courses, and/or attending seminars. Check into the possibility of visiting and studying other firms noted for their efficient time-management practices.
ACHIEVING AND APPLYING GOOD TIME-MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES In most organizational and personal activities, three areas of endeavor play prominent roles in achieving and applying good time-management principles: (1) development of suitable personal qualities, (2) development of short- and long-range goals, and (3) effective use of computers.
Development of Suitable Personal Qualities Good time management requires the utmost in organizational ability. Answers to questions such as the following must be found: Does the worker have all the necessary tools located conveniently? Can necessary tools be found without wasting time? Is provision made for replacement of items that routinely get used up? Are necessary lists placed in a handy location? Are lighting, temperature, and noise at proper levels? If reference materials are needed to perform the job, are they placed in accessible locations? Where direct contact with other persons is necessary to obtain information, can these persons be quickly contacted? Have procedures been worked out to reduce clutter and confusion? Is complete cleanup of workstations required daily or at other appropriate time intervals? Have job duties been arranged in order of priority? Planning is necessary to achieve success in time management. Companies find that production moves more efficiently when procedures have been carefully worked out in detail. Self-discipline and motivation play key roles in this process. Once a commitment is made to improve, an urge to proceed efficiently tends to follow, and it is necessary to apply this urge to the tasks at hand. Motivation grows as workers begin seeing the results of improved production. Special efforts need to be paid to procrastination, one of the deadliest enemies of good time management. People who suffer from procrastination wait until the last possible moment to do almost anything. Some find it almost impossible to take the first step in any project. It can seriously affect work quality and heighten personal stress. It may create uninvited feelings of panic and chaos. Perhaps the best cure for procrastination is imposition of strict time limits either upon one's self or upon others in the chain of command. Development of good time-management practices may require inauguration of a program of self-evaluation. Personal habits may need to be studied carefully to see if any are faulty and need to be improved. Development of Short- and Long-Range Goals Establishing short- and long-range goals is essential to successful time management in both one's personal life and one's work life. When establishing goals, it is necessary to determine and specify standards that must be achieved within stated dates and/or times. This involves identifying a series of specific steps designed to bring one closer and closer to a stated goal. A good plan must include amounts of time per day or hour (or other time measurement) that will be devoted to work geared to achievement of the goal. It should include estimated time costs that might result from barriers or obstacles encountered along the way. Prioritizing—that is, ranking goals in order of importance—is necessary in situations where the most important of the possible goals may not be easily determined. For example, in designing a new refrigerator, there is often a clash between the engineers, who wish it designed to operate at the highest efficiency level, and the marketing people, who wish it to be given a price tag that will maximize its salability. Which is given the highest priority—quality or pricing? A time-management plan may very well be involved in determining the answer. Effective Use of Computers Computers can provide essential assistance in helping people to manage their time wisely by tracking details, coordinating schedules, facilitating communication, and securing and organizing data. Computers greatly assist those who work with others at a considerable geographic distance. Written messages can be transmitted instantly through e-mail. Data can be researched comparatively quickly through the Internet. In and of themselves, however, computers do not provide an automatic solution for time-management problems. They are most helpful to people who are already both knowledgeable and organized—and therefore best able to apply the benefits of computers to time management. In addition to computers, other technology exists that can contribute to the quality of time-management plans: Faxing is the instantaneous transmission of communications from one fax (facsimile) machine to another anywhere in the world. Priority mail and overnight-delivery service are offered by the U.S. Post Office. Telephones, which once provided only voice-transmission service, now offer voice-mail recording, beepers, cellular service, and other services. TIME MANAGEMENT AND LARGE PROJECTS Complications inevitably arise with a large project that involves management and coordination of several organizations and people who are all contributing to its completion. A classic example is a construction project involving a building, dam, bridge, or road. Suppose, for example, a building is being constructed for XYZ business firm. Often, in cases like this, the role of time is very critical. It may be that XYZ firm has found it necessary to get heavily involved in activities such as selling or leasing its existing location, making the myriad of moving arrangements for its employees and their equipment, and working out contacts with its customers. XYZ firm very much desires the building under construction to be completed at the agreed-upon time. If not, XYZ firm could encounter large expenses in having to put up with temporary locations and increase the time spent in making large numbers of alternative arrangements. In fact, time in such situations is so critical that contracts often require builders to forfeit fees if the construction is not completed on schedule. In cases such as this (and in many other applications), extensive use may be made of the Program Evaluation and Review Technique, usually called PERT. Developed in the 1950s, PERT groups various activities graphically. Activities in the construction of a large building, for example, might include excavations, various foundation workings, windows, air conditioning, heating, painting, and so on. Each activity requires not only estimates of time but also the costs of labor, material, and money. Some of the activities are sequential—the first activity must be completed before the second can begin. Other activities are concurrent—more than one activity can be worked on at a time. Many valuable rewards await people and organizations who are willing to develop good time management practices.