The Seven Steps of Time Management According to Science
“Success is a process, a quality of mind and way of being, an outgoing affirmation of life”
- Alex Noble, artist & entrepreneur
Like you, I’ve read plenty of articles, posts and books on time management, most based on the personal experiences of the author. Not to demean what these people teach, I decided to find what scientific research has to say about this too vexing problem.
I found a recent review of current research on time management written by two Ph. D. researchers, Temesgen Belayneh Zerihun, Asst. Professor, Department of Marketing, and S. Murali Krishna, Professor, Department of Management, both of the College of Business and Economics at Mekelle University in Ethiopia. They reviewed the entirety of scientific literature on time management of the past decades, and distilled all if this into seven simple principles of time management that were common to the reams of research reports they studied.
Understand that we cannot do everything in 24 hours. We have certain priorities in life. Our family, our hobby, our studies, our professional education or any other aspect of the career development, we have to set priorities in life.
Time management is not optional. How true. As there are only 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours is a day then if we’re to accomplish anything in our lives or with our businesses, time management is not optional.
Stay aware that the purpose of managing time is getting things done and achieving results. This may seem obvious, but I have come across time management systems where it seems the author’s process is more important than the results you want.
Time management is a habit developed only through determination and practice. I’ve read that it takes at least twenty consecutive days of conscious practice to create a new personal habit, with some authors stating it takes at least a month. I’d go with the month to make sure the habit sticks.
An individual will become effective in using their time only when the individual clearly knows what they want to do, what they need to do, and by which specific target date.
An individual needs to be aware of self, their personality type, their foibles and flaws and to remain aware of how they are performing. I am of the personality type typified by impulsiveness and procrastination, two traits linked to the same gene in my biological make-up. So, I have to be aware of this and work to create a system for myself that helps me overcome these tendencies.
"20 percent of what you do produces 80 percent of results."Don't over-organize
Understand that the Pareto Principle or The 80/20 Rule applies to time management as well as most other things in life. This principle states that 20 percent of what we do produces 80 percent of results.
In practical terms, you don't have to plan out every minute of every day, just that precious 20% of the day when you get the most - and best - work done. Twenty percent of 24 hours is 4.8 hours. You are going to organize the daylights out of those hours, and let your impulsiveness and procrastination rule the remaining 19 hours. That's correct - 19 hours in which to just let stuff happen. What kind of luxury is this?
So what next?
According to the author’s research, time management involves these simple steps:
- Set goals,
The author’s seven steps of Time Management
With these understandings, all based on solid, empirically based research we're ready to go.
- Set a goal; decide exactly what you want. (Start with as many goals as you want, but choose to work on one and only one at a time. As Confucius said, "One who chases two hares catches neither.)
- Write it down. Put it on paper. Visualize it. Taste it. Feel it. Enjoy it.
- Set a deadline for achieving your goal.
- List out what you must do to achieve your goal.
- Organize this into a plan of tasks and steps necessary to achieve your goal, then execute the plan daily consciously, every day for at least twenty days.
- Take action on your plan immediately. Don't give into procrastination.
- Resolve to do something every day that moves you towards your major goal. This especially required reviewing your time management process daily.
On the flip side of managing time is avoiding the major time wasters
Finally, print out this article and post it where you will see it and read every day during your habit building period. If you don't, science clearly shows that you will have forgotten 70% of these steps by tomorrow at this same time. It's a process. Work at it daily.
* * * * *
Source: T. B. Zerihun, S.M, Krishna, College of Business and Economics, Mekelle University, Mekelle, Ethiopia. A Few Techniques for Time Management, Journal of Business Management & Social Sciences Research, December 2012.