Time management is often associated with stress in our minds. Time is omnipresent - it is money, it determines our everyday life. We want to use it efficiently, stop it sometimes, kill it, but not waste it. Other days, we overrun it mercilessly or deliberately take time out. What will help us turn the tide in 2022 and deal consciously with time?
Let's start by saying that there is only your perfect system, not the perfect system. Should we rethink time? In our working lives, we often strive to optimise it. At the same time, the current challenges are making us realise that we can only use up time to the extent that we allow ourselves time to regenerate.
The dynamics of our lives present us with one task after another, the notifications of incoming emails, Slack messages, WhatsApp messages or calls put us in the mindset of having to be constantly available. How often do we interrupt our own creative phases to attend scheduled meetings? How often do we drop the pen even when we are in flow, only to attend a meeting where we have nothing to contribute? This, coupled with insufficient time management, can become a real time thief.
We often try to cope with this by making to-do lists. The challenge of these lists is the lack of clarity and prioritisation. This in turn leads to the processing of things and also to a satisfaction when checking things off or crossing them off, but we do not evaluate whether it was actually our task and whether we have done it in the appropriate form. It is also possible to work towards a different approach to time management or self-management in one's own team or company.
Time management is therefore the key to lowering stress levels, increasing effectiveness and also serves to ensure our work-life balance.
Although we fall into the efficiency trap again and again. Time gained is often immediately filled up again, otherwise it would be unused. At the same time, we can plan breaks for active regeneration, because if we take this time, we will be able to perceive and use our working time, free time and even our lifetime differently. So how about a "not-to-do list" for a change?
In times of constant optimisation and digitalisation, technical support for time management is naturally at the top of the list. Nevertheless, there are special basic assumptions and principles that should be taken into account when dealing with our valuable time. So that tried and tested analogue methods also have their justification and we don't want to leave them out. So if you prefer to do it without a fancy app or online tool, you can make these instruments your own.
Yes you read correctly and we are not talking about the next winter or hiking holiday. This time management method helps organise the workday through a 5-step work structure.
1. A - Define tasks (german Aufgaben): Get an overview of all the To Dos.
2. L - Estimate length: Estimate how long you need for individual tasks and thus check whether you can achieve the daily goal. In the beginning, time measurements are helpful as a reference value.
3. P - Plan buffers: Plan only about 60 % of the working time through and keep 40 % free for unexpected events and social interactions.
4. E - Make decisions (german Entscheidungen): Decide what to do first and what to do last. Set priorities.
5. N - Follow-up (german Nachkontrolle): In the evening, check how well the planning has worked out and whether you have achieved the goals.
The ALPEN method is a particularly good way to start, as it already improves the to-do list noticeably by introducing prioritisation through the analysis and decision-making steps.
Another addition to prioritisation is the Pareto principle. Also known as the 80-to-20 rule and a greater challenge for all perfectionists among us. It is named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian engineer, economist and sociologist.
When prioritising, ask yourself the following question: Which 20 % of these tasks will ensure 80 % of my result, or more simply: Which tasks are the most important and will help me the most in achieving my goal? With the Pareto time management method, you start with exactly these to-dos. Everything else is done later.
A somewhat more complex prioritisation aid and self-management tool is the Eisenhower Matrix. It is recommended for colleagues who, for example, tend to let others' appointments and telephone calls dictate their own schedule or who often spend a lot of time answering emails.
Using the quadrant system, they rate tasks according to urgency and importance. Tasks that are important and urgent, i.e. so-called A-tasks, they complete themselves immediately. B-tasks are characterised by the fact that they are important but not urgent. Mostly, these are strategic tasks that may be scheduled despite being less urgent, so that they do not fall behind, because they remain important in any case. The to-do's known as C-tasks are urgent but rather unimportant. Often it is precisely these tasks that are particularly suitable for delegation. Tasks under D, which are neither important nor urgent, should be filed away or, in the best case, sent directly to the wastepaper basket.
This analysis tool is best presented in the form of a diagram.
Can you already feel your productivity increasing when you think about structuring your work with these methods in the future?
Of course, the above selection does not exhaust the entire repertoire of time management tools. However, these are the ones that are particularly easy to implement. In contrast to this is the principle of GTD - better known as "Getting Things Done". However, this requires intensive engagement with the system. But it is unbeatable in the right application once it has been internalised. Precisely because it can be extended to all areas of life.
The previous time management helpers focus on the basics of efficient time management. Of course, these also have their digital counterparts. In addition, there are various app applications that take a lot of the work off your hands, except for the actual work itself. The shortcoming here is that one's own skills are only developed to a limited extent.
Those who are looking for more digital support can also work on time management with these apps and applications. As mentioned at the beginning, it is a very individual approach and we are allowed to experience for ourselves what helps us in our everyday work. At the same time, the digital helpers are often thought of in a much bigger way and provide support beyond pure time management.
This software is from a company in Bochum and is a complete project management app. Entire projects with associated tasks can be created, deadlines can be set and priorities can be set. This is particularly helpful in the initial project planning phase, but also in the adherence to deadlines and time limits through a suitable traffic light system. With regard to your own resources, the workload overview is also worth highlighting.
With the purchase of Wunderlist by Microsoft, it was only a matter of time before their own solution came out. The result, Microsoft To Do, supports classic to-do lists by summarising and editing tasks. In addition, there are activity reminders so that you really don't lose sight of any task.
Todoist has recently come under a bit of criticism due to various updates, but at the same time it is still one of the most widely used solutions for creating, sorting and mapping to-do lists. Associated projects and keywords can be assigned. Here, too, there is a reminder function as well as checklist items that enable an assessment of urgency and priority.
Even if we are allowed to let go of the idea that "time is money" more often, we still have various tools at our disposal to smooth the way to our work-life integration. However, there is no panacea to ensure that all areas are as structured and organised as possible. Instead, it is a matter of learning by experience, consistent implementation in self-management and the serenity to consciously schedule a break for regeneration once in a while.