November 6, 2015

Time to Take Control

Mikko Virta

Bid Manager, Managed Services, Consulting and Sales support, Tieto

To me, time management in a nutshell, means how you actually spend your (work) days. In this blog text I am concentrating on time management in the workplace, but the presented tips and viewpoints can also be utilized in private life too. 

Efficient time management is not just about doing a favor to myself by managing my own schedules, it is also about considering other people. Working in a project related work environment requires thinking about the rest of the team as well. Being proactive also allows the task at hand to be achieved more easily.

I am 100% sure you have heard the following from your colleagues at some point: “I am busy,” “can we postpone the deadline,” “I will do that tomorrow.” Been there, done that. Some people tend to be better with time management than others. Missing a deadline, however, is not an option, and being late makes you look unprofessional in the eyes of your client.

There are several ways to handle your time. Next, I will share some tips that help me ease the stress when under time pressure.

Easy to use model for time management

The four dimension quadrant by author Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) is an effective and well-known model for time management. I have started to use it personally and so far it has helped me to prioritize my actions. Covey describes the four quadrants seen in the picture as follows:

The urgent and not urgent dimensions on the horizontal level are seen as time related activities, whereas, the important and not important on the vertical level are regarded as value related activities.

  • Quadrant one describes activities that must be done right away
  • Quadrant two should be a focus point for planning
  • Quadrant three includes activities that should be minimized
  • Quadrant four activities are wasting your time, and that’s why you should not concentrate on those at all.

As you can imagine, important things should be handled before they become urgent. Some activities are not important and yet urgent, but ultimately, you are the one who decides. Try to place the things on your to-do list into the grid, prioritize accordingly and see how your week goes forward.  

My tips for time management:

“Prioritize,” they say – but that is easier said than done. To be able to prioritize, you need to be aware of the whole situation and the consequences of certain actions, and understand the difference between urgency and importance. By looking at the big picture, instead of getting caught up in minor details, you are on the right path.

When there is a need for prioritizing tasks, I ask myself simple questions: What will happen if I do this and leave that for later? What will be the outcome of the decision and how will it affect the big picture?

Planning ahead for the upcoming week is something I recommend to everyone. When pre-arranging your schedule, try to think of the steps that need to be taken before reaching the ultimate goal. Only then do you start drafting your to-do list. But, flexibility is the key here too; remember to keep your schedule pliable enough to handle unexpected events or delays. You never know what might happen, of course, because none of us has a crystal ball that predicts the future.

In the end, efficient time management is one of the best things you can do for yourself. In practice, it means being more realistic and hopefully having less stress. It is also a way to improve your work performance and the overall satisfaction you get from your professional tasks. Remember then, that you need to be motivated in order to spend time on planning ahead.

Nobody has ever said that this would be easy. But, follow the guidelines above and the positive results soon achieved will be all the proof needed!


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