Take Time Out for Time Management
As my daughter prepares for ever more demanding studies and independence, I thought at length about what I might give her to mark this important transition in our lives. Not that she’s likely to listen to a single thing I might have to say, and it’s been a long time since anything I bought her was deemed even half way cool.
So, by writing this short article on what is widely considered to be a key soft skill – time management, maybe, just maybe at some point in time, echoes of what I want to tell her will get to reach her across the web.
Why is time management important? After all, your schools and colleges provide clear schedules and support to get you from fresher status to fully fledged graduate. Your college job employers won’t pay you if you don’t turn up when they said and you don’t stay for the length of time they said. All you need to do, so you think, is to add some new calendar entries on your phone and your reminders will do all the hard work of making sure you get to the right place at the right time. No, I’m sorry, like everything else in life as I’m sure you’re slowly coming to realise, it isn’t quite as simple as that.
What time management does for you, over and above what keeping a carefully co-ordinated calendar does, is that it helps you to get into the habit of pro-actively planning your time and your life. Then later by reflecting, analysing and rearranging things that don’t seem to be working as well as you’d hoped, you get to keep your life on track. Or at least you have a better chance of keeping your life on track.
For example, let’s compare time management to money management – please continue reading this is a short article! It is probable you have a limited income, certainly an income smaller than the one you’d like, that’s why you’re a student after all. Start thinking about how you spend the time of each day, each week in the same way that you should be thinking about how you spend money i.e. carefully.
For example, like planning a financial budget you need to consider three main aspects when managing your time budget:
For me, the first consideration will be my daily schedule, including setting aside time for any preparation I need to undertake before or after I attend meetings or classes; commitments I’ve made to others such as watering their plants when they’re away. Crucially, I find it very useful to allocate time to getting to the market to buy cheap fresh fruit and vegetables. If I don’t, then I always seem to return to empty cupboards and end up eating from the local takeaway which is not only expensive, but typically leaves me feeling bloated and lethargic and unable to concentrate on the activities I’d carefully planned.
The second aspect of time management, planning what I’d like to do and making sure I plan in space during the week to get it done are the me-time, recreation, energising activities so essential to keeping perspective, maintaining a balance, staying positive. Research report after research report has unequivocally established a link between exercise, improved mental and physical health, and for the development of resilience that most important attribute of a good life.
The long term plans or aspirations will change, indeed they almost certainly should change. But they must still be included into your time management practice, however lightly you choose to pencil them in. Without them how can you be sure that the first two stages – what you must do and what you want to do are aligned with them and taking you towards whatever dream you have today?
Taking time out to manage your time is, or will be I assure you, one of the first things you’re tempted to let go as you start to take on more and more activities on your path to “success”. However, economising by cutting out time management really is a false economy.
Failing to plan, to step back, to view things differently, to be physically active, to assess progress in all areas of your life is planning for failure. After all, you are a human machine and if human machines don’t get sufficient rest, nutrition and exercise then the work they produce is inevitably of a poorer quality, less robust, less creative, less insightful than it would otherwise have been. No exceptions.