What Is the Best Time Management System?
From time blocking to the Eisenhower Matrix: The most important methods for effective time management
The most valuable resource in the world: TIME
“That won’t work, I don’t have time for that.” “Time flies so quickly, how am I supposed to get everything done?” We are confronted with such statements daily, and they impede us immensely. Whether it is others’ lack of time or our own makes no real difference in this regard – time restrictions impact our daily lives. But proper time and task management can help to overcome these challenges. It allows us to consciously pursue goals and create freedoms as well as reducing error rates and preventing unnecessary stress in our personal and professional environments. That’s why we at Sourcing International decided to review and question our existing processes and tools in order to establish an efficient organisation-wide system of time and task management. In doing so, we identified the following five best practices that we want to share with you.
STEP 1: COLLECT TASKS CENTRALLY
We all know the feeling – professional as well as private tasks, appointments, meetings, and the like pop up daily like popcorn in the microwave. This is confounded by the fact that potential to-do lists are maintained across multiple apps and programs, or even traditionally on paper notes. To mitigate this problem, all relevant tasks, appointments, and reminders should be collected in one central tool. This reduces stress and frees up mental resources, since all the various to-dos no longer float around diffusely in our heads but are instead recorded and documented in a single location.
STEP 2: STRUCTURE TASKS
We are often confronted with the problem that we define timelines and due dates that are too short or too close – even though we know we could easily set them more generously. That’s why it is important to break down large projects into smaller parts; doing so allows us to make more appropriate estimates for required project durations. As the old saying goes, “if you want to eat an elephant, cut it into pieces.” Separating tasks into smaller components also reduces our inhibitions with regard to beginning large projects, and team tasks can be completed more efficiently and with fewer conflicts as well.
STEP 3: PRIORITISE
After all the to-dos have been collected and structured into work packages, it is necessary to determine which of the many tasks need to be completed first. Humans have a general tendency to prioritise tasks they consider time-critical, even if the outcome of those tasks is far less significant than that of non-time-critical ones. Urgency often deceptively trumps importance. It can therefore be useful to go beyond the simple setting of priorities by employing an advanced prioritisation framework. One potential such framework is the Eisenhower Matrix, which not only considers the temporal component of tasks but also their importance. People wanting to start out with a simpler method might try the “Eat that Frog” principle instead: It entails choosing one of the most difficult and/or unpleasant tasks on the to-do list to tackle at the start of the day. Once this “frog” has been “swallowed”, the overall burden for the day is lessened greatly and a positive outlook is ensured.
STEP 4: FOCUS
Interruptions during work can be annoying. When we experience a continuous stream of distractions from emails, notifications, appointments, etc., it can be difficult to remain focused and concentrated. We therefore recommend finding a suitable planning framework that matches your work style and allows you to stay in the zone. One example is the time blocking method: The day is structured into fixed blocks of activity dedicated to specific types of tasks (e.g. one block for meetings, one for emails, etc.). In order to reduce distractions from message alerts and notifications, use certain applications to silence them according to your individual needs. Many programs also offer the option of turning off notifications during defined periods manually.
STEP 5: ESTABLISH DAILY ROUTINES
We have a tendency to think about outstanding tasks much more intensively and frequently than completed ones. To maintain clarity and the ability to distance ourselves, certain times should be reserved for so-called shutdown rituals – essentially, ending the current workday and planning the following one. This helps us to disconnect, relax, and enjoy our evening or weekend, since the many uncompleted tasks that would otherwise continually haunt our thoughts have been recorded and planned.
At Sourcing International, we subjected an important and constant topic that was largely being addressed at the individual level to a critical review. This caused us to change our tools to better take our requirements and the modern possibilities for time management into account. As a result, our professional and personal day-to-day lives have become more efficient and collaboration was facilitated – and we have more free time, less stress, and more mental capacities available for creative ideas.
In closing, we want to share a few links to in-depth information on the topic of time and task management. The DOIST blog in particular offers a wealth of information for anyone interested in the subject.
WHICH PRODUCTIVITY TYPE ARE YOU?
7-MINUTE VIDEO ON THE IVY LEE METHOD
COGNITIVE ERRORS THAT IMPEDE EFFICIENT TIME MANAGEMENT
SOURCING INTERNATIONAL is not an exclusively Austrian undertaking. It is a joint venture formed by the fusion of Höllwarth Consulting and 42virtual. The two companies have existed for many years and have frequently cooperated successfully on large projects.
"The consolidation of experience in a close and professional cooperation allows SOURCING INTERNATIONAL to provide high efficiency and offer a broad spectrum of services."
Mag. Oliver Lindlbauer