Time management

Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.

It is a meta-activity with the goal to maximize the overall benefit of a set of other activities within the boundary condition of a limited amount of time, as time itself cannot be managed because it is fixed.

Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects, and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Time management is usually a necessity in any project development as it determines the project completion time and scope.

The major themes arising from the literature on time management include the following:

  • Creating an environment conducive to effectiveness
  • Setting of priorities
  • Carrying out activity around prioritization.
  • The related process of reduction of time spent on non-priorities
  • Incentives to modify behavior to ensure compliance with time-related deadlines.

Time management is related to different concepts such as:

  • Project management: Time Management can be considered to be a project management subset and is more commonly known as project planning and project scheduling. Time Management has also been identified as one of the core functions identified in project management.
  • Attention management: Attention Management relates to the management of cognitive resources, and in particular the time that humans allocate their mind (and organize the minds of their employees) to conduct some activities.

Organizational Time Management is the science of identifying, valuing and reducing wasted time within organizations. Organizational Time Management identifies, reports and financially values sustainable time, wasted time and productive time within an organization and develops the business case to convert wasted time into productive time through the funding of products, services, projects or initiatives at a positive return on investment.

Some time-management literature stresses tasks related to the creation of an environment conducive to “real” effectiveness. These strategies include principles such as:

  • “get organized” – the triage of paperwork and of tasks
  • “protecting one’s time” by insulation, isolation and delegation
  • “achievement through goal-management and through goal-focus” – motivational emphasis
  • “recovering from bad time-habits” – recovery from underlying psychological problems, e.g. procrastination

Writers on creating an environment for effectiveness refer to such matters as having a tidy office or home for unleashing creativity, and the need to protect “prime time”. Literature also focuses on overcoming chronic psychological issues such as procrastination.

Excessive and chronic inability to manage time effectively may result from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Diagnostic criteria include a sense of underachievement, difficulty getting organized, trouble getting started, many projects going simultaneously and trouble with follow-through. Some authors  focus on the prefrontal cortex which is the most recently evolved part of the brain. It controls the functions of attention-span, impulse-control, organization, learning from experience and self-monitoring, among others. Some authors argue that changing the way the prefrontal cortex works is possible and offer a solution.

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