A simple term, and yet so essential and life-changing - To me, it means being able to manage tasks within a given timeframe efficiently, i.e., breaking them down and setting reasonable completion deadlines. Before the pandemic, I had no idea what time management meant beyond the obvious definition of the words. I had heard of the ability to manage a broad range of tasks in a multi-skilled and on-the-go fashion. Although these abilities can be intertwined, they do not mean the same thing. While multitasking can lead to productivity, it can also take away the focus you can allocate to a single task, which may increase your error margin.
If I were to name a group of people who often master this skill, women and mothers precisely would be top of mind. They can manage multiple tasks within the household in addition to caring for their children and themselves. They are often left with no choice but to multitask, and they can be just as time efficient.
Time management is essential to thrive in our post-COVID world and its changing daily life and pressures. It is a must-have trait for anyone considering themselves a leader in any milieu. Reflecting on my personal experience, 2020 and 2021 were ideal years for me to put this skill into practice to the point of mastery. I am a doer and pride myself in honoring my commitments, at least for the most part - I am human, after all.
People often ask me: “How do you do it all?”. I simply utter: “I show up”. I would not be here three years later if it was not for time management. I attribute it to my success - be it personal or professional. Below are three guidelines I have established for myself to thrive.
Commitment is enough for me to squeeze in time for tasks. It comes from within and does not require perfection. Will precedes action in anything we do. Before starting my week, I set intentions and visualize the week ahead. From there, I jot down a list of to-do items to hold myself accountable. Because of that warm-up, it is easier for me to call upon my willpower to help execute everything I have released to the universe.
Each week, I accomplish at least 70-80% of my intentions. Some weeks, I am at 50% suggesting I added too much to my plate and others I achieve the 100%. Again, it does not have to be perfect - it is an evolving process. I use my to-do list as a dashboard of my performance and a reminder of what I have been able to accomplish in the 168 hours I have weekly - excluding a minimum of 8 hours per week (when I manage to do that much) and spare time, including the minimum time needed for subsistence.
I grew up in a discipline-centric family where routines were established and to be followed without objections. Routines established a solid baseline to forge the person I am today.
Fun fact: I recently learned that the Prefrontal cortex is a key part of our brain responsible for filtering the most essential focus elements to help us steer clear of distractions. My approach is to exercise this key mental muscle. In a sense, I train and meditate on discipline.
Discipline is my secret sauce. It is so supreme that I make a point to avoid distractions and anything that can put my mind in a wandering mode. I am no avid fan of social media for that reason nor of instant messages. I choose to practice collecting my thoughts and acting in a controlled way especially if the matter at hand is not urgent. I have trained my brain to operate that way in such an expert manner that oftentimes despite having four distinct calendars, my memory serves me well at remembering the most trivial details and categorizing things organically, by order of importance and urgency.
I have never been described as a flake. I am either in or out. I can start in the middle, and I will merge on one or the other side eventually. Here comes the key idea of prioritizing. For instance, if I commit to visiting a friend on a Saturday and I have a presentation on Monday that I have not had time to prepare yet, I need to question how important visiting my friend in person is on the list. Instead, a phone call could suffice, and I can reschedule without feeling guilty.
These three elements speak to building your core and character to avoid being malleable and getting to know your triggers. Some practical questions you can ask yourself to gauge your time management skills are:
Do I say yes to things instantly despite having a full plate?
What does my weekly to-do list look like?
What can I diarize to ensure I am my most productive self?
Do I pace the time I allocate for distractions?
Which distractions take away my drive to work on my commitments?
Do I value instant or delayed gratification?
These questions are a starting point. Honing your time management skills, like everything in life, is a perpetual journey. Aiming to do better each day, week, or month are the incremental steps you need to master this skill. Time management means operating smarter, keeping your priorities top of mind, and steering clear as best you can from distractions. It also means knowing who you are and what works for you. What works for me may not necessarily be what works for you. This is not a one size fits all approach.
You can do it…think twice before saying yes!
Edited by: Ana Ananiadis