Experts POol

MAKE TIME TO MANAGE TIME

“I just don’t have time for that!” If only we could get a nickel for every time we said that in the last month, right? This simple phrase underscores one of the most well-known facts about our personal and professional lives—we’re busy. And, oftentimes there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. I had a professor who used to say, “You want to hear a real quandary on the physics of time? How can I be four weeks behind when there are only two weeks left in the semester?”

Well, since we can’t add more hours to the day (or week), let’s explore some ideas that will hopefully help us manage our time a little better.

First, deliberate tradeoffs. This is really an exercise in priorities, and applies to anything in life and business when you’re dealing with scarce resources. Something I notice often is that we’re great at talking about time as a resource using monetary metaphors—“I don’t want to waste time.” “I need to budget my time better.” What we’re not always great at, however, is managing our time using that same mentality. Deliberate tradeoffs allow us to do just that. It works like this—an hour spent here, talking to this person, checking email, etc., is an hour less at the end of the day for something else. So, if we’re going to talk about time like its money anyway, let’s treat it that way in our behavior. I have a tendency to be very strict with this, and simply will not attend certain things that aren’t mandatory and/or critical to some aspect of my work. An hour at that presentation/symposium (or, worse, an hour just chatting after a meeting) might be an hour I have to play catch up at home instead of spending it with my wife and daughter. And that’s the great thing about this—the better you make tradeoffs, the more a sense of balance you can achieve overall in your life.

Second, time auditing and commitments. This idea is from The One-Life Solution by Henry Cloud—a wonderful book about how to reclaim a sense of “balance” in our lives between work and home. So, to do a time audit, make a log of how you spend your days/weeks. Learn your rhythms and what you get done (or don’t) and when. Not only does this help with deliberate tradeoffs, but can also give you a sense of when you work best, and what you value. What you give your time to, your commitments, indicates what’s really important. Of course, we all have to do things when we’d rather be doing something else. But I bet if we’re all honest we could be better about what we’re committing to.

Here’s the kicker—managing time requires as much effort as the things that led us to be so busy in the first place. In short, we must make time to manage time. Get started today with deliberate tradeoffs and time audits. 

Jeremy Fyke

Jeremy Fyke, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in communication studies and corporate communication in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. He can be reached at jeremy.fyke@marquette.edu.

 

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