Killing Time

Today is my niece’s birthday. Tomorrow is my sister’s. Monday is my son’s.

As they all advance another year, it’s hard to believe my grandfather passed away one year ago today. I thought I’d feel sad today. I don’t. Two weeks after he died my grandson was born, so his name lives on and my heart expanded to embrace a new generation. All is as it should be.

But I digress….today’s blog isn’t about Zaydie. Or birthdays. Rather, it’s about time.

Time.

With smartphones everywhere, we always know what time it is. We check and track it. But we don’t respect time. We kill it. Lose track of it. Misjudge it. Mismanage it. And, we selfishly waste others’ time. Time squandered cannot be retrieved. When it’s gone, it’s gone. There is no “reset” button or “undo” keystroke. It’s telling that, when people reach the end of their lives, they often lament the things they didn’t make time to do, experience, or achieve. Where does time go? Why can’t we accomplish more in a day?

In general, people are poor time-managers because the necessary skills are not properly taught from a young age. This is an ironic statement because we put kids on schedules from Day One with meal time…nap time…play time…bath time…bed time. (Wanna see the schedule I had to follow to babysit my grandson???) Later, we help them master getting up, making the bed, brushing teeth, showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting out the door within forty-five minutes (more or less). And in school, kids’ days are controlled by bells that ring at given intervals, with activities and classes that start and stop at specific times. Time manages them, but kids themselves don’t learn to manage time. Why is that?

As adults, what happens at work? It’s true that some of us punch in and out. How is the rest of the day, however, monitored or accounted for? From the perspective of a manager, I support the notion of “empowerment with accountability,” not micromanagement. And yet, to ensure efficiencies and to maximize productivity, I believe one must learn to invest and use time wisely. The good news? Anyone can master it! Time management just requires structured focus, commitment, and a true desire to improve.

The basic process is straightforward:

  • Set goals. You cannot manage time properly unless you know what you must accomplish. Plan your work and set deadlines.
  • Prioritize. You cannot do everything all at once, so you must prioritize according deadlines and critical importance. If you’re not sure who or what should rank highest, get input from others and negotiate accordingly.
  • Delegate. No matter how capable you are, there are only 24 hours in a day. Depending on your prioritized list, you may need an extra pair of hands (or more) to help out. Figure out what you personally must do versus what someone else can help with. If you’re part of a team, sharing the responsibilities is a benefit to everyone.
  • Use tools. In today’s day and age, there are plenty of online and mobile app tools to help organize, prioritize, and schedule your activities. Use them!!!
  • Organize your files. Similar to the use of tools above, organized filing is crucial. Emails, documents, forms, templates, etc. should be stored in clearly labeled folders to facilitate speed and ease of access.
  • Avoid interruptions. Other people’s priorities are not yours. Block off time separate time to help, support, supervise, or collaborate with others. Dedicate your own time to achieving your own tasks.
  • Avoid multitasking. When you are working on a prioritized task, finish it. If you cannot, you must re-prioritize. Don’t juggle multiple items unless you are super organized, because you will drop a ball or two.
  • Avoid time wasters. In the office environment, it’s easy to lose focus. Hanging around the water-cooler to gossip with co-workers, taking smoke breaks, engaging in random conversations with management to “be seen,” etc. are all examples of wasting precious time. If you want managers to notice you, get your work done.

For most of us, time management is an art form, not a science. (If you’re a parent, teach your kids now!) Following the list above — with input and support from others (parents, supervisors, team members, etc.) — will enable you to feel more in control of your time and proud of your achievements with no guilt or regret.

At the end of the day, I don’t mean to imply we must stay busy and on a schedule every second of every day. We all need breaks; downtime to “go with the flow,” refresh, and recharge. But when we want to be productive, let’s not waste time.

Now….back to binge-watching a series on Netflix…..