Time management is the ability to use your time productively and efficiently. You could also think of it as the art of having time to do everything that you need, without feeling stressed about it. It sounds simple, but it is much harder in practice. This page explains some of the principles behind good time management.
The Importance of Time Management
Time management skills are essential because few, if any, of us ever have enough time to do everything that is asked of us, or that we want to do.
Time management is defined as using your time productively and efficiently—but what about when you are working as productively as possible, and you still can’t get everything done? It may be better to think about time management as a combination of working productively and prioritising your time.
In other words, people who are good at time management are good at getting on and doing things. They are also, however, better at prioritising, and working out what really needs doing—and then discarding the other things.
They can do this because they understand the difference between urgent and important.
- ‘Urgent’ tasks demand your immediate attention, but whether you actually give them that attention may or may not matter.
- ‘Important’ tasks matter, and not doing them may have serious consequences for you or others.
- Answering the phone is urgent. If you don’t do it, the caller will ring off, and you won’t know why they called—and it might be important. It may also, however, be an automated voice telling you that you may be eligible for compensation for having been mis-sold insurance. That’s not important.
- Going to the dentist regularly is important (or so we’re told). If you don’t, you may get gum disease, or other problems. But it’s not urgent. If you leave it too long, however, it may become urgent because you may get toothache.
- Picking your children up from school is both urgent and important. If you are not there at the right time, they will be waiting in the playground or the classroom, worrying about where you are. You may also inconvenience others such as teachers who are waiting with your children for you to arrive.
- Reading funny emails or checking Facebook is neither urgent nor important. So why is it the first thing that you do each day? See our page minimizing distractions to help you recognise and avoid other things that may distract you from getting your urgent and important tasks done.
This distinction between urgent and important is the key to prioritising your time and your workload, whether at work, at home or when studying.