Here are some of what I consider scary statistics that I have complied with from the Time Management Analysis (TMA).
- 15 percent of participants don’t use a calendar. That is right, over one in ten choose not to rely on the most important time management tool.
- 21 percent choose not to plan ahead. They leave the future a murky state of reactive behavior.
- 23 percent are unable to complete their assignments on time.
- 25 percent can’t make it to meetings on time.
- 26 percent have no task list or system in place.
It is not hard to see that the average person tries to plan but does not tie that back to time management. They try and work on organization but lose focus when there is a lot on their plate. They are inconsistent in both their soft and hard time management skills.
What do we mean by soft and hard skills?
- Hard skills are more the technical aspects of effective time management. They are process driven, easily measured, and can have standardized training.
- Soft skills are interpersonal and personal. While there is effective training techniques, ultimately the individual must choose to invest the time to incorporate these into an effective part of life.
In each case, both of these skills apply to any age and stage in life. Whether just starting out in a career or approaching the end of professional life – improving soft and hard abilities leads to a time-optimized life. Therefore, let’s take a look at each and how they impact your life.
Time Management Soft Skills
As noted earlier, these are less defined but actually more important. If you are able to master the soft skills, the hard skills come much easier.
- Communication: Being able to communicate your needs and expectations to others is essential for effective time management. This includes being able to delegate tasks, say no to new commitments, and ask for help when needed.
- Organization: Staying organized can help you keep track of your tasks and deadlines and avoid feeling overwhelmed. This includes having a system for filing paperwork (physical and electronic), keeping track of your calendar (physical or electronic), and prioritizing your to-do list (you guessed it…physical or electronic).
- Adaptability: Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s important to be able to adapt and adjust your time management strategy as needed. This includes being able to prioritize tasks differently, set realistic deadlines, and say no to new commitments when necessary.
- Decision-making: Being able to make timely and effective decisions is essential for effective time management. This includes being able to prioritize tasks, say no to new commitments, and delegate tasks when needed.
- Time estimation: Being able to accurately estimate how long tasks will take can help you set realistic deadlines and avoid procrastination.
While not exhaustive, this is a great start to “self-ownership.” The more you choose to work on and embrace enhancing your soft skills, the better clarity you have on time management challenges that will come your way.
Time Management Hard Skills
Usually tied to a tool, system, or process – time management hard skills can bring wonderful opportunities of sustained hyper productivity.
- Time tracking: This involves using tools and techniques to track the time you spend on different tasks. This information can be used to identify areas where you can improve your efficiency and productivity. While it sounds like “big brother” you’ll be maximized at how much “time opportunities” you will identify to work on both hard and soft skills.
- Meeting management: This involves the skills and knowledge needed to plan, conduct, and follow up on meetings. It can involve tasks such as creating agendas, inviting participants, and taking notes. So much time is wasted in bad meetings. Be a positive influence for you and others.
- Email management: This involves the skills and knowledge needed to manage your email effectively. It can involve tasks such as filtering emails, prioritizing emails, and creating templates. How many emails do you get in a day?
- Task management: This involves using tools and techniques to organize and manage your tasks. It can involve tasks such as creating to-do lists, setting deadlines, and prioritizing tasks. Just about everyone has built-in software.
- Knowledge of time management techniques: This includes the knowledge of different time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, the Eisenhower Matrix, and time blocking.
Again, this list is not everything. However, mastering the hard skills will bring measurable improvement and show you where more can take place.
Where do I start?
So, you’ve read the list and see a lot of areas to improve, and you think, “Where should I start?”
While each person is unique, and each approach custom, here are my suggestions.
- Start to estimate the time you think it will take to complete activities. You’ll not get it right at the start. However, the more you challenge yourself to think about the time investment, the more you can challenge yourself to get it done on time. That is the soft skill to work on.
- Grab a software tracking tool (there are many free options, things like Toggl or Clockify) and track how you send your time. Yes, it does take extra time, but it will allow you to see where you waste time (yes…you do) and to tie it back to your estimates.
Start with these two and see that is it not so “hard” and you’ll be able to “soften” any challenges that come your way.
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