A blog by Peter Stinckens
One of the major causes of success and failure, of stress or being ‘zen’ is the way we deal with time. Some use it to their advantage, and some get used by it. The cool thing about time is, that – contrary to so many other resources – it’s evenly distributed. We all have exactly the same amount of time to spend.
So time is the only resource, where the way we use it, is the primary differentiator. The better you manage your time, the more results you will get. Intuitively we all have our own strategies to accomplish this. Some choose to work long and hard to achieve as much as possible in one day. Others make choices and try to work more efficiently. And most of us combine the two.
The question remains what works best. It’s not only the time you spend doing something that’s important, it what you realize in that amount of time that will determine your success. And that’s dependent on – amongst other factors – your skills, your motivation, the environment you work in and your general attitude towards working.
Now, whoever you are or whatever you have to do, there are some tactics that will work better then others. If you are ready to get more done in less time, here are five basic time management skills, which will make an enormous difference in the outcome of your activities.
This will not sound strange to you. You’re working an that important report, but you also have to deal with your daily tasks. So you start working at the report, and check your email in the mean time. And make that call to that customer you’ve promised him, and check your agenda, social media and much more, meanwhile giving answers to questions of your coworkers.
Certainly you’ll hate that, but most probably you’ll take pride in your ability to multi-task. Well, I’ve got some bad news for you; you can’t multi-task! Nobody can, our brain is not wired that way. We can only perform one thing at the time. That is, one thing that needs our full attention.
Yes, you can ride your bike and listen to music (even that’s dangerous), and you think you can drive your car and take a phone call at the same time (you can even cause an accident at the same time). But in reality we cannot do two things at the same time with the same efficiency.
Here’s a little experiment you can try on your own (or with the help of a friend). Take a piece of paper. First write down the word MULTITASKING, the without pause, write a number (starting with 1) under each letter. Time it, and see how much time it takes to perform those two tasks.
Now, do the same thing again, but first write one letter and then write the number underneath it. (M and 1) Then go on to the next letter (U and 2) and so on. Again have someone time it. Then compare the time it takes to do it the first way (letters and then numbers) and the second way.
You’ll notice a difference of – usually – around 40% to 60% (30% if you’re one of the happy few). The first approach, we call batch processing. The second approach is multi-tasking. You perform two tasks at the same time. In this case, writing letters and numbers at the same time.
Now imagine what that means for your daily routine. By switching to batch processing, you’ll get an efficiency improvement of around 50%! Now, wouldn’t you like to be able to do 50% more in the time you work? Or, just as valid a question, wouldn’t you like to do the same amount of work in 2/3 of the time you use now?
Whenever I explain this, in a lecture, coaching or training, everyone agrees (certainly after we’ve tried the little experiment I mentioned). But once people are ‘released’ back into their workspace, they seem to forget all about that, and they start multitasking again and lose the advantage they could have. Old habits are hard to change (but that’s stuff for another time)