Use Time Effectively
Arriving on time, completing an assignment within a fixed period of time , not overstaying meetings : all of these topics are part of time management . But using time effectively does not happen automatically, especially not in everyday working life when feedback, performance or even the timing of third parties is required.
1. What is time management?
Time management describes the organization of upcoming appointments, meetings, (big) tasks and projects in order to achieve maximum efficiency in a certain period of time. It is the systematic, timely planning of a day – professionally and privately. Time management goes hand in hand with task and project management .
In many statements on this topic, there is often talk of self-optimization or self-organization . This is because you ultimately cannot control the time factor when it comes to timing , since it is always the same, but you can optimize your own handling of it.
Efficient planning increases productivity
The discipline thus deals with the most efficient possible allocation of one’s own working hours in order to enable maximum productivity and ensure the company’s success. In order to be able to anchor this specifically in everyday life, time management methods designed for this purpose are used, as with task, project or change management .
2. Time management methods in comparison
These professional tools help to improve your own time management and thus to optimize self-organization. Over the past decades, various techniques have been developed that focus on priorities, task duration, consistency, discipline and buffer times .
The ALPEN method , invented by the time management expert Lothar Seiwert , combines elements of task, self and time management . The name does not stand for European mountains, but for the individual elements of the technology. These are:
- A: Write down tasks
- L: Estimate length
- P: Allow for buffer time
- E: Prioritize decisions
- N: Follow-up
The ALPEN method is particularly popular because it usually only takes a few minutes the evening before or in the morning to plan the next working day. It brings transparency to your own planning, since you have to estimate the length of your activities and thus approach individual tasks realistically. It promotes self-discipline to the same extent as it demands it. Anything that no longer fits into one daily plan comes into the next, so that nothing is left behind.
Advantages and disadvantages of the ALPEN method
The advantages also include the helpful visualization in the form of a list or table in which all tasks are written down. Thanks to the buffer – 40 percent is suggested – you are flexible and checking off completed tasks ensures a regular sense of achievement . The disadvantages of this time management method are the focus on individuals and the lower suitability for agile environments.
The Pareto principle (also known as the Pareto effect or the 80-20 rule ), named after its inventor Vilfredo Pareto, focuses on the balance between effort and result . According to Pareto, in certain cases 80% of the results (e.g. revenue, completed tasks) are achieved with 20% of the effort . Conversely, the remaining 20% require 80% of the effort.
In terms of timing, this method relies on identifying and prioritizing important large tasks . The goal at this point is to keep the effort at 20% and thus complete 80% of the outstanding activities. This applies not only to the number of tasks in general, but also to the content of each activity. As an example: In a report, the most important information can be gathered with 20% of the effort , the visual design or work on the presentation requires more effort for less necessary income.
Pros and cons of the Pareto principle
One of the benefits of the 80/20 rule is clear focus. It is particularly important to recognize the tasks that can be processed efficiently and to bundle them . This creates a solid basis for productive, good time management. At the same time, the Pareto principle harbors the risk that the 20% effort will result in a loss of quality, since not only the effort but also the effort is reduced.
Getting Things Done (GTD)
Another method is Getting Things Done ( GTD or GTD method for short ). This was designed by consultant David Allen and is a concept of self-management. GTD works with to-do lists that help to complete tasks instead of remembering all to-dos. The technique is broken down into 5 steps for preparing the lists.
The 5 steps are
- Working through
- Take care of
The time management method Getting Things Done is particularly useful for tasks where priorities or other experts play a subordinate role . The focus is clearly – as the name suggests – the completion of tasks as such.
Pros and cons of the GTD method
The advantages of the GTD method are therefore above all the recurring sense of achievement when further tasks or entire lists are completed. In addition, the presentation of the tasks facilitates the overview. The disadvantages are that the context of the tasks – such as urgency or deadlines – are not directly included. Here the user has to decide even more for himself what can possibly be a hindrance.
The Pomodoro technique dates back to the 1980s and uses intervals to make working more productive . This time division follows the principle: Many small breaks, with shorter concentration phases . The inventor – Francesco Cirillo, an Italian entrepreneur – used a tomato-shaped alarm clock for the technique … in Italian a “Pomodoro”.
The procedure in 5 steps:
- Write down the tasks to be completed
- Set the timer for 25 minutes
- Then work concentrated for 25 minutes
- When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break
- Repeat the scheme 4 times, followed by a longer break of 30 minutes
Pros and Cons of the Pomodoro Technique
The technique is particularly advantageous for people who have difficulty concentrating on a piece. The regular breaks give the body time to regenerate and then start again with full energy. However, the disadvantage is that 25 minutes is relatively short and the alarm clock can tear you out of the work flow .
For time management, the ABC method (also known as ABC analysis ) also relies on sorting by importance and a corresponding investment of time. All tasks are listed and then sorted according to the criteria A (“important”) , B (“relatively important”) and C (“regular” or “routine”) . According to the ABC analysis, you invest approx. 60-75% of the time in A tasks, 10-25% in B tasks and 5-15% in C activities.
Further recommendations for action result from the respective evaluation . These are also reminiscent of the Eisenhower principle. A-tasks usually require immediate, individual action – i.e. no delegation – while B-tasks can be delegated or completed promptly. C tasks are not very relevant and can also be delegated.
Pros and cons of the ABC method
One of the plus points of the ABC analysis is its ease of use for almost all industries and fields of activity. It also helps with prioritizing, scheduling and optional delegation of the individual to-dos. The downsides are the relatively rigid boundaries between each category, making it difficult for some jobs to categorize appropriately without risking getting lost.
Eat the frog principle
Difficult and unpopular tasks are often postponed and only completed at the last moment – usually when they are really urgent. The “Eat the frog (first)” principle tackles precisely these important tasks – first thing in the morning. Once the task is complete, one has achieved their first sense of accomplishment for the day.
4 tips for implementation:
- Find the “frog” – the most important task for the day
- Set the order a day in advance
- It is best to cut the frog into bite-sized pieces
- Celebrate success
Pros and cons of the eat the frog principle
Of course, the advantage is that the “worst” task is the first to be dealt with and the rest of the working day is more relaxed. In addition, the remaining tasks can be completed quickly due to the increased motivation . It is disadvantageous if the frog is an important appointment in the afternoon . The following applies here: Even less important appointments should still be brought forward .
3. Tips for efficient timing
Voting methods are extremely useful and work in everyday work – but it takes some time to find out which method is the right one. Therefore, the following tips are suitable for improving your own time management immediately.
Set goals for tasks and projects
Goals in tasks and projects are important to create focus . Goals and milestones make it clear what is expected. A fixed time frame makes it clear when a certain goal is due – i.e. sets a fixed time horizon . The question “what’s coming up when?” is then defined by the selected time management method .
Avoid postponing activities
The constant postponement of certain projects or tasks – also called procrastination – is a nasty time waster . Above all, unpleasant tasks are put on the back burner. When time finally gets tight, stress arises because the lost time has to be made up afterwards. It is therefore important to do even unpleasant tasks without thinking too much.
Use time management games
Time management games can be used to work together effectively as a team on time management. They playfully show how voting can be implemented successfully.
The not-to-do list
The not-to-do list is a great way to unmask any time wasters . Each team member creates a list of things that are not important or have a low priority. Too much time is often wasted on unimportant things. Especially in large projects, those involved in the project quickly lose track and can use this “game” to eliminate tasks that do not contribute to success.
The log of distractions
A log of all of a week’s distractions will help get a sense of how much time is wasted in a workday. The recording sensitizes to distractions and makes them aware. In a further step, ways can be established to avoid these distractions as far as possible.
Say “no” sometimes
You often take on other people’s tasks even though your own desk has long been overcrowded . Even with a well- organized schedule , those extra chores mess things up. So if you say no more often – of course only in appropriate cases – you can manage your own time better .
4. Time management in practice
Since timing is directly related to task and project management , it is used in different forms. The time management methods listed here can also help to master operational challenges. What role does time management play in practice?
Many aspects of time management are used, for example, in project controlling . According to DIN 69901 , the goal of this project management area is to “ensure that all project goals are achieved ” . The topic of planning, controlling and monitoring appointments and services is also relevant.
Successful completion of a project requires, among other things, appropriate scheduling and constant checking to see if adjustments need to be made. If tasks are postponed, changed or new ones are added, project managers can fall back on good time management methods .
Capacity Planning/Resource Planning
Who is available when? Who has too much to do, who can take on tasks? Can we complete the project by the planned deadline? Such questions are answered by capacity planning or resource planning. Time management in this area is about not overloading employees . On the other hand, it is also about sensible deadlines and priorities, so that there is no lack of resources for important topics .
The Eisenhower matrix or the ABC method, among other things, help here in the preliminary planning, and the ALPEN method or the Pareto principle, for example, are then practical in the implementation.
The topic of time management also plays a major role in meetings or the jour fixe . The meetings should be planned according to the importance of the project so that there is enough time for all important content. Here, too, the aim is to provide an appropriate buffer for queries and ambiguities. As a rule, the preparation of the meeting minutes also covers the meeting agenda, which, together with the items on the agenda, also includes a timetable.
Of course, the time recording itself is an integral part – especially to evaluate the planning . When employees enter services, they can easily be compared with the initial planning. The time recording in projects is therefore not only relevant for billing, but also helps to constantly improve with Lessons Learned . A time recording app thus grows beyond the status of a pure tool.
5. Improve time management with tools
The theoretical parts of time management can be implemented in many different ways: with pen and paper, calendar, but also with modern project management tools . These have the advantage that they not only provide individual users with all the important tools, but also enable joint coordination and cooperation in the team .
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