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ATD Blog

Time Management for All Time


Thu May 09 2019

 Time Management for All Time

What if there were a simple way to determine whether you have an adequate grasp of time management? Suppose you were able to employ your knowledge of one basic time management law to be more effective in everything that you do?

Believe it or not, time management can be explained with one basic law that has three simple parts. That might sound too good to be true, but each of us has already encountered them at one time or another, likely without realizing it. The law can be summarized as follows:

  1. Time-pressure, frenzy, or stress occur when your resources cannot match your challenges.

  2. Balance, equanimity, or satisfaction occur when your resources match your challenges.

  3. Mastery, prosperity, and leisure occur when your resources exceed your challenges.

Let’s look at each part.

1. When the challenges you face overwhelm the resources you have to meet those challenges, you're going to feel rushed, probably stressed, and perhaps anxious. Suppose you have to finish a project but lack adequate staff resources, the required budget, vital equipment, or something else. From a time management standpoint, you will feel overworked because your challenges overwhelm your resources.

If you were able to recruit more staff, the size of your budget was increased, or the vital equipment you need became available, then by comparison finishing that project on time would be easier.

2. Balance occurs when you have adequate resources to meet your challenges. If you're managing a project and have the appropriate number of team members in place, they have the equipment they need, and your budget is commensurate with the task, you're more likely to finish on time because your resources match your challenges and you do not feel overwhelmed.

3. You're likely to feel successful, even prosperous, when the resources you have on the project exceed the challenges. You have enough staff help, adequate equipment, and no major budget concerns. As such, you might even finish the project early, because your resources are more than enough to meet the challenge.


As in Life


hatever you're up against, from a time management standpoint, you can determine how your resources line up versus the challenges you face. If you’re under-resourced, you will be in a frenzy. If you’re appropriately resourced so that you match your challenges, you'll be relatively successful. If resources exceed your challenges, expect to succeed.

With the above in mind, your quest is to identify the array of challenges you face and exactly which resources are necessary for you to be successful in meeting those challenges.

Whether the challenges are big or small, when you identify the resources required to successfully complete the tasks involved, you're in a better position than how you used to proceed. As a time manager, you will be more effective more often because you made the effort to determine what was needed to proceed effectively.

Me, Myself, and I

The law of time management works well even if you're sitting at your desk, with one task before you, no special equipment needs, no staff required, and budgetary issues absent. Suppose you have 60 minutes to turn in a report; it's five pages, and you've completed three. Each page requires of you roughly 14 minutes.

A simple calculation will show that if you've already consumed 42 minutes and you have two more pages to complete in the remaining 18 minutes, you will have to increase your pace to one page per nine minutes. Your potential resources in this situation are concentration, leverage, and affiliation.


Concentration—With 18 minutes to go, perhaps it makes sense to close your door, turn off your cell phone ringer or even put your cell phone away, and remove any other possible impediments to your productivity. You barricade yourself and concentrate more intently than before. Concentration, in this case, is a resource. Why? During the workweek, you don't have intensive concentration all the time, around the clock. When you can draw on it, it serves as a resource.

Leverage—Have you written any previous reports of a similar nature where pages already completed can be drawn on to currently assist you in completing the last two pages? If you're sending in a report that is periodic—that is, you have to do it every week or every month—you might have documents on file that you can readily tap to see if previous verbiage is applicable. If not, even by reviewing these previous reports, you might gain some quick ideas on what needs to be done to complete the final two pages.

Other leverage factors might include FAQs that your organization maintains. . . in other words, questions on file that have already been answered. Other resources could include notes or outlines, reports that other people have written, or any other existing documents that might help and can be drawn on quickly.

Affiliation—Is anyone else in your department or division writing similar reports, especially recently? A 30-second call to such a person could give you the impetus you need for the remaining minutes to finish those final two pages. Likewise, within your professional network, who works on the same type of tasks as you? Who might have vital tips, insights, or actual verbiage to impart? The stronger your network, the greater the potential you can draw on it at key moments to maintain productivity.

Identify and Conquer

Whatever task you're up against—short-term, recurring, or extending for years—by taking the time to identify the resources that will be prudent to draw upon, your time management capabilities will improve. Remember, when resources match your challenges, you can achieve a sense of accomplishment and even balance. When resources are more than enough to meet the challenges, you can achieve prosperity.

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