Time management does have nothing to do with time! But it has a lot of doing with priorities.

But, how we define time management, today, and what different our interpretation has towards, similar, other “explanations“? It is only a matter of interpretation or a matter of the focus, that lead us to a different approach today. And if so, why we need something “different“?

Time Management Today

What is Time Management?

First things first, though. Time management, in general, is defined, as:

the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date. Initially, time management referred to just business or work activities, but eventually the term broadened to include personal activities as well. A time management system is a designed combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. Usually time management is a necessity in any project development as it determines the project completion time and scope. (From Wikipedia: Time management)

This definition provides a context of a reference for defining time management in different situations, something which leads to various discussions. For instance, the how the personal time management can fit within business activities and how eventually today, we could achieve a balance between personal and work life. But these discussions are, still, a matter of interpretation!

What Management Have to Do with This?

The management clause in the time management phrase, lead us through, to falsely believe that by managing a slice of time, actually, we can be more productive. Nothing less more elusive, than that. Productivity commonly related to “measure of the efficiency of production)“. (From Wikipedia: Productivity). Therefore we talk about how we can be more efficient in a given task (in terms of quality, amount, volume, process, optimizations, etc), rather than faster in doing it (a common misconception)!

Therefore we talk about management of the priorities, of the available energy, of the processes used, of the resources allocated for this or that task, and eventually about the time we have for carrying out a given task/activity (if there are time restrictions or any other time limitations management has to cope with) etc. Almost never we don’t talk about time management and the time per se, outside of the context of a given task(s) or activity(s).

What We Manage?

In such a way, we are able, to manage what has to be done, based on what our purpose, vision, goal, the scope is, or, similar, the similar of our organization/company. We manage all these in the framework of certain organizational or personal restrictions that, at first, appear that they dictate the urgent and set our priorities.

As Stephen Covey demonstrate this is not so accurate. He suggests), that we should define and manage what we consider as urgent and what is important (but not exactly in that order and not in the same manner!).

Is this enough for gaining efficiency in the execution of a task? Yes, some time is. For when we define something (according to ourselves, our beliefs, our convictions, etc) we bound it (tie it) with our strata of knowledge, skills, beliefs, attitudes, and thus we recognize it and identify it as part of our normal, everyday, action.

Time management and Personal accountability

In such a way, we organize it and proceed it in a way that is accustom to us, without following outside or from 3rd party “demands“! In layman’s terms, this is means that we attach it a tag of priority (A, B, C, or 1, 2, 3, etc) and we put it in our own and personalized task list (you see how easily an event and our current or future response become a task!: i.e. something has to be done, in a future time we would decide/define and we list it among our other things to be done in its proper position. So we prioritize it!).

In such a manner the focus is shifting to the personal accountability, a realm in which we decide what exactly we are responsible of and how we handle it. In such a way neither the limited time, the few available resources or your boss’s priorities impose you something. The contrary is something YOU assume the responsibility of doing it.

From Time Management to the Priorities Management

Following the above mentioned, path of logic, we can see that there is a clear path interlinking the time management to priorities. Moreover, it seems, that time management may be more efficient if we make a more conscious use of defining and managing the priorities, bound to an activity.

Let’s see the steps again:

  1. You usually receive a work or personally related stimulus (something should be managed!)
  2. you take ownership (either of your own volition or because you have to do it due to your position in the organization of a company, etc) of the handling (managing!) of the task related to the stimulus received
  3. You identify it
  4. You select your response toward that task/event/stimulus (you may, for instance, ignore it, file it, ignore it or do something with this stimulus: call, computer entry, appointment setting, meeting, etc – all from Getting Things Done System)
  5. You categorize it according to your production/time management/ process system you use
  6. You record it in your action list
  7. You prioritize it
  8. You execute it according to your system of doing things
  9. You remove it from your list when completed
  10. You move to next task

So all the above process is certainly a management process, but a process having to do with priorities, rather than the time of execution (the time many times, may be irrelevant, if not a problematic factor in the implementation, especially when the prioritization have not been a correct one!). When you remove yourself from subscribing in the time handling scheme and follow the priority one, your execution flow would be move along, further and more flawless.