Time management is not a family forte at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. Last summer, our two weeks in Crete got downsized to four days in Suffolk, which due to a ‘listing error’ turned out to be Essex. It was rainy, and places were shut due to Covid. A SWAT time would have struggled to get the kids out of bed. On day one, with hopes of leaving the house by lunchtime slipping from our grasp, the kids were told they’d be left behind if they didn’t get up. “Shut the door on your way out”, floated a sleepy call from their bedroom.
Lockdown didn’t help. And even now that schools have reopened, the younger members of the family have been developing new skills in procrastination. Come August, if we want to get to our holiday destination at a reasonable hour, it might be safer to Fedex the kids in advance. In the interests of time management, it’s either that or screaming into a pillow.
Summers fly, winters walk, pandemics limp
Time slips by at different speeds. Summers fly, winters walk, according to Charles Schulz, a man who clearly hadn’t spent a year in lockdown when time consistently limped by half-heartedly. On a daily basis, the best moments race by, the dull dawdle and everything in between falls by like a waterfall that you’re unable to stop. You can however tinker with time. With a few adjustments, you can take a little more control, as if you’re able to slow down time or speed it up.
While working as a radio reporter, I found that time whipped by at breakneck speed. Everything had to be written, recorded and ready for broadcast at least five minutes before the hour, every hour of a shift. You’d come away from an hourly bulletin, take a deep breath, and get on with something new. And when you next looked up, you’d be heading towards the top of the hour again.
I had to quickly learn how to manage things, if only to fend off disappointed scowls from the editor. Rolling news is entirely about managing time, (which might explain some of my frustration in disorganised moments with the kids). The following thoughts were hard-won during shifts in shouty newsrooms.
1) Lack of time is not the issue, the real challenge is mindset. Our Learnflix eLearning course on Effective Time Management, expresses this in the words of writer Zig Ziglar, who said “lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem”. In managing your relationship with time, start by working backwards. What’s the end result that you need to achieve?
2) Decide what you can realistically achieve within the time available. Stick to what is practical. Sometimes, the deadline simply cannot be moved. Recognise from the outset that meeting the deadline is as much part of the objective as completion of the task itself. It’s usually better to complete a good objective rather half-finish a great one.
3) Work through a methodical process of steps. Try to maintain focus by resisting interruptions and distractions. The point here is not to rattle through the tasks in a desperate hurry to finish everything. Better to use steps 1 and 2 to create a manageable process that can be completed calmly and methodically within the deadline.
By using these three steps, you’ll develop a relationship with time that will give you more control in completing objectives. Control can also include prioritising tasks, and knowing what to delegate and to whom. In our course on Delegating and Time Management, we explain the pros and cons of delegating work in the interests of time.
Between them, these skills can help you manage your relationship with time on your own terms. Which is a wonderful feeling to have when you feel time is running away from you, for example when you’re trying to get away on a summer holiday with the family and you’re worried about missing Christmas.