Time management: Realise change

Do you know statements like this from coworkers “Well, I have also tried time management method X, but in my work context it doesn’t fit because … even author Y confirms this”? Although such a statement may even be true, it has nothing to do with the introduction of a personal time management system. And definitely not with the chances of mastering or failing to succeed.

In my opinion, time management, like self-management, is a highly individual approach. You have to find methods from various time management practices that may suit you, experiment, change, try again, adapt after a while and sometimes discard stuff that was well thought out at first. The right amount of endurance is vital in this case, because establishing time management is change management.

Perhaps you know a theory on managing change? Then you know that the introduction of new methods meets some resistance and is an emotional journey. Often such theories are associated with changes in an organization, interestingly enough you go through such a cycle even when it comes to your individual changes. Although the cycle is softened because you have selected and decided the changes yourself, the cycle is still there and must be mastered, especially when difficulties arise.

Urge for change

Do you know exactly why you wish to change your time management? If there is enough urgency to act, this is probably enough motivation. However, if you can answer the why only vague, please invest some time here, because you will need a solid motivation. For example, there will be a (hopefully short) period of time when your new time management system is not yet working efficiently. Especially in the beginning this is annoying, you don’t know the reasons for the inefficiency and the old system would be faster. If the initial motivation was just “working more efficiently”, this is a good reason to give up early. So why do you do this to yourselves?

Selection of methods

You can choose from many methods and domains to build your own time management system. Especially if you are a beginner you don’t know the methods in detail and don’t know exactly which areas of your tasks work well with which system. Time management has the unfortunate attribute that a little time management rarely works. But then again, you don’t want to change your entire behaviour, that would be too much of a demand.

I personally changed my time management system three times in greater scope. On the first attempt, almost nothing seemed to work at all, besides, I had some technical gadgets integrated, which all turned out to be silly toys. On the bright side, I didn’t give up and learned some methods that worked well for me as a separate tool. By the second attempt I was wiser already.

Choose only a few methods and use them consistently. Which also means optimizing the method. If certain things irritate you in the beginning, look for improvements. It is important to pay attention to your input channels, in places where activities overlap only slightly, you can skip an area for the time being.

If you absolutely want to use technical tools, try them out thoroughly in advance. A project might be suitable for testing a to-do-list app. If you feel comfortable with it for weeks, then this tool is most likely suitable for integration in your time management.

Communication

Choose a decent time frame for the time management migration and communicate this to others. It starts with the possibility that you may not be able to accept any tasks on the day of the changeover, but instead make a kind of clean-up day.

Even if your environment won’t be affected that badly, it’s still helpful to know that you want to work on a different basis now and that you will say sentences like “your task is in my ready-stack, has not been forgotten and will presumably be done in 2 days” when asked by a co-worker. For people who have previously pulled tasks in front just because they were asked very often, this is quite a huge change.

Should colleagues accidentally disturb your system or you are able to offer an advantage for requests that are asked differently, please speak up. This will only help. As an example, for me, I refuse to assign and track tasks in Microsoft Outlook because I don’t use this feature in Outlook. However, if you phrase a task in an email to me in such a way that I can complete it in 2 minutes, it will be finished immediately, no matter how many tasks my day still promises.

Emotional journey

A significant change in self-management usually means an emotional journey, be prepared for this and use your emotions. With most people I know, the ride will be like shown below, although the speed will be very different from individual to individual. But you know yourselves better than I do, if stages take longer, don’t give up easily.

  1. Happiness or sometimes even euphoria to have found really great solutions.
    Don’t overload yourself, remain modest in the choice of tools and scope.
  2. Orientation what to use, how to use it and what it may be suitable for.
    Focus on a minimum number of methods, use them in beginner mode, do not limit the application area yet.
  3. Still, the old way of working was good, too.
    Often this is reflected in the fallback and the speeded up use of the old technique. Take your time for the analysis, remember what the disadvantages of the old method used to be and why do you wished to change your time management.
  4. None of this seems to fit, I want to give up.
    Analyze what exactly doesn’t fit, maybe you are just not experienced in using the new methods, but it could also be that there are obstacles you can overcome.
  5. These methods appear to be fine, but I am the only one who does not master them.
    Use continuous practice and improvement, don’t get too disappointed just because not everything is working smoothly yet.
  6. I see the methods working in concert and have many ideas for improvement.
    Collect these ideas for enhancement and only apply them little by little.
  7. I enjoy working with my time management method kit.
    Now you are more efficient than before, but it takes some endurance to get to this point.

Fail, raise again, fail better

There is no guarantee that you will reach point 7 on the first attempt. There are plenty of cliffs to fall on. By failure I refer to the project “transition to a time management system” has not succeeded and must be restarted. In case some of the methods don’t work or need improvement, this can possibly be corrected during the transition. Especially newcomers will have to invest a lot of time in this respect: Trying, adapting, checking things out again. Please don’t forget to question why certain things are necessary with methods before leaving them out. Omitting can be a sensible decision, but please don’t drop them uninformed.

When you fail, analyse the difficult, but also the well-proven parts, from which you can gain a lot of knowledge for the next attempt. Did you lack methods, did you intend too much at once, was the new system not quick enough when you got under load, did you receive too much demands from outside, did you change too much in the methods, was the system not yet familiar when you came back from vacation, etc.

Perhaps a given time management system did not suit you, then take a look at another system. You will see that many individual components and ways of thinking will be similar. In any case, for the next attempt, make a new and better plan, test individual methods better in projects beforehand, choose a better timing for the implementation, eventually consult a trainer, and then it’s time to go, rise again, try, fail better.

P.S.: This is a future section of a little publication about time management with Kanban. It’s still a bit down the road, so I decided to publish some useful chapters in advance.

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