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GoodBusiness Monday Morning, Time Management Techniques for Work

time management assessment stress challenges distractions

When nothing else works. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

We’re all continuously seeking performance improvement. I’ve been wondering…why is so much written about time management techniques for work, when experts tell us we’re not becoming more productive?  It’s like golf; there’s no end of advice, but golfers’ handicap ratings haven’t declined in decades.  And when we do achieve some time management improvement, we often “fall off the wagon” and have to start again.

We need  a different approach if we’re going to succeed.  Let’s step back and see if there’s a common principle behind time management.  If we can focus on that principle, then we can make progress.  We might not even have to change the time management technique we’re using now.

Performance Improvement Secret:  Manage Time by Beating Procrastination

Why do we fall off the wagon?  It turns out we’re given a push by that old bug-bear, procrastination.  Clinical psychologists find that procrastination is associated with difficulties performing every element of time management:

  • self-monitoring
  • planning and organization
  • activity shifting
  • task initiation
  • task monitoring

Recent neuroscience research suggests that procrastination has behavioral roots.  We’re very willing to exchange a little immediate pleasure (often gained by pursuing a distraction) for the more risky reward of later long-term satisfaction.  The truth is, of course, that we’re deluding ourselves.  As undone work piles up so does anxiety, which curdles into dread and guilt.  The we sadly remember a moment’s guilty pleasure.    Time management assessment?  Oh… that fell by the wayside as the first consequence of procrastination.

If you’re like me, you find time management difficult to sustain.  Knowing what we know now, we can help ourselves by attacking procrastination as the root of the problem.  Here’s a different time management strategy for work, compressed into 3 steps:

  1. At the first sign of procrastination, we’re going to ask ourselves “what pleasure and satisfaction will I get from finishing this task right now?”  Write down the task and the satisfaction together.
  2. We’re going to realize that our stocks of persistence aren’t endless.  We’re going to order our ask list to achieve… the most intense satisfactions first.  (It’s the same as doing the most critical tasks first, because accomplishing the most critical tasks should create the greatest satisfaction.  We’re just putting the emphasis on the procrastination-breaker, not the procrastination-maker.)  Let’s arrange the task list so that the most satisfying accomplishments will come first in the day.
  3. We’re going to bask briefly in that accomplishment.  One tea or coffee cup’s worth of time.  (This is critically important because we need to recharge our persistence in the short term, and we need to reprogram our pleasure-seeking over the long term.)

On to the next task… and so on.

Now that we’ve found a way to beat back procrastination, we can to decide how we’re going to manage our time.  Let’s choose a method.

Surprise:  Any Time Management Technique Can Work

Just about any  time management technique empowers performance improvement if we apply it thoroughly and consistently.  Pick a time management hero.  Benjamin Franklin?  The classical choice.  Peter Drucker?  Good.  Steven Covey?  Fine.  Leo Babauta?  Sure.  We’ll pick what meshes with our beliefs, fits us culturally, what tickles our inspiration.  They all work… if we give them the chance they need by focusing on beating procrastination.  We’ll get started and then we’ll assess our progress.  Every time our time management assessment tells us a technique isn’t working, we’ll focus on procrastination, because beating procrastination is the key to making every time management technique effective.

I could conclude this short note with a whole series of links to excellent time management discussions.  But that would be a distraction.  Here’s where performance improvement will start for me.  Let’s get that horse back in front of the cart.

At the first sign of procrastination I’m going to ask myself “what pleasure and satisfaction will I get from finishing this task right now?”

Here’s the biggest payoff.  When I beat back procrastination I return persistence to the forefront of my business day, and persistence is the first and most important business tradeskill.

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6 Comments

  1. JAMES OJUOK says:

    Beating procrastination is the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for. Your points are well articulated and to the point. Procrastination has been an enemy of time management and development . Therefore any remedy should be really appreciated. Thanks.

  2. Carol Orris says:

    Time management is where I fail miserably. I think the simple question, “What pleasure of satisfaction will I get from finishing this task right now?”, is just the ticket to cause me to refocus on the task at hand. So often, I get mired down with the big picture, and loose sight of the smaller task in front of me. Thank you, for another motivating post!

  3. Everyone is born lazy,but as long as we can correctly understand and overcome it, our time will be more meaningful. In China, there is a saying going like this: the sight of coffins were moved to tears, which vividly illustrates terrible procrastination. I think the suggested approach in this article is fantastic, so simple and easy to do, we can arrange our time and take priority of task list according to pleasure of satisfaction that will get from. I believe all of us want to live happy both at work and daily life.

  4. I have been doing tasks by this method a long time now, motivating myself before I start working has proven successful. The biggest motivator for me is that feeling I get when I finish – happy and proud.

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