Time management techniques and strategies

Time management techniques and strategies

i) Getting Things Done

GTD is an organizational method created by David Allen in 2002. The Getting Things Done method rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks. Allen’s approach uses two key elements — control and perspective. He proposes a workflow process to gain control over all the tasks and commitments that one needs or wants to get done, and “6 different levels of focus” to provide them with useful perspective.

The author advocates a weekly review focused on different levels, and suggests that the perspective gained from these reviews should drive one’s priorities, which can in turn determine the priority of the individual tasks and commitments gathered during the workflow process. During a weekly review, the user determines the context for the tasks and puts them on the appropriate lists. An example of grouping together similar tasks would be making a list of outstanding telephone calls, or errands to perform while downtown. Context lists can be defined by the set of tools available or by the presence of individuals or groups for whom one has items to discuss or present.

GTD is based on making it easy to store, track and retrieve all information related to the things that need to get done. Allen suggests that many of the mental blocks we encounter are caused by insufficient ‘front-end’ planning. It is most practical, according to Allen, to do this, thinking in advance, generating a series of actions which we can later undertake without any further planning. The human brain’s “reminder system” is inefficient and seldom reminds us of what we need to do at the time and place when we can do it. Consequently, the “next actions” stored by context in the “trusted system” act as an external support which ensures that we are presented with the right reminders at the right time. Since GTD relies on external memories, it can be seen as an application of the scientific theories of distributed cognition or the extended mind.

ii) ABC Analysis

A technique that has been used for a long time is the categorization of large data into groups. These groups are often marked A, B, and C — hence the name. Activities are ranked upon these general criteria:
A – Tasks that are perceived as being urgent and important.
B – Tasks that are important but not urgent..
C – Tasks that are neither urgent nor important..

Each group is then rank-ordered in priority. To further refine priority, some individuals choose to then force-rank all “B” items as either “A” or “C”. ABC analysis can incorporate more than three groups.ABC analysis is frequently combined with Pareto analysis.

iii) Pareto Analysis

This is the idea that 80% of tasks can be completed in 20% of the disposable time. The remaining 20% of tasks will take up 80% of the time. This principle is used to sort tasks into two parts. According to this form of Pareto analysis it is recommended that tasks that fall into the first category be assigned a higher priority. The 80-20-rule can also be applied to increase productivity: it is assumed that 80% of the productivity can be achieved by doing 20% of the tasks. If productivity is the aim of time management, then these tasks should be prioritized higher.

It depends on the method adopted to complete the task. There is always a simpler and easy way to complete the task. If one uses a complex way, it will be time consuming. So, one should always try to find out the alternate ways to complete each task.

iv) The Eisenhower Method

President D. Eisenhower developed a prioritizing technique, now known as the Eisenhower Method, which divided daily activities into four quadrants based on importance and urgency. It is outlined in a quote attributed to him “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”. A basic “Eisenhower box” helps us evaluate urgency and importance.

All tasks are evaluated using the criteria important/unimportant and urgent/not urgent and put in according quadrants. Items may be placed at more precise points within each quadrant. Tasks in unimportant/not urgent are dropped, tasks in important/urgent are done immediately and personally, tasks in unimportant/ urgent are delegated and tasks in important/not urgent get an end date and are done personally.

v) POSEC Method

POSEC is an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing. The method dictates a template which emphasizes an average individual’s immediate sense of emotional and monetary security. It suggests that by attending to one’s personal responsibilities first, an individual is better positioned to shoulder collective responsibilities. Inherent in the acronym is a hierarchy of self-realization which mirrors Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of needs”.
Prioritize – Time and define life by goals.
Organizing – Things to accomplish regularly to be successful with regard to family and finances.
Streamlining – Things we do not like to do, but must do such as daily chores.
Economizing – Things we should do or may even like to do, but not pressingly urgent such as pastimes and socializing.
Contributing – By paying attention to the few remaining things, that make a difference such as social obligations.

vi) The Pomodoro Technique

It is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980. The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals called ‘pomodori’ separated by breaks. The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility. There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
(a) Decide on the task to be done.
(b) Set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes.
(c) Work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x.
(d) Take a short break (5 minutes).
(e) Every four “pomodori” take a longer break (15–20 minutes).

vii) Time-boxing

It is a Planning technique, where the schedule is divided into a number of separate time periods (time-boxes, normally two to six weeks long), with each part having its own deliverables, deadline and budget. It is an effective technique for tracking progress and simply getting things done. From a planning perspective, time boxing is useful, especially when things appear complex or daunting initially and we are unsure of how to begin.

Time boxing is about fixing the time we have available to work on a given task and then doing the best we can within that time frame. So instead working on something until it is“done” in one sitting, we only work on it for say 30 minutes. It is either marked as done at the end of this period or we commit to another 30 minutes at a later time or another day.