My Philosophy of Time Management

We all start out with the same time. Everyone gets 24 hours a day whether we like it or not. What we do with our 24 hours day in and day out determines ultimately where we end up. How we use those 24 hours is totally our choice. Once we see that each of these 24 hours is a gift the whole idea of time management changes. With technology available 24*7 the whole concept of compartmentalization of personal and work life is no longer valid. We are connected to our emails all through the day and we hardly switch off. As we have heard a million times all time management experts say we should only check emails 2-3 times a day. This is easier said than done and personally I don’t agree with this approach. For many of us our work depends on email and speed is the essence especially if your customer or boss needs something urgent.
I think the better way to manage email is to give it the respect it deserves. Leaving unanswered email (Iam talking about official email) which is important doesn’t look good and for most of us part of our job description is to be responsive and that does get admiration from others. Iam going to go against what most of the experts say but my aim is to be truthful on what works for me. I wake up early in the morning and I do have teams that work on different time zones, so I do spend my first 20min checking my email and responding to important items so that the work is not disrupted. Then I proceed for my morning workout during which I don’t check email. I then come back and it is still early in the day so check my email. Then I read for some time before getting ready for work.
I know this goes against all the advice out there but what this routine does is by the time I reach work Iam already caught up and don’t feel anxious on what to expect since I have already dealt with the important/urgent stuff. During my work hours I am connected throughout and ensure that I answer my emails quickly and promptly.  However I ensure that any email I get on my phone works only when I check the email manually in other words I don’t setup notifications to respond immediately on receiving email so that gives me the control. That’s the same way I handle Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp - I don’t setup any notifications. Only when I login to the application can I see the notifications. This makes me feel that Iam in charge.
Once Iam back home I don’t check email for a couple of hours and check once more before going to sleep. Ultimately I don’t believe there is a single approach to time management and there is no rule that you shouldn’t check email first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I do listen to the experts but ultimately I decide what I want to do with my time and the way that makes me feel like Iam in control. So I encourage you to share what works best for you and if you found what I shared useful you can take some portion of it and integrate it with your management too. Again we have to really decide what works best for us. Another way to manage emails is to send lesser emails which means we will also receive lesser. Whenever possible call or meet to resolve disputes.
Some other quickies on time management
  1. Set clear goals on what you want to accomplish for a particular day/week.
  2. Maintain lists on what needs to be done.
  3. Once you complete an item on the list move it to completed status which makes you feel good.
  4. Take some time for yourself (it can be as less as 15 min) in the allotted 24 hours to do something you like. It can be exercising, reading, walking or listening to music.
  5. Once or twice in a week write down in your journal what went well in the week and what can be done better.
  6. As the time management gurus advice do the worst first or do first things first. Once you have the list focus on the most important task first. In hospitals patients are not treated in terms of arrival but are treated in terms of severity.  The same holds good for the items on the list.
  7. Ensure 7-8 hours of sleep on average. When you sleep well you are completely recharged and can handle the tasks with much more enthusiasm and passion.
  8. Exercise again boosts your energy and once you get it out of the way at the start of the day it gives a sense of accomplishment.
  9. This is a bummer but worth repeating. Take some time in a day to say thanks for everything good in your life. This puts the mind back on gratitude and it’s hard to be grumpy when you are grateful. It also increases the happiness levels.
  10. Jim Collins the author of Good to Great advises us to use Stop doing lists. We all have to do lists but he says you can be truly effective only when you stop doing certain things that are draining your time and energy.
  11. Learn to say no. We can’t do everything so it is absolutely imperative that we assess our capabilities and ensure that we say no to things which will overwhelm us.
  12. Yes ambition is great, without it much of the progress made would not have happened. However it should be married with a pragmatic approach meaning that you have to ensure that being overly ambitious should not hinder your peace of mind. Ultimately peace of mind is the ultimate goal.
  13. Switching off completely from official email once a week is good and recharges you.
As I mentioned earlier every field is different and there is no cookie cutter strategy for effective time management. You should develop your own time management philosophy that works for your career and life.

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