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Time management: making every moment count.

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Distributed equitably amongst every organism on the planet, time is something almost every human tends to run out of. It’s true that there is a very arbitrarily fixed amount of time available to anyone at any point in life: twenty-four hours, seven days a week. This might make it fundamentally impossible to be short on time, for one can’t have too much or too less of a constant: and there’s nothing that’s more constant than the inevitability of time’s cycle. As the renowned author, Mr. Robert Jordan writes in his bestselling epic fantasy ‘The Eye of the World’, “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.” In this passage of time, it is easy to lose track of the things that truly matter. More often than not, a person finds himself in a position where he seems to be unable to perform his tasks and duties when they are demanded of him. Even more so, “a lack of time” is cited as a reason, or rather say an excuse, for the same. While an ordinary brain might agree with the sentiment, it takes a wise person to understand and acknowledge that there’s almost never a ‘lack’ of time; instead, there’s always a misallocation of it.

With the fixed number of hours, minutes, and seconds that the universe provides man with, it is important to utilize these precious moments in the best possible way. The skill that encompasses proper allocation of time for various activities, keeping in mind their urgency, significance, and relevancy is aptly termed as Time Management. As mentioned earlier, time is a limited quantity: finite in its eternal vastness. This makes it a necessity to split it up and set it aside for specific tasks throughout the day to ensure maximum efficiency. There are a number of time management techniques that help make this dreary, tedious task of planning a lot easier. One of such techniques is known as Percentage Principal of Time Management, abbreviated henceforth as PPTM.

PPTM is based on the principle devised by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1895. He noticed that 80 percent of the land was owned by just 20 percent of the population. This led Pareto to the conclusion that all economic activity could be subject to this principle. Building further on this principle, it is safe to say that 20 percent of a person’s activities account for 80 percent of their results. The same has been observed to apply to time management.  Thus, 80 percent of one’s net output should ideally come from roughly 20 percent of their time. The key idea here is that a person needs to focus more on the things that matter most, primarily the tasks that help them reach their goals.  For a professional, this means that time must not be spent excessively on a minor or somewhat irrelevant issue that can easily be solved via outsourcing. Instead, one needs to delegate these tasks and focus on more important jobs that will help one’s career and business grow.

As with everything else, the Pareto principle demands some input before it can help one work its magic. In order to get the most out of it, it is necessary that proper to-do lists are made, with proper attention given to the prioritization of activities. The next step is to consider the amount of effort each piece of work requires, and the subsequent reassessment of the list. Use the rating system and number these tasks from one to ten, one being the task that requires the least amount of effort. Then, the potential positive results are considered and are used as a basis for yet another ranking of the items in the to-do list. The tasks are labeled from one to ten, with ten having the highest impact. The amount of effort is divided by the potential result in each case and hence an effective priority ranking is obtained. This ranking helps one in managing time more efficiently with maximum possible results. The tasks that deliver the greatest results with the least effort are completed first. Others that require more effort with little results can be postponed or removed from the to-do list.

Another method of effective time management is Time Quadrant Model. This technique has been discussed at great lengths by Mister Sean Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers”. Covey says that time is like a suitcase, in the way how it can pack so much more if the contents within are neatly folded and organized, rather than being thrown in randomly. The time quadrant model does precisely that: it helps a person pack in more in a limited setting. A time quadrant is made up of two primary ingredients, importance and urgency. These ingredients come together to form the four aforementioned quadrants, with the first, second, third, and fourth being ‘urgent and important’, ‘ non-urgent and important’, ‘urgent and unimportant’, and ‘non-urgent and unimportant’ respectively. Today, it is quite noticeable that the world relies on urgency. Though this doesn’t mean that keeping urgency as the main motivator in one’s day-to-day dealings is inherently unwarranted, it often becomes such that importance is overshadowed by urgency. As an example, one might feel the urgency to read the latest installment in a popular bi-monthly manga as soon as it comes out, but is the task so important that calculus homework be set aside for it? Of course, the answer is no. The quadrant method helps a person establish a much-needed balance between urgency and importance. As is obvious, the method requires one to categorize their tasks in the four quadrants. This decides the priority level of the tasks themselves. The first quadrant gets the top priority, followed by two, three, and four. But the best way to use this technique is to work in a way that most of the activities are assigned to the second quadrant. Shrink the first quadrant by procrastinating less, which in turn will vastly reduce stress levels that loom over a pile of deadlines. The third quadrant activities need to be avoided as much as possible. Saying ‘no’ to unimportant things means automatically saying ‘yes’ to those that are far more worthy of one’s time. Try to spend the least amount of time in the fourth quadrant, as too much relaxation isn’t an efficient way to live. Rather, put this time to use on activities of the second quadrant i.e.: the important and non-urgent work. Managing one’s time in a way that most of their activities fall in this quadrant ensures a balanced personal and work life with highly promising outputs.

Keeping techniques aside, the question of their execution comes into mind next. The best way to ensure proper allocation of one’s time is to invest in a planner: it may be on a computer, a phone, or on paper. Planning one’s major tasks weekly is a proven way to maximize accountability and positive output. The most important things that need to be done in the coming week need to be identified and proper time should be blocked out for them. Throughout the week, one must work in a way that these tasks be accomplished without falling into the ‘urgent’ category, hence keeping the first quadrant free for some genuinely unprompted urgent work rather than being stuffed with the sorry remnants of past procrastination. Once the major goals are plotted out, the rest of the work needs to be scheduled accordingly. This simple act of planning well in advance each week helps one focus on their priorities and consequently accomplish so much more.

As is evident, time management is one of a plethora of tools that help a person greatly in their professional life. It might even be said that it is the singular most important tool out of all. Understanding the importance of time management motivates one to work harder, faster with undivided attention. Such is the power of this tool that a mere understanding brings greater results, it starts working even before it is applied. Professionals who master the art of managing their time efficiently seldom face the supposed ‘lack of time’ for tasks that are deemed far more important than an evening of relaxing bliss. Such people tend to have healthier and happier lifestyles as getting their work done in time ensures free slots for leisure and unwinding. Being organized also affects a person’s mental health with positive overtones as stress and anxiety are significantly reduced. Learning to make the best use of one’s time may seem to be a daunting and tiresome effort at times, but the results shine oh so bright that the toil dims in comparison. It must always be kept in mind that time is one of the very few things that cannot be recycled. So, time once wasted is gone forever. It must be made sure that one treasures every moment they possess. In the words of Queen Elizabeth, the first, on her deathbed: “All my possessions for one moment of time.”  

Vrinda Kohli is an eighteen years old Computer Science Engineering student at Manipal University Jaipur. She likes to binge read in her scarce spare time.
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