I am a serial reader of anything to do with time management. As someone who tends to overstress about tasks, time management helps me to mitigate the stress, procrastination, and pressure of saying yes to new things.
However, it took me a while to understand that I could be practicing effective time management in my work life but still not be managing my time (or myself) wisely. The reason being that I can time manage my way through the workday, but if I am not also managing time for my personal self, then things are still a bit of a mess.
Honestly, most of the articles that I read re: time management are exclusively about work or (a few) about personal time. I also find myself reading the occasional article that stipulates that some things, if they don’t prioritize high enough, should not be done. I do not agree with this sentiment; everything needs to get done, it is just a matter of finding a rhythm that is holistically beneficial in accomplishing certain tasks first.
Rarely does personal and professional time management intercept, even though a holistic management process of tasks would culminate in a healthier of both lives.
Employee or Person? Both
The issue with time management specific to work-life is that it is time management of a single part of all of our lives. As people, we are more complicated than just our workday. There are so many times that I wish I could walk into work at 8am and turn everything personal off until 5pm, but I just can’t – nor is it realistic.
From 8am-5pm, I am trying to push projects out for my boss, respond to emails, help customers, eat healthily, catch my 5 minute stand every hour, and sometimes manage home responsibilities over the phone or computer. From 8am-5pm, I am a dedicated employee but also a person. Ideally, if I can accomplish the tasks which deliver the ideal results for me personally and as an employee, I am more satisfied at the end of the day.
Enter the 20/80 rule
Also known as Pareto’s Principle, which states that:
- 80% of your results come from just 20% of your time, (which can be the same as…)
- … 20% of your tasks that yield 80% of the results that YOU NEED
The “law of the vital few” has been around a long time and used in cases for mathematics, economics, sports and computing. It is, generally, an observation of 80% of something being driven by 20% of something else. For example, Pareto noticed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population, or for a sports example, 80% of desired stretching results actually come from only 20% of the stretches.
This should effectively work for me too, in being a person and employee. In doing less in a smarter way to accomplish more. One example I can think of is this:
Small thing (20%) – waking up 1 hour earlier for work
Large results (80%) – Skip 1 hour of rush hour, less time in the car per day (personal), 45 min work out at my office building (personal), get to my desk 5 mins early (work and personal), get settled in quicker (work and personal), wind down into the day quicker (work)
We are all people for whom work is only a portion of our lives so time management needs to work for us totally and completely, professionally and personally. I keep a close eye on the following things when managing my time and determining which items can be done and which actually complete more than one thing for personal-me and work-me:
- Breaking down tasks/activities by most impactful to least impactful: maybe bringing my lunch to work lets me work an extra 15 mins instead of stepping-out to buy it AND allows me to feel great because I am eating healthy. This is quite impactful on my day.
- and then by high risk vs low risk: is this something that I have more time to do? Is this something that risks my job or something that I am the sole proprietor for? It would be nice to do things because they have a high impact on our lives, but sometimes low-impact tasks are actually high priority because of responsibility and those cannot be ignored.
- and then by within control and out of my control: the world would be a better place if we all let go of things that are truly out of our own control. Is a project stuck because Peer A won’t send back comments, ping them for the comments one last time and leave the ball in their court. Spending time micromanaging other people is not a good use of your time.
Time management should benefit our personal selves as much as our work selves. Because, at the end of the day, if our personal selves aren’t being enriched, then our work-selves suffer. By prioritizing in this way, I have more clarity on the things that impact my personal life and my work, and which can work together to destress and declutter.
Jamie Desrosier is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She has spent the past two years in Colorado working as a Marketing and Communications professional within state and local government technology for government authority, Colorado SIPA. Prior to moving to Colorado, she spent 2 years as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia. She spends every day learning as much as she can and is excited to be working on her Master’s of Information Technology Management with a specialization in cybersecurity. You can read her posts here.