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YGL – Where Does the Time Go?

Where does the time go? For many of us young, multi-tasking, information-saturated, new-to-government leaders, the answer probably includes part work, part play, and part procrastination (in fact, isn’t that how the whole blogosphere got started in the first place?) If you have a case of the pokes and can’t seem to focus on the task at hand, here are some tips on time management.

The experts agree: the first step to overcoming procrastination is admitting you have a problem…Wait, wrong self-help program. Recognizing when you start procrastinating and what triggers it, however, is a good start to regaining your focus. (How does the saying go? “We have met the enemy and it is us!”) Acknowledging when and why you are getting sidetracked will help you take the necessary steps to refocus your energy on the right things.

Understanding how you are allocating your time is also helpful. Virginia Tech’s Division of Student Affairs offers a free online time management calculator that will do the math for you. The calculator prompts you for the number of hours you spend on certain activities each day/week/month and then calculates how many hours you have left for “studying” (it’s for college students; substitute “studying” for your favorite pastime, like attending YGL events!). You can find the tool here: http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/tminteractive.html.

To do lists are another useful tool. Usually people fall into one of two categories when it comes to “to do” lists: they either swear by them or feel they are a waste of time. In fact, when used correctly, a to-do list can actually help save you time. The key is in the Covey…Steven Covey, that is. He made the urgency/importance matrix of time management famous. Covey’s matrix forces you to not only list the tasks you have to complete, but determine whether those tasks are urgent (or not) and important (or not). An example of this matrix can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:MerrillCoveyMatrix.png) The matrix helps you prioritize your efforts by directing your attention to the urgent and important tasks in “Quadrant 1” first before the not urgent and not important tasks in “Quadrant 4”.

Three other techniques may help improve time management include:
1. Delegating work to others. (Share the wealth!).
2. Minimizing interruptions, such as telephone calls, checking email, and unexpected visitors. (MS Outlook users: turn off the sound!)
3. Communicating with coworkers more often. (By keeping your coworkers informed, they will have fewer reasons to interrupt you.)

Finally, when it comes to effective time management, know that a bit of procrastination can be healthy. Taking short breaks periodically helps refresh your mind and body. So, go ahead: grab some coffee, take a lap around the hallway, or chat with a coworker. Jjust don’t come by my cube, I’m trying to concentrate.

-Margie Watson

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Photo Published Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Flickr user “apesara”

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