People often talk about work-life balance. I stopped doing that years ago when I told myself that work was a part of life. In a work-life balance mindset, that left me with, life balance.
Time, the most precious and finite resource, has always fascinated and concerned individuals seeking to make the most of their lives. Conventional wisdom often sings the virtues of time management, teaching us to parcel our days into neatly organized blocks, squeezing productivity out of every minute.
In our quest for efficiency, we often overlook a crucial aspect of life, balance. Instead of rigid time management, balancing time offers a more holistic and sustainable approach to living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
This is a very long lesson, it is not a short read and contains a lot of information.
The stress of perfectionism
Time management can lead to a relentless pursuit of perfectionism. Setting ambitious goals and allocating every minute to a task can create undue stress, anxiety, and disappointment when those plans inevitably deviate due to unexpected events.
Time management techniques, such as creating to-do lists, setting strict schedules, and prioritizing tasks, have their merits. They can help increase productivity and create a sense of accomplishment. However, they often neglect the nuances of human existence.
Trying to manage time looks different to each of us and we have to find our way to working with time, not against it. When I took work out of the work-life balance and put it where it belonged as part of life, I found myself being less frustrated by work because it is simply a part of life.
Some things we all do
Effective time management is a valuable skill, but several common obstacles can hinder one’s ability to make the most of their time. In today’s digital age, constant notifications, social media, and the allure of browsing the internet can easily divert one’s attention from important tasks. Workplace interruptions and multitasking can fragment focus and reduce overall productivity, making it challenging to allocate time efficiently. In her video, Two Things That Impact Your Critical Thinking at Work, Margaret Heffernan, a global leader, shares her insights on why multitasking isn’t effective.
Procrastination is another formidable obstacle. Many people struggle with putting off tasks until the last minute, which not only adds stress, it also limits the amount of time available for quality work. Procrastination often arises from a lack of motivation or unclear goals, causing individuals to postpone tasks they find uninteresting or daunting. This habit can lead to missed deadlines and a perpetual feeling of time slipping away.
Inadequate planning and prioritization also hinder effective time management. Without a clear plan or list of priorities, individuals may find themselves reacting to urgent but less important tasks rather than focusing on what truly matters. This lack of structure can result in wasted time and energy on less important activities, preventing us from reaching our desired goals. In summary, distractions, procrastination, and a lack of effective planning are common obstacles that can impede one’s ability to manage their time effectively. Overcoming these challenges often requires developing strategies for focus, motivation, and organization to reclaim control over one’s schedule and achieve greater productivity.
Looking at three different concepts of working with time
When time is managed well, individuals have the opportunity to allocate sufficient attention and focus to each task, resulting in higher-quality outcomes. This can lead to greater job satisfaction and professional success. Additionally, effective time management can improve decision-making as individuals have the time to analyze options and consider alternatives.
Furthermore, it encourages the development of important skills such as prioritization, organization, and self-discipline, which are transferable to various aspects of life, from career advancement to personal growth. Time management enables individuals to strike a balance between work and personal life, fostering a healthier lifestyle with more time for leisure, family, and self-care. In essence, time management isn’t just about getting more done; it’s about doing things better, with less stress and greater fulfillment.
Time management concept
- Prioritization: Prioritization involves identifying and focusing on the most important tasks and activities. Use techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to categorize tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. This helps you allocate your time to tasks that have the greatest effect.
- Time Blocking: Time blocking is a scheduling technique where you allocate specific blocks of time for different tasks or activities. By creating dedicated time slots for work, meetings, email, and personal tasks, you can reduce distractions and ensure that important tasks receive the attention they deserve.
- Goal Setting: Setting clear and specific goals provides direction and motivation for how you use your time. Break down long-term goals into smaller, actionable steps, and allocate time each day or week to work toward these goals. This keeps you focused on what truly matters.
- Eliminate Time Wasters: Identify and eliminate common time-wasting activities such as excessive social media use, unnecessary meetings, or procrastination. Use tools and strategies like the Pomodoro Technique (working in short, focused bursts with breaks) to boost productivity and reduce wasted time.
- Delegation and Outsourcing: Recognize that you can’t do everything on your own. Delegate tasks to others when possible, whether it’s at work or in your personal life. Additionally, consider outsourcing tasks like house cleaning, lawn care, or administrative work if it makes financial sense. This frees up your time for more important activities.
Time stewardship recognizes the importance of well-being, relationships, adaptability, and sustainability in our lives. By embracing the principles of balance, individuals can achieve not only greater productivity but also a deeper sense of purpose, fulfillment, and overall life satisfaction.
Balancing time is not a rejection of productivity but a recognition that true productivity is achieved when we lead balanced, healthy, and meaningful lives. So, as we navigate the complexities of our daily existence, let us remember the wisdom of balance and strive to harmonize our time with the symphony of life itself.
Time stewardship concept
- Value-Based Time Management:
- Time stewardship begins with aligning your activities and choices with your core values and long-term goals. Prioritize tasks and commitments that reflect what matters most to you, ensuring your time is spent on activities that contribute to your personal and professional growth.
- Long-Term Thinking:
- A time steward looks beyond immediate needs and considers the long-term consequences of their actions. They invest time in activities that may not yield immediate results but will have a positive effect in the future, such as skill development, building relationships, or planning for retirement.
- Mindful Decision-Making:
- Time stewards make deliberate and thoughtful choices about how they use their time. They evaluate opportunities, commitments, and distractions, weighing them against their values and goals before saying yes or no. This mindfulness helps prevent overcommitment and wasted time.
- Time Budgeting:
- Similar to financial budgeting, time stewardship involves creating a time budget. Allocate specific portions of your day or week to various activities, such as work, family, leisure, and personal development. Regularly review and adjust your time budget to ensure you’re allocating time effectively.
- Continuous Improvement:
- Time stewardship is an ongoing process of self-improvement. Regularly assess how you’re managing your time and look for ways to optimize it. Embrace new time management techniques and tools that can help you become a more effective time steward.
The benefits of time stewardship and time management can complement each other. Time stewardship offers a broader, values-driven perspective, while time management provides practical techniques for achieving short-term efficiency and productivity. Depending on your goals and circumstances, you can choose to emphasize one or the other or find a balance that works best for you.
Time mastery concept, the blend
Time mastery recognizes the importance of efficiency and productivity, a core aspect of time management. It involves using time effectively to achieve tasks and meet deadlines, resulting in tangible results in both personal and professional life. This element is particularly useful for achieving short-term goals and reducing stress by ensuring adequate time allocation for tasks and activities, as emphasized in time management.
Time mastery embraces the responsibility and ownership over one’s time highlighted in time stewardship. This sense of accountability promotes a proactive and empowered attitude toward time-related decisions. It also encourages individuals to align their time choices with their values and priorities, fostering a more meaningful and purpose-driven life, as time stewardship suggests.
Additionally, time mastery incorporates the structured approach provided by time management, offering methods and tools to plan, prioritize, and organize tasks effectively. This structured aspect makes it easier to manage multiple responsibilities, further enhancing one’s ability to steward time wisely.
In essence, time mastery combines the best of both time stewardship and time management, promoting a holistic, responsible, and efficient approach to time that leads to a balanced, purpose-driven, and stress-reduced life.
Time mastery concept
- Time as a Finite Resource:
- Recognize that time is a limited and non-renewable resource. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Understanding the scarcity of time encourages you to use it wisely and prioritize what truly matters.
- Self-Awareness and Time Management Style:
- Understand your natural tendencies and preferences when it comes to managing time. Are you a planner or a spontaneous worker? Do you thrive on structure or prefer flexibility? Tailor your time management strategies to align with your style.
- The Power of Focus:
- Mastering time requires the ability to concentrate on one task at a time. Avoid multitasking, which can reduce efficiency and quality of work. Practice deep work techniques to immerse yourself fully in important tasks.
- Strategic Planning:
- Develop a strategic approach to time management. Set clear, specific goals, both short-term and long-term, and create a plan to achieve them. This prevents aimless drifting and helps you make deliberate choices about how to use your time.
- Continuous Improvement:
- Time mastery is an ongoing process of self-improvement. Regularly assess your time management practices, seek feedback, and experiment with new strategies and tools. Adapt your approach as needed to become increasingly proficient at managing your time.
From my many conversations with leaders about work-life balance, I began to understand their perceptions. Many of them were frustrated with work because it was messing with their life balance. I suggested that they stop looking at work and life as two different events because, in reality, work is part of life.
In the exercise section below, you will use a five-section pie chart that illustrates five time management areas. By leveraging this pie chart along with time management strategies and methods, you can pinpoint effective approaches for enhancing both your work and personal life.
The five, time sections and definitions of the time pie chart
These are some of the most common areas for time management. Feel free to use these or rename the sections to fit your needs. You may want to combine two sections to make room for a different fifth section. You could add a sixth or seventh section, however, the more sections you add the harder it is to allocate your time. For now, try it with five sections, you may find five challenging enough to balance your time.
Here are the five, time management sections of the pie.
- Physical Health: Physical health is a cornerstone of overall well-being. It includes maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, getting sufficient sleep, and managing stress. Prioritizing physical health reduces the risk of chronic illnesses, promotes longevity, and enhances daily energy and vitality.
- Mental and Emotional Health: Mental and emotional health involves managing stress, practicing self-care, and nurturing positive mental states. It includes aspects such as emotional intelligence, resilience, and the ability to cope with life’s challenges. Mental and emotional well-being contributes to a balanced, contented life.
- Social/Family Relationships: Building and maintaining healthy relationships is crucial for well-being. Positive social connections provide emotional support, reduce loneliness, and contribute to a sense of belonging. Investing time in family, friends, and social activities can lead to greater happiness and mental health.
- Work/Finance: Work/Finance well-being involves managing finances in a way that reduces stress and supports one’s goals. This includes budgeting, saving, investing, and planning for the future. Financial stability can have a significant effect on overall quality of life and reduce anxiety related to money.
- Purpose and Meaning: Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is vital for mental and emotional health. This can come from various sources, such as meaningful avocations, humanitarian work, creative pursuits, volunteering, or personal growth. A clear sense of purpose provides motivation and a reason to strive for a fulfilling life.
Exercise | Deliberate practice
Take your time with this exercise and think through each step. I suggest to work on one section at a time. Be mindful of how you work on one section because it may affect the other four. Once you feel comfortable, you have run through some trial and error, you feel your process is stable, and you can do it consistently, move on to the second section.
The pie process
Step 1 – Part 1
Start with identifying which of the three, time concepts resonates with you and aligns with your time requirements. If you identify strongly with one of the time concepts you will most likely be using the strategies and methods from that concept. If you identify with two or all three of the time concepts, then you may be using strategies and methods from both or all of the concepts.
Your long-term goal may be to establish a time balance that fits your future needs or situation. This takes time and can be achieved as you deliberately practice your time approach. Over time you discover that some sections will overlap other sections. For instance, you may find some of your social goals at work, and some of your physical goals at work too because there is a gym or walking path that you can use during lunch which could also support your mental goal. Or a large part of your purpose and meaning is family so that could create a blend of time. These blends will help to establish balance and an effective use of time. Using 100% as your total time break down each section as you currently see it.
The list could look like this:
- Work/Finance 40%
- Purpose and meaning 20%
- Social/Family 15%
- Mental health 15%
- Physical health 10%
Many different combinations and realizations will emerge while you make your list. Putting the five sections in order from one to five should give you a holistic view of how you currently see your time.
Now using 100% as your total time, break down each section with a percentage of time you feel is needed to accomplish what you want to see happen in the future or how you want to adjust your time.
Remember, you may find some of your purpose and meaning come from social/family so you rate family higher than purpose and you leave room in purpose and meaning for humanitarian work. Your mental health is supported by your physical health so you allocate more time for physical than mental health leaving room in your mental health for creating quiet time to read. Use the blending to assist you in creating a higher return on your time.
Looking over your time sections, if you are not satisfied with how your current time is dispersed, now is the time to make changes and redistribute time. List the time concept that you will use for each time section.
For instance, your new time plan could look like this
- Work/Finance 30%. + Applied concept + Step 2, pick a strategy. Step 3, pick a method to support the strategy
- Social/Family 25%. + Applied concept + Step 2, pick a strategy. Step 3, pick a method to support the strategy
- Physical health 20%. + Applied concepts + Step 2, pick a strategy. Step 3, pick a method to support the strategy
- Mental health 15%. + Applied concept + Step 2, pick a strategy. Step 3, pick a method to support the strategy
- Purpose and meaning 10%. + Applied concept + Step 2, pick a strategy. Step 3, pick a method to support the strategy
When you are satisfied with the time allocations for each section go to step 2.
Pick a strategy from time management, stewardship, or mastery that you want to use to manage each section. Use the list below. You could be using five different strategies (one for each section), or one strategy applied to several sections or all five sections. You may also discover you need to use more than one strategy for a section, it is up to you and your specific situation.
Time management strategies
- Set Clear Goals and Priorities:
- Start by defining your long-term and short-term goals. Having clear objectives helps you allocate your time more efficiently.
- Prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency. Focus on high-priority items that align with your goals.
- Create a Daily Schedule:
- Use a planner, digital calendar, or time management app to schedule your day. Allocate specific time blocks for different tasks and activities.
- Stick to your schedule as closely as possible, but allow for some flexibility to adapt to unexpected events.
- Use Time-Blocking:
- Time-blocking involves dedicating specific blocks of time to specific tasks or projects.
- Group similar tasks together, and allocate uninterrupted time for deep work. This minimizes context switching and boosts productivity.
- Practice the Two-Minute Rule:
- If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This prevents small tasks from accumulating and becoming overwhelming.
- For larger tasks, break them down into smaller, manageable steps to make them less daunting.
- Set Boundaries and Learn to Say No:
- Establish boundaries to protect your time. Politely decline tasks or commitments that don’t align with your goals or priorities.
- Learn to say “no” when necessary, and communicate your limits to others to prevent overcommitment.
Time stewardship strategies
- Set Clear Goals and Priorities:
- Define your long-term and short-term goals, both personal and professional. Clarify your priorities to ensure that your time is spent on activities that align with your objectives.
- Create a Time Budget:
- Allocate specific blocks of time in your schedule for different categories of activities, such as work, family, self-care, and personal development. Treat your time like a finite resource, and stick to your budget as closely as possible.
- Practice Time Tracking:
- Keep a record of how you spend your time for a week or more. This helps you identify time sinks and areas where you can make improvements. Tools and apps can automate this process, making it easier to track your activities.
- Implement the 80/20 Principle (Pareto Principle):
- Recognize that not all tasks and activities are of equal importance. Focus on the most productive and impactful activities by identifying the 20% of efforts that yield 80% of your desired results. Allocate more time and energy to these high-value tasks.
- Regularly Reflect and Adjust:
- Periodically review your time management practices. Assess whether your time allocation aligns with your goals and values. Be willing to adjust your schedule, delegate tasks, or eliminate non-essential activities as needed to ensure effective time stewardship.
Time mastery strategies
- Prioritize Ruthlessly:
- Time Blocking and Scheduling:
- Allocate specific time blocks in your schedule for different activities and tasks. Plan your day or week in advance, ensuring you have dedicated periods for deep work, meetings, personal tasks, and relaxation.
- Effective Task Management:
- Use task management tools or apps to keep track of your to-do list. Break down larger projects into smaller, actionable tasks. Prioritize your tasks daily and allocate time to complete them.
- Limit Distractions:
- Identify common distractions in your work environment and take steps to minimize them. This could involve turning off notifications, using website blockers, or creating a dedicated workspace free from interruptions.
- Continuous Learning and Adaptation:
- Stay open to new time management techniques and tools. Continuously evaluate your strategies and make adjustments based on your evolving needs and circumstances. Embrace ongoing self-improvement.
Now apply a method or two to each strategy you chose.
Time management methods
- Set Clear Goals:
- Establish both short-term and long-term goals for your work. Knowing what you’re working toward helps you prioritize tasks effectively.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique:
- Break your workday into focused 25-minute intervals (Pomodoros) followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four Pomodoros, take a longer break. This method enhances concentration and productivity.
- Time Blocking:
- Allocate specific time blocks, different from shorter intervals, for different tasks or types of work. This helps you organize your day, minimize distractions, and stay on track. One to three-hour blocks can increase the possibility of interruptions and distractions. Plan accordingly, consider closing emails and turning off instant messaging.
- The Two-Minute Rule:
- If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. This prevents small tasks from piling up and becoming overwhelming.
- Prioritize Tasks:
- Use the Eisenhower Matrix or a similar method to categorize tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. Focus on the top-priority tasks.
- Batch Similar Tasks:
- Group similar tasks together and tackle them in batches. For example, dedicate specific times for checking emails, making phone calls, or working on specific projects.
- Limit Multitasking use Monotasking:
- Multitasking can reduce efficiency and quality of work. Instead, focus on one task at a time to complete it more effectively.
- Use Technology Wisely:
- Leverage productivity apps and tools to organize your tasks, set reminders, and automate repetitive processes. Avoid unnecessary digital distractions.
- Eating the Frog:
- This method, popularized by Brian Tracy, suggests tackling your most challenging or unpleasant task first thing in the morning. By completing your “frog” early, you start your day with a sense of accomplishment and reduce procrastination.
- The 1-3-5 Rule:
- Each day, set one big task (a major goal), three medium tasks (important but not as significant), and five small tasks (routine or minor items) to accomplish. This method provides structure and ensures you focus on key priorities.
- The Aladdin Factor:
- Named after the book by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, this method encourages you to ask for help, resources, or opportunities when needed. By seeking assistance or collaboration, you can accomplish tasks more efficiently and tap into others’ expertise.
- Delegate and Collaborate:
- Delegate tasks that others can handle, and collaborate with colleagues to share the workload and combine expertise.
- Regular Reviews and Adjustments:
- Periodically review your time management practices and make adjustments as needed. What works today may need to change as your workload or priorities evolve.
Time stewardship methods
- Time Auditing:
- Regularly assess how you’re spending your time by conducting a thorough time audit. Track your activities for a week to identify patterns and areas where time might be wasted.
- Batch Processing:
- Group similar tasks together and complete them during dedicated time blocks. This reduces the time lost to context switching and helps you work more efficiently.
- Technology Boundaries:
- Set limits on your use of technology, particularly social media and email. Schedule specific times to check and respond to messages to prevent constant distractions.
- Weekly Planning Sessions:
- Dedicate time at the beginning or end of each week to plan your upcoming tasks and activities. Create a detailed schedule that includes both work-related and personal tasks.
- Time-Blocking for Focus:
- Allocate focused blocks of time to specific tasks. During these blocks, eliminate distractions and immerse yourself in the task at hand, increasing productivity and quality of work.
- The 2-Minute Rule:
- If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. This prevents small tasks from accumulating and cluttering your to-do list.
- Delegate and Collaborate:
- Recognize tasks that can be delegated to others based on their skills and workload. Collaboration can save time and enhance outcomes by leveraging collective expertise.
- Regular Breaks:
- Incorporate short breaks into your schedule to recharge your mind and body. Breaks can improve focus, creativity, and overall well-being.
- Saying No:
- Politely decline commitments or tasks that don’t align with your goals and priorities. Learning to say no helps you protect your time and avoid over-commitment.
- Continuous Learning:
- Invest time in learning new skills and staying updated in your field. Continuous learning enhances your productivity and positions you for future success.
Time mastery methods
- Prioritize Tasks:
- Start your day by identifying the most important tasks and tackling them first. Use techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix to differentiate between urgent and important tasks.
- Set SMART Goals:
- Define Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals for your projects. This helps you stay focused and track your progress.
- Time Blocking:
- Allocate specific blocks of time for different tasks or categories of work. This helps minimize distractions and enhances concentration.
- Use a To-Do List:
- Maintain a daily or weekly to-do list to keep track of tasks. Break down larger projects into smaller, manageable steps.
- Eliminate Distractions:
- Identify common distractions in your workplace (e.g., social media, excessive meetings) and take steps to minimize or eliminate them.
- Single Tasking:
- Multitasking can decrease productivity. Try monotasking to focus on one task at a time to improve the quality of your work
- Delegate and Outsource:
- Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks that others can handle effectively. Outsourcing non-core tasks can also save you time.
- Time Management Tools:
- Utilize digital tools and apps like calendars, task managers, and project management software to organize your work and set reminders. with your expertise and goals. Services like virtual assistants or freelance platforms can help you with this.
- Batch Similar Tasks:
- Group similar tasks together and tackle them in one go. For instance, handle all your email correspondence at designated times rather than throughout the day.
- Regular Breaks:
- Take short breaks during your workday to recharge and refocus. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, suggests working in 25-minute intervals with a 5-minute break.
Draw a pie chart and label the five sections, write in the time percentage, strategies, and methods you want to use for each section. Use this as your time plan moving forward.
Remember, more than likely, the pie chart will reflect your unique perspective on life. The pie chart will be balanced when you are satisfied with how you allocate your time and effort.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow never comes. What you have is today and this is the best time to begin anything.