How Time Management Helped My Stress
Don’t worry this isn’t a post about time-management tips so much as a personal statement as to its effectiveness.
My story starts with management speak. If you've ever been exposed to it you'll know it’s the sort of terminology where you wonder if you’ve been in a coma and the language has left you behind. Are you, for example, a “stakeholder” in “leveraging competencies from the hub”? Maybe others have “parachuted in” to help you “loop back” on an issue in order to “apply some 360-degree thinking”?
I recall only too well having to put my activities to one side and attend one, two, three-day or even longer courses by ‘consultants’ in sharp suits who’d excitedly mix their metaphors and encourage me to use “blue-sky thinking” and “think outside the box” This, I understood was meant to be about quality, specifically so others and myself could “get it right, first time, every time”.
Yes my cynicism glows like a beacon at such memories. I found these events truly mind-numbing. They were uninspiring and sometimes immature and embarrassing both in their assumptions and the activities we were required to undertake (I’m not even going there) and, directly and indirectly, they were stressful. All I could think of was how my work was piling up and how much of a chasm there was between my world and the living toothache I was being subjected to.
It’s a shame because in and amongst all the dross there was the occasional pearl. One such example was the session we had on time-management. The first time around it failed to connect. I remember the speaker saying something about putting colored stickers on pieces of paper every time we picked one up. If by the end of the week there were several stickers on it, it would reveal a level of procrastination that was not good. Then there was a discussion about whether stickers or felt-tip pens were best, but I’d already stepped into my imaginary brain elevator and was listening to the ‘girl from ipanema’ whilst being transferred to a different floor!
Then I came across the same topic again at a different venue. My heart sank but I needn’t have worried. The leader was skilled, informative, helpful and effective, and she didn’t use any management speak. I could understand her. I could also relate to what she was saying about my priorities, what it was I was trying to achieve, and my goals in this regard.
It actually takes an act of faith to change established working practices, even if they are erratic and stressful. This is partly because you feel a lack of time and you alsp feel a lack of the need for change. If however you feel the stress of work it’s an investment that will work for you and pay dividends (was that management speak)? Anyway, here are a couple of my examples:
Although I kept a diary I came to realize how limited it was. In my mind the diary provided a certain structure but actually it was an outward representation of chaos – crammed in places, empty in others. As was pointed out to me, there were times I hadn’t built in breaks and therefore my effectiveness would be compromised. Everything appeared equal and needed organizing into ways that alerted me to their importance.
At work I became more aware of distracting habits. For example, the phone took on a priority over everything else. When it rang, no matter what I was doing, I’d answer it. In so doing I was almost invariably opening myself up to more work or taking myself away from the task at hand. Once I gave myself permission to transfer the phone to take messages, this one act had measurable benefits.
It’s just one example from my life but to “get all your ducks in a row”, you’ll have to assess it for yourself and then let us know what’s changed.