Time management: How to prioritize and optimize your day

Time management: How to prioritize and optimize your day

Jul 5, 2021·

4 min read

Time management means to control what we do over time. It sounds easy, right? In this article I share some tools and tips on how to improve your time management capability.

Time management it's complex. With so many information, meetings, messages, e-mails, deadlines it's normal to feel frustrated in the end of the day. It seems that your efforts were not enough.

Currently, we have a lot of information available which add difficulties into process of focusing and paying full attention in something. Herbert Simon, economist e Nobel's have created the term “attention economy”. This term means that attention is the “bottleneck of human thought” setting boundaries on what we can perceive and do in such stimulating environments. The author also identifies that “a wealth of information creates a lack of attention,” suggesting that multitasking is a myth, is that right?

According to Psychology field there are different types of attention: selective, alternating, sustained and focused.

  • Selective: An individual with selective attention is not distracted when determining where their attention will be directed, so they are not bothered by noise and other factors that may distract or divert their attention. It usually happens unconsciously.
  • Alternating: Ability to shift the focus of attention without completely losing attention. Example: driving a car and being aware of the sounds, cards and traffic elements.
  • Sustained: Ability to stay focused for a long period on an activity in an intense and constant way. Example: stay attentive during a class, lecture and study.
  • Focused: Paying attention to only one activity at a time. The ideal setting for developing focused attention is to split the workday into slices. You can check the Pomodoro technique.

Pomodoro technique uses a timer to set work into intervals, normally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

It's necessary to understand that not everything is a priority and must be done urgently in order to be able to finish more activities throughout the day and be more effective in which ones to focus. During the day, we often have to make decisions about where to invest our time and attention, due task deadline, quantity of activities and efforts involved on them. In the market that are several tools available that helps to identify activities prioritization and complexity. In this article I'll detail more one of them that's the Eisenhower Matrix.

In this Matrix, tasks should be prioritized according to their urgency and importance, separating the less urgent and important tasks that you should delegate or not do. After reading this article, try to list your daily activities and categorize them according to the matrix. This exercise can help you to be more effective and assertive in your daily life.

Source: eisenhower.me

Another important thing when we talk about time management is knowing how to say no and this becomes even more important when thinking about the context of women at work.

According Harvard Business Review study, women are 48% more likely to volunteer in non-promotional tasks and to say yes than men. These tasks benefit the organization but are unlikely to contribute to the employee’s performance reviews and career advancement.

  • Give meaning to your "No": Share the context and reasons why you are saying no. Being transparent and honest can help other people understand more about your reality and goals as a professional.
  • Leadership alignment: Align priorities with leadership about professional, area and company goals. Be proactive in bringing alternatives and proposals to make the conversation more effective.
  • Delegate: Prepare people on your team, understand their strengths and opportunities for growth. Build a safe environment with your team to delegate effectively.

Saying no to one thing is saying yes to something else more relevant. Also, you will be more effective and happy prioritizing what you want in your career and well-being.

Important (especially for male leaders):

Saying no is not just women’s responsibility. It's necessary to have leadership and an ecosystem that favor fairly distribution of tasks. As a lead person or manager, you may want to consider rotating over time between team assignments. Be intentional on getting to know the dynamics of the team, this can help women to follow a growth path within the company and feel more engaged in their daily lives. For the organization, prioritizing these practices can also help in retaining these talents.

If you came here I hope I have helped you with some tips and ideas on how to manage your time and chart the next steps in your daily life and career.