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Manage Yourself in Time

Effective individuals have good time management skills. This chapter, then, is dedicated to discussing how to manage time wisely. The authors discuss eight strategies for successful time management. First, they recommend focusing on the tasks that are high priority. The priority of a given task is determined by weighing it against your goals in life. High priority tasks should be accomplished early in the day, before moving on to tasks of lower priority. Second, grouping together tasks that are similar will save time.

The third strategy is concerned with organization, and the authors provide details on how to get organized: make to-do lists, create a schedule, and get rid of papers that are no longer useful. Fourth, the authors recommend breaking larger, high-priority tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Then, they suggest setting timetables for the completion of these tasks, in essence creating deadlines. The sixth strategy is to focus on only one thing at a time.

Next, they stress the need to finish what you start. This technique helps you to feel like you have accomplished something and allows others to perceive you as being effective. Finally, they recommend doing tasks as soon as you think of them. The authors then discuss common things that end up wasting your time, and they present strategies for overcoming them. One such time-waster is slow decision making. Taking too much time to make decisions leaves less time to act on them. Another time-waster is worrying.

The authors recommend regularly setting aside a small period of time to devote to worrying and using the rest of the time to focus on your tasks. A third time waster is spending time trying to do things perfectly because this mindset leads to fear of failure and / or procrastination. Instead, you should focus on doing things well. More energy should be spent on doing high-priority tasks to the best of your abilities, while low-priority tasks (like dusting) do not need to done at such a high level. Fourth, the authors discuss working against your own internal body rhythms.

Difficult, high-priority tasks should be scheduled for those periods of time when you work most efficiently. Another time waster is not taking the time to relax because regular relaxation periods ultimately make you more efficient. The failure to delegate is another way people waste time. Even if it is not possible for you to delegate, you still have the choice to say “no” to certain tasks, especially low-priority ones. Spending too much time waiting is another waste of time. Instead, you should find ways to make waiting time constructive.

A final time-waster is getting a bad start to your day in the morning. In the next section of this chapter, the authors discuss the four generations of time management. The first generation consists of things like to-do lists but does not prioritize tasks. The second generation is comprised of appointment books or other scheduling tools but does not account for interruptions that can compromise effectiveness. The third generation accounts for tasks, priorities, and goals, but it can be restrictive and inflexible.

All three of these generations fail to take into account relationships with others. The fourth generation takes a different approach and emphasizes managing yourself in time as opposed to time management. A personal mission statement will help guide you in this approach. The authors rely on the work of Steven Covey who suggests that you use your personal mission statement as a guide as you divide your tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important (Q1), non-urgent but important (Q2), urgent but not important (Q3), and non-urgent and non-important (Q4).

Contrary to popular belief, the best use of time is accomplished when focusing on Q2 tasks. In order to increase the amount of time on these activities, decrease the amount of time spent on the latter two quadrants. Eventually, the increased amount of time spent on Q2 will lead to a reduction in Q1 tasks thereby freeing up time to spend in Q3 and 4. Next, the authors tackle the issue of procrastination. In order to overcome procrastination, you need to be able to develop a higher tolerance for frustration and to learn how to defer gratification.

The authors offer six steps for conquering procrastination: breaking the task down into smaller chunks and creating an implementation plan, getting organized, committing yourself to devoting only five minutes to the task (to begin with), not waiting for inspiration to strike, rewarding yourself, and interpreting mistakes as learning experiences. The chapter ends with an examination of techniques to become more effective as a student: improving memory retention, studying effectively, and learning test-taking skills.

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