Time management

With the help of time management techniques, the working day can be efficiently structured, time thieves can be eliminated and one's own work processes can be optimised. In this way, one develops more time competence and improves the autonomous organisation of one's own valuable time.

What is time management?

Woman sitting at her desk and writing a journal.

Many people have the feeling that they have no time or that time passes too quickly. Almost everyone knows the feeling of being pressed for time or having too many tasks for the time available. However, what we use our time for, how we prioritise the things we spend time on and whether we really “have no time” is often a conscious or even unconscious decision. Therefore, it can be helpful to focus on what we use our available time for, and it is also important to identify time thieves. This makes it possible to put the emphasis back on personal responsibility and to optimise our own time organisation processes. Time management techniques and methods help us to structure the working day efficiently, eliminate time thieves and optimise our own work processes. In this way, perceived time pressure and the experience of stress are reduced and more time competence, i.e. the self-determined use of time, is achieved.  

Time cannot be managed; it can only be consciously shaped.
Lothar Seiwert

Which time thieves "steal" our time?

Time thieves or time eaters are things that tend to turn up unexpectedly in the course of everyday work. They are not usually particularly important but distract us for a certain amount of time. They disrupt concentration and make it difficult to use our working time efficiently. Therefore, it is important to recognise our own time thieves and reduce them as much as possible. To do this, it is helpful to write down for a week what you did, how much time you spent on it and how important the individual activities actually were.   

1. Your own working style
Your own workflow and working style may be inefficient - for example, if you try to do too many tasks at once or if you approach work haphazardly. Untidiness or poor organisation of documents can also reduce productivity and cause more stress. Neuroscientific research shows that multitasking takes up too much energy and, in the long term, reduces the ability to concentrate. The brain needs more time overall when it switches back and forth between several tasks. A supposed saving of time thus fails to materialise.
2. Cooperation and communication
If deadlines are not met, information is unclear or insufficient, or meetings are not goal-oriented or efficient, there may be a feeling of time being wasted. A lack of information or unclear communication can also lead to unnecessary time and effort being spent on follow-up questions, obtaining information or clearing up misunderstandings.
3. Perfectionism
Those who have very high expectations of themselves quickly fall prey to their own perfectionism. This leads to valuable time being lost because people dwell too long on details. Some things may and must be perfect, but in most cases 80% is enough to deliver a really good result.
4. Distractions and interruptions
Between meetings the phone rings, every minute there is a push notification of incoming e-mails and then there is an unexpected knock at the office door. Everyday work has many distractions and interruptions in store. When concentration is interrupted, the brain needs some minutes to return to the subject at hand with full attention. It is therefore advisable to set up time windows free of interruptions.
5. Helpfulness and lack of boundaries
A great willingness to help others sometimes leads to prioritising that over the completion of one's own work. Those who are not able to set adequate limits often have less time available for their own really important tasks. This is why prioritising one's own area of responsibility is important in order to prevent too much stress, regardless of how much you might want to help others out.

Time management techniques to try out

Pomodoro technique
With this technique, you concentrate on a task for 25 minutes and then take a productive break of 5 minutes. After doing this four times, you take a half-hour break. This way of working increases productivity and helps focus.
Alarm clock
Plan uninterrupted work phases and enter these blocks of time in your calendar. Creating productive time for yourself in this way is usually met with understanding and promotes transparency in your team. It is best to switch off notifications for this period.
Getting Things Done
According to David Allen's Getting Things Done method, important tasks that can be completed in a short time should be dealt with first. Unpleasant tasks should also be done first in order to clear the mind.
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