The difference between mastering and managing time

Written by CMI Insights Monday 29 June 2020
After a fantastic CMI webinar, we wanted to collate the excellent wealth of tips we’ve accumulated from experts all over the UK to show you how to become a time master

You may think that mastering time means you learn every time-management skill and use every time-tracking tool available… but you’d be mistaken.

There’s actually a key difference between time-management and time mastery:

“You can’t actually manage time!” says David McLaughlin, CMI’s ChMC assessment manager. “It will come and go and happen whether you do anything or not… so we have to think about how we can use time best to achieve what we want to achieve. In their book, Karen Meager and John McLachlan talk about time mastery - so this webinar is about mastering time, not managing time.”

In a recent You want it by when?! CMI webinar hosted by David, he went over his ultimate tips for utilising time, the pillar of which is putting your workload and deadlines into perspective. Only when you learn that what you can’t do in time is as important as what you can do can you make the most of your available time.

With many of our colleagues furloughed, our workload may be feeling heavier than usual. And as much of our work is now reactive and created quickly, the deadlines are tighter. Together, this can feel like the perfect storm - but it needn’t feel so. For David, making the most of time starts by putting it into perspective.

“In some professions, decisions are a matter of life and death - but for others, perhaps sales or clerical work, we need to ask ourselves: just how urgent is this? By focusing on the wrong things we can use our energy in the wrong way.”

He uses the example of a triangle with its points labeled ‘money’, ‘health’ and ‘time’. By focusing on only one, the other two can deteriorate, and often we need to switch up what we’re focusing on according to our needs. If we feel stressed, for example, we need to focus on our health, which means that we push earning money and working lower down our priorities. Though it is difficult to change to this mindset, David acknowledges: “Our brains are programmed towards short-term behaviour, instant gratification, and quick problem-solving... Time management is a story we tell ourselves: busy can be a beautiful word, but also a horrible word. It can make us feel safe in our job and that we’re important, but then we can also become overloaded and like we’re unable to cope. Ask yourself: Am I busy doing things that are important, or am I being busy for the sake of being busy?”

In a time where many teams are depleted due to being furloughed or unable to work from home, we thought we’d round up some of our best-performing time-management tips for you to try for yourself.

Managing your time effectively

David McLaughlin makes the point in his You want it by when?! webinar that often, multi-tasking can lead to problems further down the road. “If you're doing lots of things, are you doing them well or badly?” He uses the example of trying to carve a chicken while slicing bread: it is better to focus on one at a time instead of trying to do them simultaneously! This checklist breaks time-management into achievable steps that you can take on step at a time.

Tried and tested time management tools to stick to your schedule

If you appreciate the helping hand of an app or technical tool, this is the article for you. Managing your time can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle, but tools (such as MyLifeOrganized, Trello and ToDoist) and tricks (such as the 80/20 rule) can give you a helping hand through the worst of it.

Time-management: five ways to create a great to-do list

For those who prefer the pen-and-paper (or online note!) way of remembering and organising tasks, here’s how to perfect the routine. Simple steps, like separating what needs to be done versus what you’d like to get done will make a huge difference. Why not also check out the psychology of list-makers while you’re at it?

David McLaughlin does stress this point in his webinar, though: “At what point does your to-do list become a comfort blanket?” He recommends starting a new to-do list every day means you can evaluate what’s actually important for the day, and you can start each day with a focused list instead of a monumental list that’s only growing.

Time management study guide

What if you’re juggling working and studying? Managing your time effectively is essential for those who need to structure their study time around employment and other commitments - and this handy guide takes you through it step by step, including how to keep a time log and how to identify the ultimate time wasters that are distracting you!

Managing your time effectively checklist 016

For a more introspective look, this checklist is the go-to choice. You can get to the bottom of why you find time-management tricky in the first place, and work progressively from there. Sometimes there are deeper problems to explore, such as demotivation or feeling under appreciated.

Project management

For this topic, David McLaughlin makes this very valid point: “we all have a responsibility to say ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I need help here’. While we want to be helpful, it’s also okay to say no.” This may mean delegating tasks between employees, juggling workloads so they people are working on the projects that play to their dominant skillset, or simply turning down or delaying a project due to lack of capacity.

“At the end of the project, ask if it’s ‘close enough’ to perfect - most customers would say yes, especially if it will take a further three months to get it to ‘perfect’. If that’s the case, they would likely just go to another service provider. Don’t look for perfection; get done what you can and it can always be built on. Most things in life aren’t a one-shot hit - they take time to get better and better and better.”

You can watch David’s webinar in full here.

Why not log into ManagementDirect and search for other videos, checklists, and articles to help you master your time?

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