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Time management

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The Labour Force Survey (2008/2009) states that an estimated 1.2 million people are suffering from work related stress illnesses. When assessing how to reduce the amount of stress experienced, effective time management is often overlooked despite being an essential skill.

Common factors that increase stress

Unnecessary responsibility

Given the nature of most work environments effective team work is essential. When one member of a team is less capable, or less willing to put in the necessary effort not only does it lead to tension but often Results in the other members having to devote their time to complete their colleague’s work. An essential part of effective time management is knowing when to say ‘no’ to additional demands on your time. It is also important that management set clear targets and maintain two-way communication with staff members who are not pulling their weight to avoid other members of the team having to shoulder unnecessary responsibility.


Procrastination often takes place due to a lack of clear goals and loss of concentration. The easiest way to try and counter procrastination is to set clear objectives, which will be explained in further detail later on.

Working harder

Although many people believe working harder is the same as achieving more, this is rarely the case. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of Results. This means that the remaining 80% of Results are achieved with only 20% of the effort.

For example it is possible to be very busy, constantly switching between tasks, and struggling to get everything done and still not generate Results. Focusing more on each task in turn is far more productive. From this we can see that it is much more important that work hours are structured carefully, instead of being increased.

Ways to be more effective

An activity log

An easy place to start is by recording how you spend your day to see what percentage of work time is productive. From this it is easy to see which areas of your day and activities in your day need to be targeted with effective scheduling.

Effective scheduling

Consider at which parts of the day are you more focused and at which parts do you find concentrating more challenging. Incorporating breaks into your day is also essential for a successful working day. When faced with unwanted and unpleasant tasks, it is advisable to complete these tasks as soon as possible. This ensures that your time is spent tackling them, rather than merely worrying about them.


An easy way to become both more focused and effective is to create manageable goals. Using memorable mnemonics, such as ‘SMART’ or ‘TIME’, it is easy to create realistic and rewarding goals.


After creating clear goals it is equally important to prioritize these goals. When prioritizing your goals you need to assess their urgency and their importance. For example if something is very urgent but only of medium importance you may still need to complete it above a task or goal of high importance but low urgency.

Closing words

At the heart of time management is a shift in focus for many people, and it is important to concentrate on the Results of your work, not on being busy.

Finally, in the words of L. Boone, “I am definitely going to take a course on time management... just as soon as I can work it into my schedule”!


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