5 March 2011

Where has the time gone?

My daughter and her Dad used to play a game and when either of them would say, "Where has the time gone?" they would make a joke of it and come up with some crazy ideas about where it might have gone.  It was pretty funny at the time and everytime I hear someone say that, I think about it.

Time is a strange thing.  Last week I was on the treadmill at the gym and had two minutes left to run, but it felt like forever and each time I looked down it seemed like time had stood still.  As well when I was waiting for some anticipated vacation time, the time went so slow, but when I actually went on the vacation it just flew by.  What's with that? Or when my little grandson was crying in the middle of the night it seemed like a long time, although it might only have been less than 10 minutes. On Friday, I was madly trying to get out the door to meet up with my carpool and it just didn't seem like I had enough time left in the day to get everything done and out the door on time.  So how do you manage time when it can seem to go either too fast or too slow? 

I find that many times when time is crawling it is because I am in a hurry for something to happen and when it flies is when I am doing too many things and need to get it done in a short period of time or have left it for the last minute.

Sometimes we look at others and wonder how they do it as they seem to have it all together and never seem to be frazzled. It is good to remember that time plods along the same for everyone each day, no matter how it feels at the moment.  It is usually how much we try to cram into that time that makes the difference, as well as whether we have a plan on how and when we are going to accomplish what we need to do.  For instance, on my Friday rush out the door, I hadn't prioritized my day as well as I should have and then was left with some last-minute items that had to be done before I left for the day.  This is when time management helps and can be the difference between pulling your hair out, making all sorts of small unnecessary errors or competently managing your day.

A to-do list is helpful to parcel out what you need to get done in small time slots.  You can also use the Tasks feature in Outlook in the same way to help you manage.  When you have interruptions, which undoubtedly will happen, once you have handled whatever it is, you need to revert right back to your to-do list and continue working on the task.  Try not to get distracted or you will end up scrambling to catch up.  For larger projects such as transcribing minutes or planning an event  or other such things, it is a good idea to block time in your calendar so you can set aside a time to concentrate.  Close your door if you have one or put a note on your cubicle space with "Please do not disturb" on it. 

During this time of planning you can set up checklists of things you will need to remember to do on the day of the event, or to include in the meeting package, or whatever it is you have to do.  This way when you are in the time crunch, you will have done this pre-planning during a calm time and won't miss anything.

What about those times when you  have boring jobs that you just wish you could leave, but know they have to be done and then time drags, or you drag your feet and avoid doing them.  When you finally get around to doing the task at the last possible minute you hardly have time to do it. Again, I would suggest you put these tasks on your to-do list and schedule time to do them.  With something like filing or expense claims, it normally doesn't have to be done right away, so block a time and  break it up so you are not doing filing and the claims back to back.  Try to do something more interesting in between.  Usually these types of jobs have to get done, but are not normally rush jobs and can be done over time.  If you plan properly by the time it is due you will have everything well in hand.

There are also times when time clashes and you have one thing that is going very slowly (your computer) and you only have a few minutes to get the job done.  When you are planning your to-do list give yourself enough time to get the job done and add some buffer time. For instance, if the meeting materials need to be packaged by Friday afternoon and get out the door, don't wait until that morning to do it or you run the risk that the computer will freeze up, the photocopier will jam or there will be a major snow storm and the courier won't be able to deliver your package on time.  Plan to have it done a few days ahead of schedule, then if something happens you know you have a day or so of wiggle room and won't panic.  The same goes if you are waiting for something from someone.  Don't tell them you need it on the day you actually need it.  Ask for it a few days in advance and then if they are late it won't impact on your planning too much and gives you a bit of time to bug them for it.

Time requires good management or it can get away on you.  So stay calm and plan your day.  It will go much better.  Sigh!

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