There never seems to be enough time nowadays, even though we all have the same amount of it - 24 hours or 1440 minutes each day. The classic book on time management is Alec Mackenzie's The Time Trap published many decades ago. I first read the 1990 edition and found it very helpful at the time. The Fourth Edition (2009) brings us into the world of the internet, email and mobile phones, all culminating in a 'virtual lifestyle.' Having trained over 180,000 managers and sold over 600,000 copies of the book, the author has some insights to helps us.
Today's top five time traps are:
1. Management by Crisis (still number one).
2. Inadequate Planning (formerly in third place).
3. Inability to Say No (has risen from ninth).
4. Poor Communication (a dramatic rise from former seventeenth slot). For example, email often results in message fragments, sent in haste, with little forethought and we're losing our face-to-face communication skills.
5. Poorly Run Meetings (formerly twelfth).
The next tier of time traps start to get more personal and less corporate or systemic. They include (6) a world gone virtual, (7) email mania, (8) the untamed telephone, and (9) incomplete information and the paper chase. Other traps include: (10) confused responsibility and authority, (11), poor delegation and training, (12), procrastination and leaving things unfinished, (13) socializing and dealing with drop-ins, (14) attempting too much.
There are no quick solutions. In reality, we cannot manage time - only ourselves in relation to time. However, by becoming aware of our bad habits and taking steps to replace them with more productive habits, we can begin to use our time more effectively. Bad habits include addiction to trivial distractions and trying to multi-task to save time (something that is ultimately ineffective).
Having a realistic and written plan of tasks and projects for each day and seeking to focus on accomplishing them remains the most effective time management practice, yet few people actually do it consistently. It's ultimately about self-discipline.
P.S. For some more thoughts on time management, click here.