Spotlight on time management

HR professionals suffer massively from ‘rushaholic syndrome’ at the start of the New Year. Sorting budgets, recruiting new staff and finalising strategies all take time. But are we actually running after something that doesn’t exist?

Focusing on how we spend the time we have is far more productive than continually searching for the 25th hour.

Match task to mood

We each have our own unique concentration curve, so matching our tasks to our mood can have a big impact on our effectiveness. Some measures of mental and physical performance can vary by as much as 15%, depending on when an activity is done. If we choose to deal with our most demanding tasks when our natural energy is at its highest peak, we will get more done in less time.

Check your calculations

If you’re continually running short of time, you may be over optimistic with your time assessments. Studies show that we regularly underestimate how long our own tasks are going to take, but are remarkably accurate at making time judgements for others. So, when you are drawing up a timetable, get a second opinion or, if there isn’t one available, recall how long it took you to do something similar before.

Use the smart ‘no’

It’s smart because this ‘no’ is targeted. Its purpose is not just to save time, but also to generate it. Next time someone asks you to get involved in something, ask yourself: is this activity or person going to give me a good return on the time they are asking me to invest? Is it a ‘time generator’ that will save me time now and in the future, or a ‘time parasite’ that will consume more time than it is worth? If it’s the latter, pass it over or pass it on.

Play to your strengths

We don’t all approach time in the same way. Some of us are happiest when we’re organised: we like to know what’s coming, we appreciate routines and we admire punctuality. Others find plans unpleasantly constraining: they have a time style that is more relaxed and prefer improvising their way through the day.
Identify your time style and you can begin to choose to work – and play – in a way that fits with your strengths. Time will feel more satisfying and rewarding.

Fill dead time

Have something to do while you are standing in line or waiting for a meeting. Rather than getting impatient, read something you’ve been meaning to get round to, or draft a few letters.

Finally, slow down

Identify where rushing is regularly causing you to make mistakes: leaving your keys at home, your mobile in the office, your head in the last meeting…

Select a ‘prompt’ and use it as a reminder to slow down. For example, if the coffee machine features in your office rush, take a breath and reduce your speed whenever you see it.

Are you a rushaholic?

Do you:

  • Like your day to be packed with things to do?

  • Get impatient in queues?

  • Underestimate how long it will take you to do something?

  • Tell yourself to speed up?

  • Worry about the next thing you should be doing?

  • Often go back to get something you’ve forgotten?

  • Set off driving to a new place without looking at directions?

  • Eat on the move?

If you answer yes to any or all of these, then it’s time to start slowing down, and achieving much more.

Source: The Mind Gym: Give Me Time is published by Time Warner books and is available in bookshops for 12.99. For more information, go to

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