All too often people say that they’re “too busy” to do something, or they “haven’t got time” for an activity they really enjoy. More often than not, this is a case of poor time management.
The way we manage our time has a tremendous impact on how effective we are in all spheres of our lives. Better time management can improve your effectiveness at work, your personal life and your relationships with your family.
If you’re an aspiring remote worker, strong time management skills are essential.
In this article we explore the different ways you can utilize your time and how to better organize your time when working remotely.
The Covey Time Management Matrix
Stephen Covey, in his book ‘First Things First’, presented a time management matrix which shows the various ways that time can be spent. The matrix is divided up into relative importance (important or not important) and relative urgency (urgent or not urgent) of tasks. He identified 4 different ways that people can spend their time, as illustrated below.
The four quadrants of time management are explained below in more detail:
The Quadrant of Necessity – this is time spent doing things that are important and urgent. As can be seen from the diagram, time spent in this quadrant revolves around putting out fires and dealing with crises, as well as working up to deadlines at the last minute. People often end up in this quadrant due to a lack of planning, though of course some crises cannot be prevented.
The Quadrant of Quality – this is time utilized doing tasks that are important but not urgent. The diagram shows that time spent in this quadrant involves planning, preparation, relaxation and prevention. Time spent in this quadrant is usually time very well allotted, as it prevents us from getting into the quadrant of necessity.
The Quadrant of Deception – this is time spent carrying out activities that are urgent but not important. The diagram indicates that some calls, some emails and some meetings fall into this quadrant – they may seem urgent, but they are often not as important as they initially appear.
The Quadrant of Waste – this is time carrying out tasks that are neither urgent nor important. As the diagram demonstrates, this is time that is not put to good use, such as time spent thoughtlessly watching soap operas or reading junk email, or scanning through social media to see what’s new.
Getting Better at Organizing Your Time
Think about what you spend your time doing. How often do you waste time that might be better spent elsewhere? If you cut down on 30 minutes of time wasting per day and instead allotted this to the quadrant of quality, how could this improve your time management in general? Would this lead to fewer crises and last-minute deadlines? The answer is invariably yes.
If you are managing your time well, you likely spend a lot of time in the quadrant of quality, planning and organizing so that you avoid last minute deadlines and crises. This helps you avoid stress.
Try and steer clear of time wasters too – those people that sent an email or called because they couldn’t be bothered to think for themselves.
Be honest with yourself about how you’re really spending your time. You might try keeping a time diary for a few days to record this, as writing down how you spend your time will clearly show where waste occurs.
It will also show you how much you operate in the quadrant of deception, needlessly checking emails, or carrying out other non-important tasks.
Once you know how you spend your time, look at how you can reassign it for greater effectiveness. Try to plan out time each day where you can carry out planning and organizing tasks. These are the activities that if you are effective at will improve the quality of your life.
Remote working frequently allows you to organize your own time, which is a huge benefit and a major attraction for many. However, working in this way brings its own unique challenges, and time management is paramount to success – perhaps even more so than if you work in an office environment.
It’s easy to fritter time away when working remotely; failing to use time effectively because no-one is watching. If you’re not careful, this can easily lead to more time spent in the quadrant of necessity. This will only increase the stress you feel in your life as you clamor to meet deadlines and continually deal with emergencies.
If you can organize your own hours then be sure to put in place some structure, so you know what you need to get done every day. Otherwise it can be all too easy to spend time doing urgent but essentially unimportant activities, and this will lead to stress later.
Plan for a happier, more stress free remote working situation by spending time undertaking activities that involve planning, organizing and preparing.
About the Author
Paula Newton is a career coach and resume expert who benefits from more than 10 years experience in hiring management roles. She has worked for both UK-based firms, and an American company operating out of Quito, Ecuador.
No stranger to remote working, she has lived and worked on four continents and runs her own business remotely from many countries in Latin America and Asia, as well as from the United Kingdom.