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Learning Circle - Time-Use Management
"Time the Scarce Resource to the
Busy Manager"

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Unique Features of the Resource Called "Time"

Wealth vs. Time

"Mankind has been blessed differently by God with reference to their fortune. Some are rich with enough wealth and good income, while others struggle to balance their budgets. God has not shown this disparity in granting people the resource called 'TIME'. Time is not unequally distributed amongst individuals. To the very busy executive in the office, the man on a holiday, the newborn baby and for everyone it is equal and common. It carries everyone together."

"What is this time? We come to identify time, from the sun rising in the east, when the day starts. It moves over the sky and sets in the west, bringing the night, sure to be succeeded by the sun reappearing in the east afresh at the end of the night. The day is identified by the time gap between two sunrises. Man has tried to capture time on calendars; he has tried to control it through his pocket diary, tried to measure it by the ticktack of a clock."

[Source from a treatise titled "Executive Effectiveness & Time Use Planning
(Flooding of Multiple Tasks & Solving through Time Management Tools)]

As money resources are scarce, time availability too is deficient against unlimited demands and definite commitments for specific performance-responsibility at tight time intervals. Like Money time too has to be put to prudent use to secure optimum results. Diversion of funds (money) leads to funds shortage and cost escalation. Delay and disruption in time schedule leads to time-overrun or time escalation. Either of the two escalations, when occurring, automatically leads to the other. They always go tied together. Money itself is accepted as having a time-value.

Tomorrow's cash can be secured today at a discount, while today's cash if given for temporary use to someone and received back tomorrow returns with a premium. Thus time factor influences the value of money. When a skilled professional or employee is engaged, he is compensated for his time. The time element is used as a measure for the Input of skill and expertise by a service provider to compensate his contribution. But while money resources may accrue in uneven and irregular streams or cash flows, time-resource flows in smooth, steady and fixed rolls. At every day sun-rise, you wake up with a credit balance of 24-hours at your disposal,with each flow of one hour sub-divided into 60 minutes up to the next sunrise. There can be no unexpected surprises in the availability of this wealth.

As part of the money earned is used on entertainment, recreations etc, time too can be budgeted accordingly. Time is not wasted by playing a game or watching a movie, but opportunities emerging, if not availed by proper budgeting allocating and devoting of time, may be lost for ever. Therefore when a task is on our hands pending execution/completion, we should not divert time at our disposal purposelessly, i.e. focus our attention elsewhere and lose time in attending unrelated ventures. This is similar to the statement that money resources should be conserved to be used first for meeting primary and essential needs, then for conventional necessities and thereafter for luxuries.

Opportunities and not time that you should not waste (miss)

Similarly "One need not feel guilty for taking a respite for an hour in between schedules of a busy workday, or for a couple of days in a well programmed work-month. Millions in vacation pay are paid to workers every year, not only because the unions demand it, but also because it is considered profitable by businessmen that their workers should take breather once a year. Controlling time is therefore controlling the use it. A planned holiday is as much part controlling time use, as any other engagement performed. Once the needed time use is programmed towards realising the goal you seek to accomplish, and this schedule is protected, in-between available gaps can be spent in any manner that 'recreates' the individual."

Budgeting is the tool to balance resource available with monetary demands emerging. The similar tool for time resource is planning job-schedules and fixing performance targets at each time-gaps. Such targets are set at a realistic basis. The performance goal is set for each time-end. The carefully planned application of efforts towards task-execution results in an optimum benefit of time resource. Planning is the initial exercise in any management endeavour. Time-use management is no exception. Any planning as a task as part of organizational management also includes time-schedules, since results to be achieved are always related to a particular day or date in the calendar. Planning in business is done after defining the goals to be achieved at the end of each planned period, which may be a year, sub-divided into quarters or months. That is, sub-plans for quarterly or monthly performance is also developed, along with setting the yearly goals. Thus there can be no planning without reference to a particular time (date) or duration of performance.

But time-use planning is more relevant at the level of the individual. The corporate plan is sub-divided and individual work-targets or performance-responsibilities are allotted to each Manager concerned. But the busy manager finds complex tasks before him to be carried out daily outpace the time available for him each work-day.

Categorisation of Tasks/Jobs

He finds certain tasks more important than others and to be carried out on priority basis. He also feels that certain responsibilities are more urgent. Obviously therefore there are also other tasks that are not so important or so urgent, but still he is obliged to perform them leaving more urgent or more important tasks. Example -a telephone caller, who has no purpose than merely to say "hello, how are you" and thereafter prolongs the conversation on random unimportant issues for the next three to five minutes. The process results in a disruption and you have again to refocus your mindset after the conversation to the frame of thoughts that occupied your mind held before the telephone call. The individual also finds certain task-elements simple, easy and capable of being executed quickly, while others need coordination and dependence with other persons and hence complex. He is tempted to execute the simpler and easier tasks first and keep the complex ones deferred.

Job Scheduling

While planning for the organization is done at yearly, quarterly or monthly basis, planning its execution by individuals concerned can be split into weekly and daily intervals. You have your tasks for the organization to be attended as part of the planned performance for the month. As individual you will have also other tasks to be attended, relating to your personal, family and social responsibilities. These brings conflicting situations and you may have to at times make a hard choice to prioritize certain things and defer certain others. As money resources available are scarce against unlimited needs/uses, and scarce resources can be put to alternate uses, time also is scarce and every minute or hour can be put to alternate uses. Both call for a process of making choices. Planning your time is therefore an exercise in controlling its use and controlling the use of time is effective time-use management.

You have accepted certain work/performance targets for the year, with a further sub-division thereof by way of quarterly and monthly commitments. You are concerned with the quarterly plan, as you have not only to carry out this month's tasks, but may also have to undertake advance preparatory-steps for the tasks scheduled next month and thereafter. For example if a conference is to be arranged next month, arrangements for the conference hall (venue), action towards printing of brochures and mailing them for marketing participants to the seminar etc. have to be initiated much in advance, and cannot be left with the thinking that we can cross the bridge, when we come to it.

Task/Job Prioritisation -
How to Plan Time-Use to Optimise Results

The day's goals are to be first set, listing the different tasks that you propose to accomplish, within the time resource you can provide in that day. Once the tasks are decided, you will sequence the tasks job-wise on the basis of priority for each task/job.

How to decide the priority for different tasks

We have earlier classified jobs under three categories, as (i) Urgent/not-urgent, (ii)important/not-important, and (iii)simple/complex. Classified on this basis there will be eight categories arranged in the order of relative priority that should be given as under:

S.No. Task/Job-Categorisation Priority
1 urgent/important/simple 1
2 urgent/important/complex 2
3 not-urgent/important/simple 3
4 urgent/not-important/ simple 4
5 Not-urgent/important/complex 5
6 urgent/not-important/ complex 6
7 not-urgent/not-important/simple 7
8 not-urgent/not-important/complex 8

In actual practice this order of priority is not followed and the tendency is to devote to jobs that are urgent or simple, that is item 1, 2, 6, 3, 4, 7 (in that order) leaving items 5 and 8,and reducing the prority for items 3 and 4. There can be one more classification, i.e. demanding jobs and optional jobs. In case of demanding jobs there is pressure from some-one interested therein for its immediate attendance, and the person keeps waiting before you. There is pressure to attend to demanding jobs even if they are not urgent or important (e.g. telephone calls, intruding VIP visitor for informal talk without appointment etc.)

We will also consider a different article on the same subject by Mr.Gerard M Blair, with the title "Personal Time Management for Busy Managers" and benefit by his views. The original copy-righted article of Mr.Blair appears at URL It is reproduced here with the permission of Mr.Blair. in the next page

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