Posted on: 21/01/2021

Setting priorities and managing time (Dr Sara Shinton)

This post supports a time management workshop for the UKRI Future Leader Fellows Development Network. A full recording of the workshop will be available to members of the network on our website, and you can review the slides here: Bridging 3 – Priorities and Time

I suspect many of those attending the workshop and reading this now will have already been on many time management workshops. I spent many years going to workshops and hoping for a magic wand to “fix” things before realising that any time management solution has to be tailored for the specific problem experienced by the individual. I also realised that some of my time management problems were a consequence of the behaviours and choices that made me successful.

A better approach is to recognise that there are at least three stages to improving your time management.

Investing time in REALLY understanding what choices you are making about how to spend your time and reflecting on what you can change and are willing to, and then which aspects of your time management problems are about your environment and people around you.

Looking at the various time management tips and advice and working out which are the best solutions for your situation

Working to embed these new approaches in your work habits

Number 3 is the toughest for me – my good intentions evaporate and I find myself back in overload. The session looks at all three aspects and shares a lot of tips from other researchers.

Supporting the session are a number of resources and recommended links:

Mapping your time:

I’ve posted a number of versions of time mapping sheets in other blogs on the topic of time management, productivity etc, so here’s a few options:

Time Logs with Happy or Sad column
Time management – about me or about others
Shape of day

And if you are concerned about things drifting and what to prioritise/who to ask for help:

Risk Register

If you want to have some structure to the suggested daily review:

Review of day

I’ve previously put all these thoughts into a time management guide which is openly available and includes a completed version of the “about me or about others” grid.

Ten Tips for Time Management: (you can see another session on these here):

  1. Prioritise important stuff
  2. Minimise distractions
  3. Create deadlines
  4. Improve environment
  5. Know your energy rhythm
  6. Minimise other people’s work
  7. Use margins of time
  8. Notice set backs to plans
  9. Manage demands from others
  10. Do it well enough

Embedding Better Habits

The final part of the session was about strategies to change habits and decision making about time for the better.

We talked about saying no to more offers and opportunities and I fawned slightly over a series of great blogs written by one of my Edinburgh colleagues, Professor Sue Fletcher-Watson:

The Year of Radical No’s
Reflecting on the Radical No 9 months in
Reporting on the “Yes’s” possible because of the Radical No
– and general thoughts on time management

We also talked about the concept of “triaging” offers and decisions, building on earlier sessions from my FLF network colleague Tracey. A dig around my uni blog uncovered a couple of posts on this theme which may be interesting – one on how to scrutinise your own decisions and another on how to ask busy people for help. If one of your issues is that people ask you for help that eats up too much time, then there might be some suggestions in the second blog which you could develop in gentle suggestions to help them and (mostly) you:

Do I really want to do this?
Buy-in from the Busy

Finally we had a few suggestions about the value of various books and resources:
Designing Your Life
Digital Minimisation or Deep Work (or anything by Cal Newport)
Do More Great Work (my suggestion – resources from the books used to be available online, but now seem to have been replaced by an online programme)

Finally I mentioned one of my favourite online resources from Judy Ringer.

We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations

Note that I’ve got this blog up quickly – it’s not perfect but hopefully more helpful that the alternative – it sitting on my to do list for a week and then falling off it…

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