Theories about time management

Dost thou love life? Then waste not time; for time is the stuff that life is made of.

(Benjamin Franklin, 1746, 'Poor Richard's Almanack')

Stop for a moment. What did you do yesterday? What did you achieve? Were you effective at work and at home? Can you remember?

The pressures to complete tasks and deal with the immediate in a busy school environment are immense. Parents want to see the headteacher 'now', teachers want their invoices dispatched 'soon', the local authority wants a return by 'the end of the week'.

Series of linked cogs

SBMs are expected not just to plan and prioritise their own work but also to be able to balance their work and home life. Managing time and priorities is a key skill that can significantly enhance our personal effectiveness. If we manage time poorly, spend too much time on the routine, less time is available for influencing and motivating others.

This is not something new! According to the ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus, time is "our costliest expenditure". Time must be used efficiently in order to accomplish all that needs to be done. Time management theories can help you understand what you are doing with the time in your life and how to improve effectiveness.

Four generations of time management (Stephen R Covey)

Covey (1992) suggests that there are "Four generations" of time management, each generation building on the one before.

Select the left-hand tabs below for information on each of the four generations.



1.8: Time management (part 1)

Peer reflection

Contact one of your peers on the programme and compare your current stage of development.

Discuss which 'generation' of time manager you are.

Suggest strategies for improving your performance in each 'generation'.

Two male colleagues in a meeting

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule.

In simple terms, the 80/20 rule simply means that the relationship between input and output is rarely, if ever, balanced. When applied to human activities, it means that approximately 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the results.

Pareto's Principle, the 80/20 Rule, should serve as a daily reminder to focus the majority of your time and energy on the relatively small number of activities that produce the majority of results.

Learning to recognise and then focus on that 20% is the key to success and also the key to effective time management. Richard Koch has written extensively on how to apply the principle in all walks of life. His writings are published on the 'Buzzle' website.

Analysing your use of time

Before we can use our time effectively, we need to know where it goes! Time management is actually self management; it is about using time effectively to achieve tasks and making optimum use of time available.

The Roman philosopher Seneca suggested that:

Part of our time is stolen from us, or else we are cheated out of it.

You can use this self-assessment chart 'Time management' (Jones, 2005) to find out what or who steals your time.



1.9: Time management (part 2)

Complete the self-assessment chart 'Time management' and then commit yourself to action.

Write brief notes in your reflective log, reflecting on the outcomes of your self-evaluation.

  • What are your biggest 'time-wasters'?
  • What are you going to do about them?

Choose one of your 'time-wasters' and, for the next two weeks, focus on reducing the time you lose because of it.

At the end of the two weeks, write in your reflective log how successful you were.

  • What further steps might you take to improve your time management?