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How to Improve Your Time Management

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In a recent survey conducted among my students, I learned almost 59 percent of them face challenges and difficulties in time management. After observing students and young interpreters in my class, I have developed my very own formula for how to approach time management using a combination of tools and strategies.

If this is something you’re struggling with, these seven time management tips should help.

Personalize your approach

There are dozens of books on effective time management, promoting dozens of approaches each proclaiming to be the best. However, you will do much better if you develop your own personalized approach to time management.

This approach should fit your personality, career goals and lifestyle. Once you’ve got a plan, put it in writing so you are more likely to stick to it.

Prioritize your goals strategically

The concept of setting short-, medium- and long-term priorities is not new, as many top management gurus teach setting and managing priorities over time.

The main challenge is how to identify your priorities wisely. Decades of my work with students and young entrepreneurs confirms the importance of brainstorming exercises (alone or with a friend or colleague).

One exercise that can help is to identify about 20 priorities, write them on separate colored sticky notes and arrange them into a pyramid of priorities on the wall, putting the three most important priorities at the very top.

Plan wisely and divide your workload into small timeslots

In the modern era of multitasking, it can be very difficult to concentrate on your priorities. With this in mind, try approaching your time management strategy as if you’re building a fortress with small but solid timeslot bricks, allocating 20-minute timeslots for very specific priorities.

Dividing a working day into 20-minute timeslots of intensive work allows you to address almost 20 projects a day, especially if you set a timer to discipline yourself and eliminate distractions.

Delegate some responsibilities

Deleting responsibilities to others is not a new idea, but the main challenge is to delegate wisely and choose appropriate people – and not total strangers.

Most successful case studies, like the work of Steve Jobs, suggest that successful time managers find like-minded people. They build new teams with whom they solve problems and achieve their goals, or they establish personalized connections with the people they work with, and to whom they delegate. This in turn creates synergies and tripling effects.

Train yourself to be a CEO

Successful CEOs are very different in their strategic planning and prioritizing to other people, and they are usually the best-of-the-best when it comes to managing their time effectively.

However, what we can learn from these studies boils down to one important formula: your ability to psychologically imagine and train yourself as a CEO through meditation or mental exercises (at least 20 minutes twice a week).

Meditation and development of emotional intelligence (dealing strategically with emotions and emotional communication) can help you to keep focused on effectively managing your time.

Digitalize your time management

Paradoxically in this age of gadgets and applications, it isn’t easy to identify the appropriate device or app for effective time management simply because there are so many of them.

Therefore, not many people use these apps regularly. We conducted a quick survey among students and faculty at Al Farabi KazNU and almost 58 percent of said they don’t use any technology to help manage their time.

My advice is to digitalize your time management – but do it in an intelligent way according to your personal needs, lifestyle and technological skills. Spend at least 20 minutes twice a week trying new apps or testing your gadgets, until you’re satisfied and find a routine that works for you.

Revise your time management approach regularly

Our priorities and our workload are in a constant state of flux. Therefore, I suggest to my students to sit down regularly (at least twice a semester) and revise their strategy for time management by removing and abandoning things which aren’t working and improving on what is working well.

Image credit: Rafis Abazov (taken at Al Farabi KazNU event)

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Written by Rafis Abazov
Dr Rafis Abazov is a visiting professor at Al Farabi Kazakh National University, Almaty, Kazakhstan, where he also manages a joint program with Earth Institute of Columbia University (New York, USA). He has written 10 books, including The Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics (2007) and has regularly contributed op-eds to The New York Times. Mr Abazov enjoys collecting rare books on British exploration of Central Asia and reading travelogues on Central Asia and the Middle East by Eugene Schuyler, Vladimir Bartold and Lord George Curzon. He has also authored photo exhibitions about his trips to Central Asian republics, Turkey and Afghanistan. Contact info: Office 1400 Rectorat, 71 Al Farabi Ave., Al Farabi KazNU, Almaty, 050040, Kazakhstan

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1 Comment

Disagree with the part about dividing workload into timeslots. Not sure about productivity with such approach. In general, good article. Thank you!