Time Management and Goal Setting for Work-Life Balance

Ideal Work-Life Balance involves an efficient management of professional commitments and responsibilities towards the family as well as society. In a 24/7 schedule of the day, one should ideally work for 8 hours and dedicate 8 hours each to sleep and recreation. But, hardly any of us live in this ideal scenario. Instead the millennial employees spend more than 12 hours at work with little or no time for recreation and minimum possible sleep.

Many of us keep cribbing that we hardly find time for doing those things which we would love to do or hardly have time for taking care of the personal commitments because of the pressures or demands at work. Does it mean that we have very little or no time for such commitments? It talks about nothing but our poor time management skills.

We usually face the dilemma while being encountered with the situation of choosing between urgent and important assignments, because of the issues with prioritization. An efficient time manager would be able to juggle between the urgent and important assignments seamlessly.

Before understanding about the various strategies for effective time management and work-life balance, let’s first understand the time management matrix.

Time Management Matrix

Eisenhower is the key proponent of Time Management matrix, by way of which he has been able to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. As per him, urgent tasks require immediate attention and can set a person into action both physically and mentally. Such assignments may take the forms of urgent e-mails, important phone calls which may demand an immediate attention, pressing assignments involving close deadlines, meetings, huddles, appointments or catching a flight, train or a bus, etc.

On the other hand, important tasks are those which need not be urgent in nature but may have long term implications. Important tasks should be handled by paying utmost attention and taking time for arriving at certain decisions related to strategic or crucial matters.

According to Stephen Covey, we should devote less of our time to tasks which not so important regardless of their urgency, but focus spending a quality time on those tasks which may not be urgent but are high on the importance parameter. Planning out time in this manner will perhaps reduce the perils of poor time management. Let's analyze the four quadrants individually and the strategies which should be followed for ensuring effective time management:

  • Quadrant I - Tasks which are Highly Important and Urgent: Tasks which are highly important and urgent are deadline driven assignments and daily chores. The outcome of such handling such assignments is burnout, stress and crisis management.
  • Quadrant II - Tasks which are Important but not Urgent: These activities are not urgent but important in nature. Such tasks usually require careful planning, preparatory work in advance, anticipating crisis and dealing with the prevention strategies and tasks which are not driven by stringent deadlines but are of relevance from the futuristic perspective. Such tasks can be dealt with a proper vision, perspective and discipline.
  • Quadrant III - Tasks which are Urgent but Not Important: Such tasks include meetings, attending to the drop in visitors, receiving phone calls and answering to the mails which need not necessarily be productive in nature. One, who operates in this quadrant, may be subjected to the feelings of victimization, will not be able to focus on long term goals and may suffer due to broken relationships.
  • Quadrant IV - Tasks which are Neither Important nor Urgent: Such activities are mostly unproductive in nature or fall under the category of time wasters, junk mails and few less important phone calls, are all a part of the fourth quadrant.

Activities which fall under the Quadrant I category are highly critical and must receive the top priority. Spending a lot of time on activities which come under the quadrant I category, may lead to increase in the stress levels and burnout. By focusing more on activities in the Quadrant II, one can reduce the burden on quadrant I in the long run and avoiding the unimportant or time-wasting activities in Quadrant III and Quadrant IV.

Techniques for Achieving Work Life Balance by Managing Time Effectively

  1. By increasing the Effective Time Spent at Work: Concentrate on how effectively the time at work has been spent and not the number of work hours, as a lot of us may spend long hours at work but fail to the deliver the required outcomes. For tracking how effectively the time is being spent, time logs should be prepared and followed religiously and focus on spending quality time at work by addressing the time wasters and avoiding procrastination.
  2. By way of prioritization: One must make sure about the importance or relevance of the task in the priority matrix and accordingly deal with the high priority tasks before working on the tasks which are of low priority and more fun. Work-life balance can be achieved by setting clear priorities and gaining more control on time.
  3. By way of Planning: One should set smart goals or plans before working on a project. A well developed plan will help in reviewing the performance periodically and implementing corrective actions. Proper planning should meet the following criterions:
    • Should be deadline driven
    • Should help in achieving or realizing the Long term goals
    • Should be flexible, reviewable and must provide the scope for improvement.

  4. Make Efforts for Curtailing Long Hours of Working: One should apply Parkinson’s Law at work, by paying attention to more urgent and important tasks by setting strict deadlines at work. This will help in creating a sense of urgency around high priority tasks and effective time management at work.
  5. Spending Quality Time with Family
  6. Practising a Healthy regimen by paying adequate attention to the four pillars of good health i.e. Proper nutrition, good sleep, exercising routine and relaxation techniques like Yoga, Meditation, etc

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Workplace Efficiency