by Deepak Santhiraj, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Please read Part II here.
Many desire to manage their time well, as a life resource, through efficient practices and life hacks. Whether maximizing the kitchen space as a zone for effective cooking and cleaning or pursuing a sense of perfection through planning ahead in the week, time management needs are persistent in any given day of the week. Highly recommended practices such as the Pomodoro Technique and the Pareto Principle, popularized by Italian researchers Francesco Cirillo and Vilfredo Pareto, create more thrust in personal time efficiencies throughout the day. Flow through accessing the benefits of time management benefits, practices, and hacks can be within reach in the modern workplace.
Most are looking to schedule their entire weekly calendar, down to the wire of any given hour, without having any time wasted and mismanaged. High achievers typically push for this level of time efficiency to activate their career success profile. Rushing to work ahead during the week to frantically avoid working extra hours on the weekends and evening hours, hyper managing time can also have its raw effects on our well-being and sense of connectedness with others. For others that have significant difficulty with time management needs in the workplace, scheduled tasks have become meaningless along with a series of items in the to-do list that continue on repeat into oblivion. People in the workplace have a committed quest for productivity and efficiency with conducting meetings in a committee, preparing for a webinar, teaching colleagues, revising a project before the deadline, and then repeating this all within the work day.
In order to get into a greater work flow, Professor Karen Jansen of organizational research at the University of Reading, UK highlights that individuals in the marketplace must differentiate between objective time versus subjective experiences of time. Objective time highlights standard time measures as the clock and calendar items that need to be met. Subjective time indicates an individual’s personal experience of time and how they mentally travel through time and perceive, understand, and interpret time demands while using their memories to cast evaluations and make sense of the present moment. Individuals that desire greater time management circumstances in their day are more likely to exert a fixed set of rules, temporal schemata, related to how long meetings and activities should last to when daily tasks ought to occur.
We live and create subjective constructions of time management to experience a workflow state. An example of this will be the deadline. Rather than an objective measure, deadlines are socially constructed to allow for other co-workers to be on the same page and move toward task completion. They also create an immediate boost in engagement and commitment to the overall objectives. Time has subjective interpretations that we gain awareness of while at work.
Mindful attention, experiencing and engaging in meaning at work, and having satisfying feelings while remaining productive are all part of the absorption of positive emotions and thoughts when in our workflow. According to the latest research on flow, maintaining a steady access to this in the workplace will only increase positive emotions as well as personal fulfillment and steadfast productivity. One of the more engaging ways to experience workflow is our revision of relating to work-related tasks by the clock and objective hours to a rhythm of events during the day. One notable example is when we punctually stop work during lunch time to take a break. Rather, we can work when we are ready and stop when we need a break. Prioritizing work effectiveness over efficiency allows us to feel more satisfied since we have a greater perception of control over time while we also enjoy accomplishing the work-related task.
In addition to these circumstances for workflow, creating space to allow mind-wandering to occur can be altogether beneficial for creative and divergent thinking to appear, experience breath-taking and inspirational “aha” moments, and also develop creative and novel solutions in various problem-solving work contexts. Flow is created through mindful attention, and you can read more here.
Based on organizational research, people are looking for engagement and meaning when they travel in time and relive past experiences or anticipate future events at work. In order to access greater workflow, people desire to attach meaning to their enduring future identity in the workplace. As an example, writing an article has an attached significance for the benefit of future readers but may not be as meaningful as accomplishing a weekly expense report while on the job. Both activities require mental effort and emotional energy, but one wins out over the other in terms of meaning and priority. Time management typically leads many to prioritize output and quantifiable variables of productivity rather than an emphasis on enjoyment and meaning related to the daily activities. Our perspective of time becomes altogether energizing and impactful when we view time as a resource between meaningful and meaningless activities, and a paradigm shift away from hyper-focusing on efficiency and productivity to subjective goals and values in any given work day.
Author, consultant, and teacher Beverly Flaxington writes, “When life gets busy, things tend to pile up especially fast. Time management is not about having all of those things done; it’s about having enough time for what matters most to you. Time management is really “personal management” and it is a skill necessary for achieving a better quality of life. By managing your time in a more efficient way, not only will you get the right things done, but you’ll also have enough time to relax, de-stress, and breathe more freely.” Experiencing our flow state in relation to time management can allow us to reach our goals, diminish wasted time, increase productivity while reducing frustration, receive more life satisfaction, improve in our relationships while finding more free time, and develop personal stability.
Whether it is sponging up more idle time, learning to say no to the lesser priorities of the day, or keeping a simple system for tracking and consuming time wisely, these practices can all lead to a ritualization of more efficiency overall. However, a more subjective experience and appreciation of time will help to contest the common cultural message that time is a commodity and life resource – not to be squandered but managed. Managing time more effectively might be necessary for many that need discipline and structure. Yet, time control perspectives may become a barrier for true and authentic efficiency and productivity in life if it just becomes relegated to life hacks and obsessive management strategies.