Learn to Better Manage Your Time

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 15, 2022
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Learn to Better Manage Your Time

​"Busy does not equal results," admonished Julie D. Burch during her laughter-filled, standing-room-only concurrent session at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 in New Orleans on June 13.

"It's about [being] efficient, effective and productive" and thinking about how we spend our time. "We do not find time in big chunks. We find it in small pieces—it's minutes here and minutes there," she pointed out during her presentation, "Crash Course to Effectiveness: Time Management for the Overworked, Overstressed and Overwhelmed."  

Burch is an author, training and development expert, and president of Julie Burch Speaks, based in Flower Mound, Texas.

People tend to fall into one of four destructive time-management styles, she said:

  • The Busy Bee. This person has their hands in everything, doing a little bit of everything and finishing nothing.
  • The Fire Chief. This person is constantly reacting to the next crisis, taking care of everyone else while not getting their own work done.
  • The Superhero. This person zooms in with good intentions to help others, leaving little time for their own tasks. "The reality is, the superhero is super-stressed," Burch said.
  • The Procrastinator. This person is always in deadline mode. People typically procrastinate by diverting their time to less important tasks, rationalizing "it'll just take 10 minutes." Pretty soon, all those 10 minutes add up and there is no time left to tackle the big project, which gets pushed aside.

Tips and Techniques

"Everybody only gets 24 hours in the day. If we're going to invest our time in something, it needs to be a good investment of our time. Pay attention to what you're spending your time on," Burch advised.

She shared the following recommendations for how to do that:

Batch. Perform similar tasks together and at regularly scheduled intervals.

Break tasks into small pieces.

Be accountable. Tell someone else what you plan to work on today, and then have them check in with you later to ask if you followed through with your intentions.

Reward yourself when you accomplish a task.

Create two to-do lists—a master list extending far into the future and a focused daily to-do list. Use them to prioritize and track what you need to accomplish. "Learn to schedule your priorities, not prioritize your schedule," Burch said. Consult your master list and daily list first thing in the morning, and update the daily list throughout the day. As you tackle the items on your list, ask yourself this power question, Burch advised: "Is this a 'today' task or an 'after-today' task? If today, it goes on the focused to-do list."

Establish a weekly block plan on how you will use your time. Chip away at a large goal, for example, by dedicating time for it on your calendar, closing your door and treating that time as inviolate. "We bounce from thing to thing, reacting to the urgent demands of others. Learn to set boundaries. It's not about telling people 'no'; it's about telling people 'yes … later. I'm happy to help you. Here's when [I'm available],' " she advised.

Take action. "You can't spend your whole day saddlin' up and not riding," Burch said, invoking a Texas saying.

Jennifer Costa, HR manager at Roots Community Health Center, an Oakland, Calif.-based company with 200 employees, expects that these tips will help her prioritize at work.

"There's a project I've been putting off that I'm [now] looking forward to tackling," she said. "It's a handbook I've been putting off for a year."

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