Time management and Work Life balance

Of critical importance to our productivity both in and out of work is our ability to manage our time effectively. This should be simple but may time management systems fail to recognize that we are not machines making objective decisions all day long. We are emotional people whose highs and lows of mood and energy have a massive impact on how we do things, how and what we prioritise, what we ignore etc.

We have responsibilities inside and outside of work, longer commuting times, more pressure to achieve material success and only limited reserves of energy and time with which to do everything.

So we have to be shrewd with ourselves, practice and improve our techniques of self-awareness and recovery, be realistic in our goal setting and be psychological in what system we use. A “to do list” will encourage you to fall foul of our weakness to do what is simple and easy rather than what is critical or urgent. Avoiding the urgent and critical will only add to stress, make us irritable and anxious and worry about where the time is going to come from to get things done. We may end up with a poor work/life balance because we have a poor time management system.

Here is a very simple time management system which many people find can work successfully for them – keep working at it as discipline will help you improve.

Urgent / ongoing

Typically a very full box with plenty of ongoing
tasks but nothing that needs doing today
Review this box before end of the day or first
thing in morning and move anything immediate
into adjacent box.

Immediate / critical

Tasks that need completing today;    
May not be anything in here if nothing needs completing today
– this allows a focus on completing the urgent work
– tick them off to allow you to sleep easier!                 

Strategic / project

Capture all good ideas and intentions here.
Track projects, plan ahead etc.
Identify marketing opportunities.
Develop partnership working.

Can wait / nice-to-do

Doing these ahead of other priorities builds stress.
It will not let you sleep well.
Reward yourself with these after completing immediate
or urgent tasks.

Simply reorganise your to do list according to these headings – critical really means it must be done today which means this box should have very few bullets in. If it has lots then you have too many goals, too much responsibility or you are not really very good at deciding what is critical and what is urgent. This sounds simple but many people can find it hard to be sure what is really critical so if that is you then ask for some objective help. It may be that you are worrying too much and are exaggerating the critical nature of a task.

Your urgent box may well be a busy one and from day to day you may get some done, move others into the critical box or leave more to the following day. This is your challenge. The other boxes are self explanatory and it will surprise you how little you will do the nice-to-do stuff. This is because we will often use our eyes to think and when you open your book or pc with this tool in you will be drawn to the critical box first and then the urgent box.

When you are ticking off the critical and urgent stuff it becomes much easier to relax and unwind and switch off from work. This means that when you are home you can enjoy your free time more easily and are less likely to think about work when at home or when you are trying to sleep. Using this tool in conjunction with the relaxation techniques is a very positive step towards achieving a successful work life balance.

Here is why it matters – a list of the frightening statistics which summarise how vulnerable we are in the UK to lifestyle illness. Try not to become one of these. You are no good to anyone when low in energy, off ill from work or unable to carry out your role as a carer, friend, partner or parent. In other words, look after YOU!

  • 1 in 3 people will contract cancer

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer from depression.

  • 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental illness (including depression).

  • More than 60% of doctor visits are stress related.

  • 1 in 8 people over the age of 40 suffer from diabetes (with the consequent mood/energy swings that it brings).

  • 1 in 5 people will suffer from heart disease.

To have a successful work/life balance it is likely that these will play an important part:

  1. Purpose and direction at work and at home

  2. Supportive and giving relationships: giving care and receiving care (please study our guide on “healthy relationships”)

  3. Exercise and nutrition (appropriate to your age and levels of fitness)

  4. Rest and recovery (see our guide to pressure, stress and relaxation)

It’s ok not to have all these at any one time providing you are aware what’s missing.


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© 2012 7Futures Ltd. Please note that, at 7Futures, our role is to help educate and encourage our clients to take positive responsibility for their wellbeing. We are not medical doctors and are not able to offer individual medical advice. We always recommend you should discuss with your GP or other medical professional before making any changes you hope will impact your wellbeing, or that of your current/future family.  7Futures Ltd offers generic information which is for educational purposes only. The information we provided is not a prescription system and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. As such our materials, videos products and communications are for general information purposes only and should not be read as a personal recommendation for specific changes in lifestyle behaviour, nutrition, or exercise. Please click here for a clear description of our services and the relationship with you as a client. You should not participate in any of our services until you have studied this link...it is for your benefit.

Mark Davies