Where did the time go? Do you often find yourself wondering how you spent your time each day? By the end of the day, we often find ourselves mentally or physically exhausted by our daily activities – work and personal commitments with friends and family leave us with little-to-no time for our own self-care.
There are so many books and training materials on time management – the sheer volume can make the topic seem complicated, when in fact it can be very simple to incorporate better habits into our daily lives. However, in practice, when time passes by and we don’t feel accomplished, we often don’t pause or take a step back to examine the reasons for our distraction or lack of focus.
What if we believed we had the power to intentionally spend our time and energy on things that matter most?
Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Managing Relationships are key attributes of Emotional Intelligence.
Basic principles of productivity and effective time management are Self-awareness and Self-management.
Self-awareness is the ability to be present and mindful of one’s own emotions, motivations, and desires. Self-management is the ability to be in control and avoid impulsive decision-making. By being self-aware and managing our impulses, we can then decide how to spend our time effectively, in order to feel satisfied and productive.
Mindfully incorporating these principles into our life, we can intentionally and gradually develop habits that will boost our productivity in the long-term. Mindfulness and impulse control influence how we spend our time, ultimately determining whether we feel accomplished or dissatisfied.
In project management, self-awareness and self-management are key factors for being focused on delivering successful projects, despite the distractions and challenges of competing priorities in each project. Mindful awareness in any situation is an effective decision-making strategy that impacts your priorities, whether you are managing projects or going about other daily activities.
People often refer to technology as a distraction and reason for not having enough time in a day. However, looking at time management through a different lens, we see that the real reason for not having enough time to do the things we want is the lack of self-awareness and self-management. Making conscious choices helps us prioritize our daily decisions in our personal or professional life.
For those of you not familiar with Stephen Covey’s book, titled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the author refers to the Time Management Matrix, which shows the four quadrants categorizing each activity based on Urgency and Importance.
The purpose of the Time Matrix is to identify where our time is spent and to focus attention on the activities that matters most. If we find ourselves doing activities that require immediate attention we are spending our time in quadrant I - Urgent and Important. If we stay in this quadrant, it often results in stress and burnout.
The author suggests spending most of our time in quadrant II – not Urgent but Important, where we are proactive, focused, and more in control of our time.
Then during the day, we experience interruptions and distractions that don’t add value to our lives and negatively impact our productivity. These would fall under quadrants III, and IV, which are areas we ideally want to minimize.
By tracking our time and using the Time Matrix, we gather enough data to know the root cause of our distractions, and how to best schedule priorities while optimizing our time. When you make a conscious decision to spend your time on things you promised yourself to do, without letting distractions claim your time, your time is not wasted at all – even if it’s busywork.
By implementing this productivity exercise, over time you will develop an intentional mindset habit of focusing your energy on activities with maximum return, while spending less time being reactive. This practice, plus mindfully reducing the number of interruptions and distractions, will result in more time spent in quadrant II. The end result? You’ll likely feel more in control, proactive, and disciplined in your daily activities.
In a prior leadership position, I had an opportunity to work with a rather large project team. Collaboration was key to ensure the project reached its milestones as scheduled.
There was one team member who stood out due to their lack of self-awareness and inflated opinion of their own performance. The pattern for this individual was to criticize other team members while taking credit for deliverables performed by teammates. This team member was often late to important project meetings; and, when in attendance, was ineffective in the meeting, lacking the ability to stick to relevant topics on the agenda, causing other team members emotional fatigue resulting in counterproductive outcomes and delays in project progress.
My project meetings are designed to start on time. I keep them short in duration, with a target agenda about relevant topics, inclusive for everyone to participate in problem-solving, and I allow 5 to 10 minutes breathing time between meetings to let the team organize their thoughts and manage their energy before the next meeting.
This team member’s lack of self-awareness impacted the team’s stress and motivation, resulting in decreased morale and delays in project productivity.
This team member, without being aware of their own performance, would voice frustrations to me regarding other project members failing to meet deadlines, and even asked me for feedback to improve the situation. Initially, I thought of this as an opportunity for mentorship, to help with the individual’s self-reflection. I provided my support and carefully offered my observations to help improve this individual’s self-awareness.
I was unsuccessful in my mission, because this person was not ready to look within before pointing the finger at others. The only constructive way to help the project team’s success was to be compassionate to this individual and the rest of the team members, keeping my cool, staying present in the moment, and ramping up my own self-awareness to help navigate the project meetings. I eventually found a strategic way to help this individual with lack of self-awareness to join an entirely different project team. I am writing this scenario to demonstrate not only how this individual’s lack of self-awareness delayed the project progress, but also how it impacted their own personal development and career growth.
Remember: You decide where to spend your energy and the best way to manage your time that works for your individual lifestyle. You are in charge of your own success that you envision, the power to practice self-awareness, and to ultimately control where you focus your energy.
If you are interested in learning more about project management holistic applications in everyday life, follow me on LinkedIn and stay tuned for more articles, and webinars with real life stories. I’d like to hear your experience of mindfully practicing self-awareness to spend your energy and your time on things that matter most to you. Please feel free to reach out to me.
Tooran Khosh, P.E., MBA, PMP has a diversity of education and work experience, with a proven track record of accomplishments in cross-functional teams managing multiple projects, valued up to $1.5 billion, in a variety of industries, including information technology, construction, education, and financial institutions. Tooran has a background education in engineering and she is certified in project management professional (PMP), an internationally recognized professional designation offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMI organization is an independent source of reliable and effective project management services. She has presented on numerous topics in project management practices and continuous improvement mindset nationally and internationally including in the USA, Britain, Canada, and Mexico. Tooran has authored 17 publications and co-authored five white papers on a variety of topics on management consulting and continuous improvement mindset topics aimed at driving business value through people, performance, processes, and product methodology.
Giving back to her community, Tooran volunteers her time in mentoring young graduates and professionals on project-management related career paths and the application of project management practices to mindset habits. Tooran is a member of the Project Management Training Alliance (PMTA). Tooran is also a member of PMI and has volunteered for many roles with Global PMI, including risk-management role delineation and PMP Certification Exam process. Her involvement with PMI Austin Chapter includes serving on the Board of Directors as the VP of Professional Development, as well as developing the Strategic Maturity Model with the Marketing team.
For more information about her experience in project management consulting, teaching, and delivering mindset habits trainings, visit Tooran's LinkedIn profile.